A rich portrait of a region that has witnessed the earth shift, oceans retreat, peoples destroyed, and its own land dessicated. As journalist Brown (Cycles of Rock and Water, 1993) points out, tourists visiting the Colorado Plateau might not realize the threat they pose to the desert ecosystem. For those who are unfamiliar with the region and have a vague notion of the desert as a sandy, barren place, the plateau seems to fit the bill. They might view the sparsely populated landscape and think how much more life the region could sustain, when in fact it is already supporting more than it can comfortably handle. But the Four Corners--the area where Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado all meet, and where the Colorado Plateau is located--was once much more fertile than it is now. Life-supporting cryptobiotic soil has been eroded, and the desert's diverse flora and fauna are dying out. This is all the more tragic when one reads Brown's loving descriptions of the land in all its fading glory: the juniper and pinyon trees, evolved to make the most of the region's scant water; the grasslands and shrublands, substantially cleared away by industrious farmers. Brown also discusses the origins of the Four Corners' glorious rock formations, and he paints a detailed picture of the many colorful and varied types of stone, from rock-candy-like diorite to the bright hues of Bryce Canyon's Mesa Verde sandstone. These canyons were once the site of vast ancient cities--the cliff dwellings of the Anasazi. Later, they were home to the Ute and Navajo Indians. Brown tells the stories of these people with sensitivity, successfully walking the line between revisionist and conventional histories, and he is very lucid when discussing difficult concepts of paleobotany, geophysics, and other sciences. Like the sedimentary rock that decorates the Southwest's canyon walls--vivid and multilayered.