FEAR FALLS AWAY by Janice Emily Bowers


and Other Essays from Hard and Rocky Places
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 Delicious, closely observed place vignettes of southeastern Arizona, from naturalist Bowers (A Full Life in a Small Place and Other Essays from a Desert Garden, 1995). The Santa Catalinas, the Pinalenos, the Huachucas, the Santa Ritas, Baboquivari--these southwestern mountains are for Bowers ``the stuff of wary beauty and abiding love . . . a love that lies less in easy responses than in intimate acquaintance, doggedly pursued.'' After 20 years, she is still going about making the place her home, finding, synecdochically, a vastness in the details: in the petroglyphs of the Hohokam, artist-farmers, contemporaries of Chaucer; in an old snag, perforated like a Chinese checkerboard, an acorn in every hole, tucked there by a woodpecker (``The tree seemed to have a hundred brown eyeballs''); in a melancholy walk on Mt. Graham, home of an endangered squirrel threatened by a new observatory. She is unhappy with the human degradation of her dreamscape, angry at the roads cutting through the wild, jarringly like ``rough footsteps in the dark, a banging door, the sound of gunfire,'' but she does not beat the reader senseless with such things. Rather, like a good pilgrim, she dawdles, lets the landscape move through her, tunes her fine eye to the exigent art of seeing--``the cliffs stand on the rim like the fur on an angry cat's back.'' Her delineations of the land are sharp as crystal, and fragile and melancholy, too, as if the land might melt into air, ephemeral as a desert flower. The desert Southwest is blessed with superb place portraitists: Edward Abbey, Charles Bowden, Jack Dykinga, and many more. Add Bowers to that embarrassment of riches.

Pub Date: Aug. 15th, 1997
ISBN: 0-8165-1717-7
Page count: 175pp
Publisher: Univ. of Arizona
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1997