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Reviews Mountain Dialogues. By Frank Waters. (Momence, III.: Swallow Press, Univ. of Ohio Press, 1981. 237 pages, $15.95.) For almost a decade, Frank Waters’s fiction and non-fiction have pro­ vided the material for the most enjoyable teaching experiences of my career. My enjoyment has, I am sure, stemmed in large part from the students’ reactions to the extremely wide range of subject matter covered by Waters and therefore covered in the course. Recently I overheard a conversation between a former student from this class and a prospective student. The latter asked, “What is Frank Waters all about?” The former student answered, “It takes until about the middle of the first semester, and then you know. But it’s kinda hard to explain.” It is hard to explain. It’s hard for the students, and it’s hard for their teacher. But in his latest book, explaining “what Frank Waters is all about’’ is exactly what Waters himself has, at least in part, accomplished. Mountain Dialogues is a collection of personal essays which not only deals with (at first glance) incredibly disparate topics — ranging from the next-door neigh­ bors to The Nature and Meaning of Man — but which reveals, through the author’s interests and experiences, more about the nature of Frank Waters himself than he has revealed in any of his previous works. The title of the book comes from two mountains located near Waters’s home in Arroyo Seco, New Mexico. The nearby Sacred Mountain of Taos is described as “benign’’ and “motherly,” the other, El Cuchillo Del Medio, as “malign” and “masculine.” These bi-polar mountains, like the biblical Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gerizim, “. . . imprint their forces both on the physical and inorganic world, and on organic life. . . .” Waters says: [Arroyo Seco] had a distinctive aura, a rhythm, a flavor of its own. There were so many feelings between opposite poles! All these invisi­ ble forces helped to mold me into their pattern, whatever that is. Gradually they began to speak to me with the voice of the living land, and its chief spokesmen were the two great peaks that rose from the mountains above. And: Our communication with the spirit of a place, with its constituent voices of a stream, a rock, a tree, confirms the truth that this inter­ 62 Western American Literature relationship is necessary for our continued existence as one species of organisms dependent like all others upon the same eternal powers that inform the universal whole. Readers of Waters’s earlier publications will find familiar themes in Mountain Dialogues: the reconciliation of dualities, the harmonious relation­ ship of man and universe, the need for “rightness with the land.” Readers will also find some of Waters’s deepest and most profound thought, expressed in its simplest and most innocent-appearing form. And because of the per­ sonal and autobiographical nature of much of the material, readers will find — frequently between the lines — Frank Waters. For example, in the essay on the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung and India’s great yogi Sri Ramana Maharshi, one learns not only the common denominators that relate the thought of these apparently very different teachers, but one also sees the influence of these great men on this American philosopher and writer. Mountain Dialogues is a beautifully crafted book, as tightly woven as a Navajo blanket, with themes introduced in one essay constantly emerging, disappearing, and re-emerging in others. While Waters, in his introduction, seems apologetic for the wide range of subject matter, identified by separate titles such as “Silence,” “Water,” “Air,” and “Spirits,” the effect of the total collection is one of unity. The meaning of each of the separate essays becomes ultimately dependent upon what has been said both before and after its appearance in the book. In the opening paragraph, for example, a little neighbor girl asks Waters, “How does this dirt make our garden grow?” The question gives rise to the ensuing essay entitled “The Living Land.” In the tenth essay, “Ley Lines,” the question again surfaces, as Waters says, “And here perhaps we have an answer to the question asked by the little girl of my neighborhood. . . In addition, what...


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pp. 61-62
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