Ehrlich was born on a horse ranch near Santa Barbara, California
and was educated at Bennington College and UCLA film school. She
worked in film for ten years, then began writing fulltime in 1978
after the death of a loved one. She had been filming on a 250,000
acre sheep and cattle ranch in northern Wyoming at the time, and
there she stayed. The book that resulted was THE SOLACE OF OPEN
SPACES, published by Viking Penguin in 1984. Annie Dillard wrote
of the book: “Wyoming has found its Whitman.” Solace became an instant
classic. The American Academy of Arts and Letters awarded her the
Harold D. Vurcell Award for Distinguished Prose.
ranches by day, Ehrlich continued writing at night and in the slow
seasons. Following SOLACE, Penguin published her novel, HEART MOUNTAIN,
in 1987, set in Wyoming during World War II, it is a portrait of
a ranching community suddenly invaded by an internment camp for
Japanese Americans. “Absolutely dazzling…” the Chicago Tribune wrote.
In 1991, Penguin
published a second book of narrative essays, ISLANDS, THE UNIVERSE,
AND HOME. Peter Stack writing for the San Francisco Chronicle described
te book as: “A volume of ten deep, wandering essays that at times
are so point blank vital you nearly need to put down the book to
1991 was the
year Ehrlich was hit by lightning while taking a walk on her ranch.
She was hospitalized and severly debilitated for several years.
She writes of the experience in her nationally bestselling memoir,
A MATCH TO THE HEART, published by Pantheon in 1994.
from her lightning injuries, Ehrlich began traveling. In 1993, she
went to the foothills of the Himalayas in western China. Intending
to write a book on the four sacred Buddhist in China, she was so
appalled by the stripping away of culture and humanity during the
Cultural Revolution, that she found herself writing something altogether
different. QUESTIONS OF HEAVEN, published in 1994 by Beacon Press,
was, she says, “a lament for a 5000 year old culture that has suffered
almost complete extinction….almost, but not quite.”
That same year,
Ehrlich also began traveling north to Greenland. “I wanted to get
above treeline, to see nothing but horizons. Once there, she fell
in love with the Inuit people and traveled with subsistence hunters
by dogsled for months at a time out on the sea ice. “Greenland was
a Siren singing me back. I could not stay away.” Eight years later,
in 2002, her book, THIS COLD HEAVEN: Seven Seasons in Greenland,
was published by Pantheon. “Combining timidity, foolhardiness, tenacity,
erudition, and poetry, Ehrlich’s is a superb voice for the miracle
of Greenland…” Tom Mc Guane wrote.
books by Gretel Ehrlich:
YEAR, Hyperion, 1999 (young adults)
JOHN MUIR, NATURE’S VISIONARY, National Geographic Books, 2000
YELLOWSTONE, Land of Fire and Ice, Tehabi Books, 1995
ARCTIC HEART, Capra Press, 1991 (poems)
DRINKING DRY CLOUDS, Capra Press, 1985 (short stories)
TO TOUCH THE BODY, 1981 (poems)
GEODE/ROCK BODY, Capra Press, 1970 (poems)
Gretel Ehrlich’s work, including essays, short stories, and poems
have been included in many anthologies including: Best Essays of
the Century, Best American Essays, Best Spiritual Writing, Best
Travel Writing, and The Nature Reader.
Her work has
been published in Harper’s, the Atlantic, The New York Times Magazine,
The New York Times op-ed page, The Washington Post, Time Magazine,
Life, National Georaphic Adventure, National Geographic Traveler,
Outside, Audubon, Anteaus, Architectural Digest, and the Shambala
Sun, among many others.
have been translated into French, Italian, German, Japanese, Danish,
Her awards include: National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing
Fellowship, National Endowment for the Humanities grant, a Whiting
Foundation Award, A Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Harold B Vurcell
Award at the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She and the theatre
director, Martha Clarke were awarded a Bellagio Fellowship. In 1991
she collaborated with British choreographer, Siobhan Davies on a
ballet that opened in London’s the South Bank Theatre.
her time between Calfiornia and Wyoming. She is a curently at work
on a novel.