On October 7, 1962, Bruce Berger and three friends embarked on what may have been the last trip taken through the Colorado River's Glen Canyon before the floodgates were closed at Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell began to fill. After thirty years, one can grieve for what was lost and then, like Berger, take ather look around. The Southwest Berger sees is an unusual, even odd, place, with inhabitants that are just as strange. In this collection of essays he introduces us to people and places that define a region and a way of life. We meet eccentric desert dwellers like Cactus Pete, who claimed to have mapped the mountains of Venus long before NASA penetrated its clouds. We chart the canals of Phoenix, which have created a Martian landscape out of an irrigation system dating back to the ancient Hohokam; stay at a wigwam motel in Holbrook, whose kitsch appeals even to Hopis; and dim our lights for the International Dark-Sky Association's efforts to keep night skies safe for astromy. Focusing on the interaction of people with the environment, Berger reveals an original vision of the Southwest that encompasses both city and wilderness. In a concluding essay centering on the sale of his mother's estate in Phoenix, he concedes that our intention to leave the desert alone has resulted, unwittingly, in loss after loss, simply by our being here. Sometimes there are losses a canyon, a house but Berger attunes us to the prodigies of change.
Bruce Berger is the author of The Telling Distance: Conversations with the American Desert, which won the Western States Book Award for nonfictionin 1990. His previous books include Notes of a Half-Aspenite, A Dazzle of Hummingbirds, and Hangin' On.His articles have appeared in The New York Times, Sierra, Americana, Westways, and elsewhere. He has also played the piano professionally both in this country and in Spain.