In a Word: Psychogeology



I cannot offer you a dictionary definition of psychogeology because the word is not in the dictionary. What I can do is tell you that the author who coined the term, Kim Stanley Robinson, wanted a word to define how we are shaped by the places where we live or have spent time. Psycho, as a prefix, refers to relating to the mind or the soul. Geology, broadly, means the substance of the Earth. 

Robinson chose to use the term “geology” and refers specifically to mountains. The Sierra mountains (the focus of his most recent book, The High Sierra, a Love Story) make him feel differently than Swiss mountains, he says, inviting us, too, to notice how different places make us feel. 

“I think the mountains are a space where you are taken outside of your ordinary urban mind and are thinking a little deeper — or, no, that might not be the right way to put it,” he said during an interview on The Ezra Klein Show. “Things are coming together in your head in a different way.”

Richard Powers, author of Bewilderment and The Overstory, described his first foray into the Smoky Mountains to Ezra Klein in a separate interview: “When I first went to the Smokies and hiked up into the old growth in the Southern Appalachians, it was like somebody threw a switch. There was some odd filter that had just been removed, and the world sounded different and smelled different. The experience was so transformative for Powers that he found himself still thinking about it a year later. “If you’re still preoccupied with a place and how you felt in that place after such a long period of time after only a four-day exposure,” Powers said, “that’s got to tell you something.” 

Sounds a lot like psychogeology.

There is a particularity to psychogeology, according to Kim Stanley Robinson: “I talk about psychogeology as the trying to understand why, for instance, the Sierras feel so different than the Swiss Alps or the trans-Antarctics or the Himalayas.” It is the character of these places, he posits to Klein, that coalesce into a particular feeling. … You can try to explain it, but it’s more of a gestalt. And that’s psychogeology.”

- Advertisement -spot_img

Latest Stories

Good Libations: Sipping on Seedlip

With trends like dry (or damp) January popularizing consumer experimentation in the realm of non-alcoholic cocktails,...

A San Diego Coffee Roastery Delivers a Delicious Cuppa Using Solar Power and an Electric Mini Cooper

Behind a house in sunny San Diego sits a 70 square-foot shed. If passersby were to...

RECIPE: Home-style Fried Rice with Vegetables

I've eaten plenty of fried rice — some good, some a little greasy, some overly salty....

Good News: Australia’s Biodiversity Credits Aim to Support Farmers and Conservation

Australia is launching a program to reward landholders for conducting biodiversity-enhancing projects, Bloomberg News reports. The...

RECIPE: Grapefruit Gin(ger) Fizz

Grapefruit Gin(ger) Fizz Serves 1 All it takes to whip up this Dry January treat is tangy grapefruit...

A Joyous (Dry) January Celebration + Recipe

If you’re joining the legions trying Dry January, you don’t have to give up celebrating special...
Leslie Garrett
Leslie Garrett
Leslie Garrett is a journalist and the Editorial Director of Bluedot, Inc. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, Washington Post, Good Housekeeping, and more. She is the author of more than 15 books, including The Virtuous Consumer, a book on living more sustainably. Leslie lives most of the year in Canada with her husband, three children, three dogs and three cats. She is building a home on Martha's Vineyard.

Read More

Related Articles


  1. I live near some very old mountains, the Taconics, and they are my version of the Sierras, though the tallest is only about 2500 feet. I wonder if the age of the place affects me. I know I feel like I belong there, whenever I hike and explore. I feel more alert and alive.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here