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See the Sierra in a different way

Local editors compile stories of the mountains in new book
By: Martha Garcia, Loomis News Editor
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Get to know the Sierra Nevada more intimately through the words of more than 75 observers of the majestic mountains. “The Illuminated Landscape, A Sierra Nevada Anthology,” is a collection of fiction, non-fiction and poetry, published by Sierra College Press. “If you want the greatest, broadest overview of what the Sierra has meant to people, emotionally in terms of resources, how people have described it, how it has moved people and inspired them, this is the book,” said Gary Noy, of Loomis. He co-edited the anthology with Rick Heide, of Roseville “I was born in the Sierra. It’s kind of in my DNA,” said Noy, 59. “I’ve studied it and loved it my whole life. It’s my special place.” Noy is editor-in-chief of Sierra College Press, founded in 2002 as part of the Standing Guard Project that published a book on the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. “The Illuminated Landscape” was a four-year experience, Noy said. While co-teaching a class on the Sierra Nevada with Joe Medeiros, Noy said they realized there had not been an anthology written on the Sierra Nevada for over 30 years. “It was two years of research and collecting materials … It took two more years to do the selection and editing, and here we are.” The book was published last summer in cooperation with Heyday Books. The hardest part of the process, Noy said, was deciding which of the more than 100 selections had to be left out. Much of the material in the book is by well-known authors, such as Mark Twain and Bret Harte, but some of it is new. “Some poetry, some original works … were done specifically for the anthology,” Noy said. There’s a poem by Maria Melendez, who describes her first experiences camping in the Sierra. Jordan Fisher Smith, author of “Nature Noir: A Park Ranger’s Patrol in the Sierra,” wrote an essay about his experiences watching over the American River canyons that would be inundated by the Auburn dam, which has never been built. In an essay Joe Medeiros, who illustrated the book, wrote about the power of four species of trees that have influenced his philosophy. “It’s a reminder on what can be lost if we’re not careful,” Noy said. Noy said his favorite piece is by Jack Kerouac from his 1958 book “The Dharma Bums.” “It’s about his experiences climbing the Southern Sierra, Matterhorn Peak,” Noy said. “It’s just about the joy of being in the mountains, the joy the Sierra brings to people. It’s a joyful kind of romp through the Sierra.” Selections from well-known authors are about discovery. Robert Louis Stevenson, author of “Treasure Island,” passed through Donner Pass on a train in the late 1870s. In “Across the Plains,” he described the descent through “spires of pine” to “Blue Canon, Alta, Dutch Flat, and all the old mining camps, through a sea of mountain forests, dropping thousands of feet toward the far sea-level.” Mountaineer and explorer Jim Beckwourth is credited with discovering the Sierra Valley pass that bears his name. In her biography about Beckwourth, Olive Woolley Burt describes the 1851 discovery: “He found a beautiful, grassy valley rimmed with mountain peaks, where, he was sure, no white man had ever set foot. On one side were the headwaters of the Yuba River, flowing west, and on the other the beginnings of the Truckee flowing west. This lush valley was an easy pass between the snow-capped, granite peaks of the Sierras.” The most historically important essay in the book, said Noy, is by Kevin Starr, former California State Librarian. “If someone is looking for an introduction, kind of a history how we have dealt with the environment,” Noy said, it’s provided by Starr. His piece is an overview on what prompted organizations, such as the Sierra Club, to begin their environmental work. Heide is a Sierra Nevada hiker and co-publisher of six titles with Heyday Books. He won the 2003 American Book Award for his anthology, “Under the Fifth Sun: Latino Literature from California. Medeiros, of Auburn, is professor emeritus at Sierra College where he taught biology. Hw has had a more than 30-year relationship with the Sierra Nevada, where he has shared his passion with others during hikes and interpretative walks. Noy said he and Heide and those who have contributed to “The Illuminated Landscape” hope the book will “raise awareness the great and majestic resource could be lost if we’re not very, very careful.” He cites a recent report that names the Sierra Nevada as one of the top 10 most-threatened environments. “It’s threatened by over-population, by infrastructure, development, climate change,” Noy said. Noy is also director of the Center for Sierra Nevada Studies, headquartered at Sierra College. The academic center, founded in 2002, studies the art, history, natural history and public policy of the Sierra Nevada. Noy taught U.S. history at Sierra College from 1987 to 2009; among his other published works are “Distant Horizon: Documents from the 19th Century American West,” “Wind on Buffalo Grass: Selections from the Journals of Explorations and Expeditions in the 19th Century American West,” and “Red Dirt: A Journey of Discovery in the Landscape of Imagination, California’s Gold Rush.” Noy, a Grass Valley native, said he has been coming to Loomis since age 2, when he accompanied his father, Howard Noy, on trips to the Blue Goose, Loomis Fruit Growers and Blue Anchor fruit sheds in his role as a state fruit inspector. Later, Noy worked in the fruit sheds, where he met many locals, including Ed Bonner and Randy Hansen. Eventually, all three attended the University of California, Berkeley. The connection goes back even farther, as Bonner’s father, Rob Bonner, and Noy’s father were both teachers in the same Grass Valley high school. “I came to love Loomis and have been living here for the last 25 years,” said Noy, who founded Paul’s Place Association with the late Paul Yokote. The Sierra Club will hold a presentation and booksigning for "The Illuminated Landscape: A Sierra Nevada Anthology" at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 25, at the Auburn Library, 350 Nevada St., in Auburn. The evening will include readings, a slide show and a discussion of historical perspectives and environmental changes. The event is free and open to the public. A presentation will also take place at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 17, at the Madelyn Helling Library in Nevada City. -------------------------- THE ILLUMINATED LANDSCAPE: A SIERRA NEVADA ANTHOLOGY Editors: Gary Noy and Rick Heide; illustrations by Joe Medeiros Publisher: Sierra College Press in cooperation with Heydey Books Paperback: 352 pages; $19.95; ISBN: 978-1-59714-128-4 Available: All major bookstores