A thoughtful journey into little-known spots along the Colorado Plateau. Thybony, a northern Arizonabased writer locally known for a comprehensive guide to hiking the Grand Canyon, has an affinity for places not found on any map. The Burntwater of his title is one, a place whose Navajo name commemorates a shepherd's having melted ice there by building a circle of fire around it; elsewhere he takes us to other poetically named places like Crazy Jug Point, Tsegi, and Oraibi. Thybony is on a quest to understand the traditional Navajo blessing H¢zh¢ naninaadoo (``Go in beauty''), a formula that younger Navajo consider old-fashioned but that stayed with Thybony from the moment he first heard it. ``Only later did I learn about the Navajo idea of beauty and how it moves through life like a wind,'' he writes. ``It's not the beauty of surfaces alone, but an indwelling beauty that enfolds and completes, a life-restoring beauty.'' Informed by a deep knowledge of anthropology, geology, and history, Thybony's quest takes us inside the rock home of the Hopi elder Don Talayesva, author of the classic autobiography Sun Chief, ``a man running from angels''; into haunted side-canyons along the Colorado River, where Thybony affectingly recalls his brother's death in an airplane crash over Grand Canyon; and into the backcountry of western New Mexico, the birthplace of the atomic bomb and of a world ``where the dead could no longer be counted, where numbers gave way to sheer mass, where death became nameless.'' The author's love of the land is evident at every turn, and his essays deepen our understanding of both these mysterious places and of people who seek beauty within and without them. Gracefully written, this is outstanding reading for armchair travelers and habituÇs of the Four Corners country alike.
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