Living in a Land
of Mythic Proportions
From her home in southern Utah near the San Juan River,
Meloy set out to
"My home,"she says, "lay in ... the southeastern Utah portion of the Four Corners,
Her neighborhood is home
to some of the world's most physically fascinating geology.
This is the land that provided the raw material for America's nuclear arsenal.
"In a strange convergence of human time with geologic time,"writes Meloy,
Los Alamos and the White Sands Missile range are on the Colorado Plateau.
In its bedrock lies the
Meloy deals with this disturbing reality with a wry sense of humanity.
From her we learn that just before dawn
of the first atom bomb test in the New Mexico desert:
With Meloy we experience the joy of coming upon a claret cup,
the translucent crimson bloom of an especially spiny cactus.
With her we share the wonder of imagining the lives
led by natives of the region whose remains are so carefully preserved
by the dry climate.
With her we wander parched riverbeds
and canyon corridors to observe elusive wildlife.
With her we learn the gratifying travails of building a house
in this remote country and getting to know the neighbors.
"The county,"Meloy writes, "is nearly as large as Belize,
Meloy's community, like many others across the West,
struggles with the transition from a natural resource-based economy
into an uncertain future.
Here that resource was uranium.
"For this man and many of his contemporaries,"
The Four Corners area is indeed a landscape of mythic proportions.
Every rock tells a story.
Each species that ekes out a living in this arid region
seems worthy of legend.
Lizards, toads and desert bighorn:
As Meloy describes them, we are there with her on a canyon rim.
"River-polished stones, broken cliffs,
skirts of talus clad in ricegrass and claret cup....
Sinuous red-rock canyons, sweet emerald jewels of springs,
arroyos flowing with nothing.
A sawed rib of uplifted sandstone,
mountains packed together on the horizon like islands of prayer."
"The Last Cheater's Waltz" is about mapping one's home,
learning its most intimate details and histories,
but understanding it will always be full of infinite mystery.
"I try to live here,"concludes Meloy,
Elizabeth Grossman is co-editor of
"Shadow Cat: Encountering the American Mountain Lion,"
which will be published in April by Sasquatch Books.
The Sunday Oregonian
March 14, 1999