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Reviews 69 purpose is not to “cover ground,” but to cover everything he finds in the Sonoran desert with attention and love. Shelton recounts the history and legends of the area, talkswith the wit and authority of a poet/naturalist about the plants and animals found in this part of Arizona, and discusses his own life and feelings with reference to the environ­ ment he has chosen to live in. The book develops into a fascinating journey through the heart of the desert Southwest. We are invited to look at things as Shelton, the artist, looks at them, with attention to beauty, uniqueness, and within the context of time and place. Everything becomes rich with meaning and feeling, and we learn to believe that one can linger a lifetime over this one hundred-mile stretch of desert and never be bored. Although similar toJoseph Wood Krutch’s TheDesert Year (1963), Shelton’s perspective on the desert goes beyond the tourist’s view provided by Krutch. Shelton’s insights are seasoned with over thirty-five years of living intimately with the desert. His book is an affirmation of life and beauty in unusual places, and is a worthy recipient of the 1992 Western States Book Award for Creative Nonfiction. PAULJ. FERLAZZO Northern Arizona University Refuge: An Unnatural History ofFamily and Place. By Terry Tempest Williams. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1991. 304 pages, $21.00.) Terry Tempest Williams crafted Refugefrom herjournals ofthe 1983 record rise of the GreatSaltLake. Born into afamilywith deep Mormon roots, Williams holds childhood memories of weekends camped by Great Basin streams, and she affirms, “our attachment to the land was our attachment to each other.” Chapters titled for local bird species and prefaced with lake levels contain descriptions of the encroaching salt water threatening and then assaulting Williams’ beloved Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, America’s first waterfowl sanctuary. Naturalist-in-residence at the Utah Museum of Natural History, Williams writes, “It is here in the marshes with the birds that I seal my relationship to the Great Salt Lake. I could never have anticipated its rise.” (Space breaks the narrative flow momentarily.) “My mother was aware of a rise on the left side of her abdomen.”The water’s “rise”becomes a transition device for afocus firston the “rise” in her mother’s abdomen and then the cancer which, byJuly 1990, had destroyed most of the women in her family. Williams begins by observing natural phenomena, but her personal world is so intricately intertwined with the naturalworld that movement from one to the 70 WesternAmerican Literature other, while essentially appropriate and natural, is often breathtaking. Back and forth she leads us: after developing a major motif and establishing a dominant metaphor, she takes the metaphor and gives it concrete application as a method of moving into the other motif. The center of Refuge is its title. Where does one find refuge from the destructions life brings? How can one face the loss of the special place or the special people? Williams answers, “My refuge exists in my capacity to love. If I can learn to love death then I can begin to find refuge in change.” The interweaving of the motifs from the natural and personal worlds provides continuous evidence of Williams’ artistry. The revelations in the Epi­ logue reveal the power of her insights and convictions. No student of natural history will want to miss the experience of witnessing ecosystems attacked by natural and cyclical forces, and no student of the West will be able to avoid Williams’newly defined symbol of the “West as testsite”in a nuclear age. In using personal experience to enhance her focus on biological systems rather than the other way round, Williams succeeds in drawing the “reader’s attention to the sense and substance of the writing, rather than to the mood and temper of the author” (The Elements of Style 70), one of the major challenges contemporary writers face—perhaps the major challenge for nature writers. When asked how to maintain that appropriate balance, Williams affirms that the secret is knowing what is “personal”and what is “private.” Refuge is a personal account of destruction and hope, recording natural...


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pp. 69-70
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