What Wildness is This

University of Texas Press, 2007


Edited by Susan Wittig Albert, Susan Hanson, Jan Epton Seale, and Paula Stallings Yost


Introduction by Kathleen Dean Moore





A collection of writings by emerging and well-known writers, including Joy Harjo, Denise Chávez, Diane Ackerman, Naomi Shihab Nye, Leslie Marmon Silko, Gloria Anzaldua, Terry Tempest Williams, and Barbara Kingsolver [and me!], that explores women’s experiences in the natural world of the Southwest.



From my essay, “Riding the River Home”:


When the call came, it seemed like a good idea: Would like to join a women’s Colorado River trip, as the trip’s naturalist and writer? Having proved myself as a field ecologist studying grizzly bears and wildfires, working an all-expenses-paid river trip sounded like a vacation. Besides, I was homesick. After three years in the desert heat, I longed for the Colorado Plateau’s cool nights, red rock cliffs, and pungent sagebrush. 


When I got off the small plane at Grand Junction, the light was clear and bright and the chatter of magpies was familiar. I recognized the polka-dot patterns of the sparse desert vegetation and could name the shale layers striping the nearby cliffs: it felt like home. This is going to be a good trip, I said to myself.


In the trip van humming west on the interstate… I spotted a golden eagle soaring in lazy circles high overhead and pointed it out to my seat mates. … The women peppered me with questions. I felt good. I was on a roll. Until I stepped into a raft and felt it sway gently underfoot as it road the skin of the river like a water skater. Then I remembered why this trip couldn’t be easy: I am no river girl. Whitewater terrifies me; drowning is the worst death I can imagine. …