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About Lisa Dale Norton


Hawk Flies Above
Copyright © 1996
by Lisa Dale Norton
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This story of childhood and loss blends with wonderfully evocative nature writing. Lisa Norton grew up in the late 1950s and 1960s, spending summers with her family at Lake Ericson, a reservoir of rich life set deep in the rolling Nebraskan Sandhills. The time was blissful, but when her mother suddenly left, Lisa began a troubled journey that took her far from home.
After years of to-and-fro travel, a horrifying event sent Norton careening back to Lake Ericson — a home where she could recover herself, understand her family, and begin to bear witness to a fragile land now threatened by overuse. Written with a poet's loving precision and the passion of a woman who refuses to be a victim, Hawk Flies Above is a triumphant performance. — from the jacket

A brave story of disturbance and reconciliation....A voice of strength has descended. — Terry Tempest Williams ambitious book...part nature writing, part memoir, part ecological treatise. — Lincoln Star Journal

Hawk Flies Above offers a rare vision of the fragile and beautiful Heartland. The author's journey toward self-discovery resonates with healing and grace. — Craig Lesley

Growing up in a small Nebraska town, Norton had a magical childhood until her mother abruptly abandoned her family. Because of this and another traumatic event (shortly after college, she was raped and beaten by a stranger who left her for dead), life seemed meaningless, and for years she wandered aimlessly around the country, drinking, smoking pot, overeating and trying to run away from herself. In 1984, Norton returned for six months to the cabin on Lake Ericson in the Nebraska Sandhills, where she and her family had spent their summers, ostensibly to complete graduate school by writing about the place but actually to come to grips with her troubled past. Six years later, she went again to the Sandhills, this time to discover that the land she considered idyllic was suffering from its own problems-soil depletion, lakes fouled by farm chemicals, limited water resources. In this memoir, Norton recounts with disarming simplicity her attempts to find a purpose in life by returning to her childhood home, weaving her story together with sensitive descriptions of the windswept dunes, the vegetation, the wildlife and the people of the endangered Sandhills. Norton teaches writing at the Neahkahnie Institute in Oregon. — Publishers Weekly

This autobiographical nature/recovery book chronicles the life of Norton and the Nebraska Sandhills. Lake Ericson in the Big Six Country Club (the name of the cabin her family purchased in 1960) became a necessary haven for Norton as she struggled to put her life together in 1984. Norton traces her stress to her parents' sudden divorce when she was a teenager, after spending years of carefree summers predictably ensconced at the lake. When she lost her sense of self as an adult, the cabin epitomized the concept of home and kinship, as she fortified her soul with its calming influence. During her respite, she found the strength to overcome the trauma of rape as the Sandhills provided a sense of meaning, also allowing her to overcome the debilitating effects of drinking and lack of purposeful activity. This book will be an inspiration to anyone desiring to read or write about life experiences. — Booklist

Part memoir, part nature essay, a roundabout search for a place of one's own — in this case, on the high plains of Nebraska. In this debut book, Norton writes of returning home from years of wandering to "an aging reservoir on the Cedar River, part marsh, part bass lake, wellspring of my childhood memories." Her travels from coast to coast, she writes, had given her a close-up look at the blue highways and backroads of America, an education in the art of rootlessness. They also delivered an apprenticeship "in the field of emotion, learning the nuances of sadness, depression, joy, and loss. I was a tabula rasa, allowing the world to etch its patterns into me." Sadness outweighed joy, and her apprenticeship led to a sickness of the soul, especially after she was raped and then, for years, tried to bury the horrible memory in drink. "For long years I felt afloat without mooring, without anchor," she writes, until she finally returned to that place of childhood pleasures, a lean place "not quite desert, yet no oasis either." Her account of finding a restorative haven on familiar ground, among kin and friends, moves her slender book from the nature shelf to that devoted to recovery, and it is a very worthy addition to that library. As nature essay, though, Norton's book also succeeds; she writes affectingly of the plants and animals that inhabit the place — cedars, cranes, curlews, cottonwoods, sand roses, and other manifestations of "simple beauty" — and of the cowboys and farmers who work the land. These are all matters that can be written of well only after long study and close observation, and it is clear that Norton has done her homework and paid attention. This book merits a place alongside the work of Terry Tempest Williams (who encouraged her) and Annie Dillard. — Kirkus Reviews

First-time author Norton strikes a fine balance between memoir and nature essay in writing of her homecoming to the wellspring of her childhood memories, the Cedar River of Nebraska. She had come home to nurse the grief of having been raped and of trying to drown the memory of that horrible event in alcohol. "For long years I felt afloat without mooring, without anchor," she writes, until she finally returned to that lean and austere place of childhood pleasures. Her account of finding a psychic center among family and friends is affecting without being sentimental, and Norton writes warmly of the plants and animals that inhabit this place — cranes, curlews, sand roses, and other denizens of the High Plains — and of the people who work the land. —

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