Since his mountain-climbing days at Reed, Gary Snyder '51 has always favored the big vista. He grew up on a small dairy farm in the Pacific Northwest and says that scaling the peaks of the Cascades gave him his first experience of spaciousness.
It's not surprising then to find him today living on a peak of sorts, high atop the San Juan Ridge of California's Sierra foothills. Fifty minutes from the nearest town--with the final three miles a bumpy ride up a dirt road through a pine forest--the log-style Japanese house Snyder built 27 years ago sits nestled on 100 acres of what he calls a "wildlife corridor." Named Kitkitdizze by Snyder after a Native American word for a local bush, it's an appropriate perch for someone who has made his mark as a cultural sentinel since graduating from Reed.
Now in his late sixties, Snyder remains an active poet, ecological philosopher, community activist, and Buddhist dharma warrior. In 1997 he published his magnum opus, Mountains and Rivers Without End, a long poem made up of many shorter ones that had been some 40 years in the making.
In the converted barn he shares as library and den with his wife, writer Carole Koda, Snyder fields phone calls and swaps emails with a wide network of colleagues who share his interests in watershed politics, archaic ways of being, and the arts. He moves sprightly around the barn, sharing new discoveries with the engaging enthusiasm of a lifelong learner who wears his own learning lightly. That natural curiosity comes through in his memories of Reed.
"What I really appreciated about my Reed life," he says, "was learning how to do research, how to get information. Realizing that there is a path to any information in the world that you want to get. All you've got to do is to figure out where the doors are. Talk about empowerment! And to know that nobody has the right to stop you. And then to realize that having the right information in the right way at the right time is a kind of power and possibly an aid to wisdom."