All the Powerful Invisible Things is an eloquent memoir of self-discovery and a chronicle of outdoor life. Refusing “impoverished ideas of passion,” Gretchen Legler writes about the complexities of being a woman who fishes and hunts, as well as about the more intimate terrain of family and sexuality. The result is a unique literary confluence filled with the ineffable graces of the natural world.
She writes: “I used to hate being a woman. When I was young, I believed I was a boy. Throughout college I never knew what it was like to touch a woman, to kiss a woman, to have a woman as a friend. All of my friends were men. I am thirty years old now, and I feel alone. I am not a man. Knowing this is like an earthquake. Just now all the lies are starting to unfold. I don’t blend in as well or as easily as I used to. I refuse to stay on either side of the line.”
Like many women, Legler finds that her presence identifies the unmarked boundaries of where she is and is not welcome, learning when it is advantageous to pass as male and when it is better to disappear into the woods and trees around her. This contrasts sharply with her experience of nature as a source of spiritual sustenance, a space of unparalleled freedom where she can lose herself in something larger.
Twenty-five years after it was first published, All the Powerful Invisible Things remains a highwater mark for women writing about the outdoors and is one of the few works to tackle the intricacies of gender identity and sexuality with transcendental aplomb.