One of the best American essays of the century is The Solace of Open Spaces, written and told by Gretel Ehrlich. Ehrlich wrote this short essay about her time she spent in Wyoming. She also tells about some events that has happened while being there. The short essay was first published in The Atlantic Monthly in 1981 and then collected in The Solace of Open Spaces in 1985. Being a short essay, the story was written within ten pages. Those ten pages are divided into sections for short pauses of Ehrlichs thoughts. The purpose of The Solace of Open Spaces is to inform, describe, and also to persuade. This essay is most directed to those people who live in large cities, to help them better understand the vast country of Wyoming.
Winter in Wyoming lasts for six months. Whirling winds and a temperature of twenty to forty degrees below zero makes you feel as the only one person there. Ehrlich traveled to Wyoming, not planning to stay. The original purpose of her going was to lose herself in an unpopulated land. Ehrlich instead started a fresh new life on a sheep ranch. That was only the beginning of her realizations.
As spring rolled in, it was a time of fourteen hour of work each day. The sheep were sorted in corrals to be sheared, branded, and deloused. Spring is a time in which the weather rapidly changes daily. It will snow one day and the next will feel like summer. Of course with open land, there have been tornadoes. As spring moved on, so did Ehrlich. She moved to a friends cattle ranch to help out. There, Ehrlich helped to deliver a calf that was half stuck in its mother. With a swollen tongue, the calf couldnt breathe either, so Ehrlich watched her friend give mouth-to-mouth. Wind, Ehrlich realizes in most important to Wyoming. It is the gardener. In all the open space, the values and behavior change with some people. That was proved when Ehrlich had a run in with a ranch hand talking to a decayed cow carcass. From that point, she learned about the Western Code. The belief that honestly no matter what is stronger than sympathy, no matter how harsh things may be. You have to do what you have to do more or less.
Excessive heat, in the nineties and higher is summer in Wyoming. Everything is green and people have sixteen hours of daylight. Summer is the time when people ended up in idle agitation with nothing to do but work. Cabin fever is what comes about and that leads to grudges, feuds, and even suicides.
After a brief time, summer is over and the sun moves south. The colors start to fade and the water frosts over during the night. Ehrlich went on a pack trip with a friend about twenty miles away from a town. The night sky was an entertainment for the both of them for two weeks. They counted the satellites and watched the stars and space. That is when Ehrlich realized that space represents sanity. It can heal what is divided and burdensome. If people just stopped and took the time to take a look at what is around them, people might realize what they have or need is already there. It is just the step of opening your eyes and really looking.