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The Search for Nature's Soul in America's Heartland
Published by: Indiana University Press
To know a place deeply means to understand it on several levels, layered almost as if from bedrock to topsoil. Midwest Bedrock: The Search for Nature's Soul in America's Heartland takes readers on a journey across all twelve Midwest states to natural settings that defy typical stereotypes of the Midwest landscape. Each chapter focuses on one focal region or locality within each state, often seeking out lesser-known landscapes steeped in beauty and story.
Author Kevin Koch invites readers to join him on a journey through the beauty of the Midwest and to discover such places as Wisconsin's 1,100-mile Ice Age Trail that follows the furthest reach of the last glacier; Minnesota's Lake Itasca, headwaters of the Mississippi River; and Indiana's Hoosier National Forest, which still cradles hidden graveyards from long-abandoned farm communities.
Part history, part memoir, part interview-based research, Midwest Bedrock is a personal narrative of exploring the natural beauty of America's Heartland, where each location tells the stories of the past that linger on the landscape.
Introduction: Midwest Bedrock
1. Wisconsin: The Ice Age Trail
2. Michigan: A Great Lakes Shoreline
3. Ohio: The Hocking Hills
4. Indiana: Hoosier National Forest
5. Kansas: The Flint Hills
6. Nebraska: The Niobrara River and Northern Sandhills
7. Missouri: The Katy Trail
8. Illinois: Cahokia and the Upper Mississippi River Shoreline
9. North Dakota: The Rendezvous Region
10. South Dakota: Glacial Lakes and the Eastern Corridor
11. Minnesota: Lake Itasca, Headwaters of the Mississippi River
12. Iowa: Effigy Mounds in the Driftless Land
Kevin Koch is author of Skiing At Midnight: A Nature Journal from Dubuque County, Iowa; The Driftless Land: Spirit of Place in the Upper Mississippi Valley; and The Thin Places: A Celtic Landscape from Ireland to the Driftless. More of his work, including shorter works on outdoor places and photos, can be viewed at https://www.kevinkochdriftlessland.net/. Koch is Professor of English at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa
"Kevin Koch's Midwest Bedrock eloquently redefines and reimagines that fuzzy obscure geographic region that outsiders often describe as drive-through or fly-over country. "What exactly is the Midwest?" Koch asks in the intro. The question serves as a kind of reflective trailhead for the book. His search for the answer is equal parts natural history, memoir, and travelogue, and includes a chapter-long visit to all twelve midwestern states. From the headwater of the Mississippi at Lake Itasca, to Wisconsin's Ice Age Trail, to to Iowa's Effigy Mounds, to Ohio's Hocking Hills, Koch is an attentive and thoughtful guide, who leads readers to the natural wonders and beauty of America's heartland. Reading the book is a literal re-membering of a region that few have seen or considered with such insight and clarity. "~Tom Montgomery Fate is the author of six books of creative nonfiction. The most recent is The Long Way Home, a collection of travel essays.
"Kevin Koch knows the landscape of the American Midwest, not as "flyover country," but as root-in country. In Midwest Bedrock Koch burrows beneath the Midwest's unassuming surfaces, down into its rich layers of natural and cultural history. He finds there—and shares here—the region's beauty and bounty, its checkered past, and its ever-present promise. He grounds us in soil and story."~Curt Meine, Aldo Leopold Foundation and Center for Humans and Nature
"Kevin Koch is among the most respected literary voices in the Midwest. In this beautiful new book, he serves as both guide and pilgrim, inviting readers to see anew a region that is often portrayed as flat and unchanging. Here, instead, is a place of mystery, discovery, and perpetual transformation. A place where the defining stories are written not by human hands, but by ice, wind, rock, water. A place of hidden recesses in the earth and in the hearts of those who have loved, defended, and grieved this land across centuries. As a life-long citizen of the Heartland, I am filled with gratitude for this informative, visionary journey. "~John T. Price, author of All is Leaf: Essays and Transformations.