An uneven collection of sharply observed and deeply pondered essays, mainly on the environment but informed by the author’s perspective as a Quaker and a lesbian.
“In their shapes and meanders, the personal essay and the long walk have much in common, most notably in their valuing of the journey over the destination,” writes Reid (Creative Writing/Warren Wilson Coll.; Coyote: Seeking the Hunter in Our Midst, 2004), who invites readers to share some walks, most of them in nature generally and many of them involving birds specifically. She continues to observe that these two linked pursuits involve “a heightened attention,” and most of these essays pay very close attention to detail, as the author finds significance in distinctions to which many observers might remain oblivious. She also makes connections between her solitary contemplation of nature and her relationships with those close to her, as when she writes after the death of her grandmother, “She and I may not have said much about the matters of our hearts but in the language of birds we shared plenty.” Two essays rise above the rest. “Hitched, Massachusetts, 2004” seems deeply felt as well as pondered, as the author works her way through the ambivalence of becoming legally wed to her partner, “because there are lots of reasons besides fidelity and commitment why queers might want to marry and why doing so might cause palms to sweat.” In “Wild Geese and Other Nostalgias,” the author illuminates how love for birds might be bad for them, making it too easy for them to stay in one place and multiply, interrupting their natural migratory cycles.
As a self-conscious writer and ardent environmentalist, Reid makes fine company for those who share her passions, yet there’s little trace of humor, self-deprecating or otherwise, that might broaden her circle of readers.