A sand-brown world

  • Book cover of "Getting Over the Color Green"

    ... and the tourists in the curio shop
    not knowing what to say
    for once in their lives, but feeling
    the ground rolling beneath them,
    experience something most of them
    won't see in a lifetime,
    up on the shelf the kachina dolls,
    those little gods of beneficence
    who've stood there so long
    they're mad about it,
    at last begin to flap their wings.

    - Peter Wild, "Havasu City,"
    in Getting Over the Color Green

    The best anthologies are more than greatest-hits collections. Among the familiar works by familiar authors, they reserve lots of space for the unfamous and unexpected. Though Getting Over the Color Green, a new anthology of Southwestern environmental literature, takes its title from a Wallace Stegner essay, it includes plenty of surprises.

    Instead of Edward Abbey, we hear from a younger set of writers: Jimmy Santiago Baca, an outraged poet from Albuquerque; journalist and art critic Rebecca Solnit, author of Savage Dreams and several other nonfiction books; and poet Ofelia Zepeda of the Tohono O'odham Nation, a professor of linguistics at the University of Arizona. Household names such as Terry Tempest Williams are here, too, but we get a new twist on their work. Williams, for example, contributes a set of field notes from a birdwatching trip to Bosque del Apache in central New Mexico.

    Editor Scott Slovic has defined the Southwest as "anywhere in the United States (and perhaps Mexico) where the general hue of the land is more brown than green, where one's lips crack from dryness and sweat dries almost instantly, and where cactus or tumbleweed or sagebrush abound." That might be a bit of a stretch for a Southwestern anthology. As a desert reader, though, Getting Over the Color Green is a fine and inclusive piece of work.