Between Urban and Wild:
Reflections from Colorado
By Andrea M. Jones
University of Iowa Press, 2013
Reviewed by Eduardo Rey Brummel
I first opened this collection of essays after placing my order at Telluride’s Brown Dog, and was who-knows-how-many pages immersed in it before noticing that my pizza had arrived and that the waitress was raising her eyebrows at me in an expectant and inhospitable manner. Andrea M. Jones has been published in Christian Science Monitor, Orion and High Country News. It took just the first two paragraphs for me to know I was safely in the hands of a writer who was adept and confident in her craft:
You might say it started with the bird feeder.
Oh, sure, first there was the guy, the falling in love, the settling down in a house in the Colorado foothills. But where the bird feeder enters my memory, a different point of view asserts itself. Not a complete revolution in seeing, but a shift in perspective, as if someone had clapped their hands around my skull and swiveled my head, sighting it along a new angle, saying, “There. Try looking there.”
Jones is one of the few writers who makes it clear that we are, indeed, very much a part of nature, an essential and vibrant part of the ecology where we dwell, even if it’s in some cityscape. Issues such as pasturing horses, creating defensible space from wildfire, living alongside and along with bears and mountain lions, Lake Powell, ravines cluttered with abandoned cars, and, yes, bird feeders, are considered and pondered in these essays.
While reading one of them, “Tyranny of the Visible,” I heard echoes of Annie Dillard; and in many of the others I imagined I was reading what would result from Susan J. Tweit and Laura Pritchett chatting over mugs of Darjeeling, with a nearby Dillard occasionally interjecting. But that was neither an accurate nor a fair assessment.
Jones writes with her own singular voice and vision. Such is the tenor and resonance of her writing, it makes me wonder why she’s waited until now to bring it to the book-reading world. Maybe like many of us, she waited until she was sure she had something worth saying, worth hearing, and, most importantly, that she was able to say it well.
I hope this book’s inevitable reception will cure Jones of any worries and insecurities regarding her writing. To be sure, no small amount of this hope is due to my wanting good things to come unto her. But also be sure of this: Far more of it is due to my own greediness in wanting to read lots, lots more of her work.
Eduardo Rey Brummel is thinking that perhaps it’s time to cease and desist his own stinginess in sending his writing out into the world.