A memoir recounting a Native-American woman’s spiritual connection with the landscape of the American Southwest.
In her latest work, Laguna Pueblo tribeswoman Silko (Gardens in the Dunes, 1999, etc.) philosophizes on humankind’s place within the natural world. From her Tucson home, the author defends the predators that surround her, depicting rattlesnakes and bees as welcome neighbors rather than harmful intruders. In one instance, when trying to free a rattlesnake from chicken wire, she notes that it “never rattled at me once the whole time it was trapped.” Likewise, she later boasts that while plucking near-drowned bees from the water, “[t]hey never try to sting me,” proof enough for Silko that bees, too, “understand kindness.” The author invites readers to reflect on their own trespasses against nature, while simultaneously sounding the call for a renewed relationship between the natural world and humanity. Silko’s love for landscape is reminiscent of John Muir, and her fastidious account offers a clear, sonorous voice for her wilderness. Her connection with her surroundings transcends the living world, and she argues that nature actually functions as a spiritual go-between linking departed ancestors with living relatives. “After death, it may take some days for the spirit to bid farewell to this world and to the loved ones they want to reassure,” writes Silko, “so they visit us as birds or other wild creatures to let us know that they are in a good place not far away.” While the self-assured vignettes are impressive, the book lacks a central narrative. The author’s world is overflowing with turquoise, snakes, dogs and rain, yet all of these individual components fail to offer the reader a cohesive story.
A much-needed treatise on renewing our relationship with the natural world, though the lack of a singular narrative thread may restrict the work from reaching the audience it deserves.