Spring exploded in New York over these last two weeks...tulips, bleeding hearts, apple blossoms, daffodils... all emerged from the earth with startling speed, perfectly timed for Earth Day. Simultaneously, cartons tumbled out of the Random House warehouse bearing copies of the mini edition of Jon Ortner's stunning "Canyon Wilderness of the Southwest," just published by the company I work for, Welcome Books. Only two years ago we published the $195 version. Now we have a new edition: the perfect travel size for $16.95, panoramas intact.
For the first many years that we knew each other, Jon (the author of "Canyon Wilderness") and his wife Martha went every year for three months deep into the mountains and valleys of Southeast Asia. Jon underwent a spiritual evolution during this time solidifying his commitment to Buddism and Asia inspiring the astounding books that grew from this dedication, "Where Every Breath is a Prayer," "Angkor," and Buddha. Then, four years ago they found the sacred in America hiking in the vast and astonishing southwestern canyon lands straddling the borders of Utah, New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona. He found that "what is discovered in the desert, in the worship of the desert, rings with clarity, intelligence, and truth." Each of the two hundred photographs which emerged, including seventy panoramas that grace this exquisite book, brims with the passion he derived from both writers and photographers who came before him: James Fennemore and John Hillers; Ansel Adams and Edward Weston; Edward Abbey, Everett Ruess, and Maynard Dixon.
Last week, I got a letter from Ken Burns about the book. "Indescribably sublime," he said "a testament to the power of our saved and sacred places to transform our lives, rearrange our molecules and make of us all, as John Muir would say, 'kindred spirits.'" This from the man who made "National Parks: America's Best Idea."
Every day, but particularly today because the Earth is our home, we really must think about how to stop overwhelming our bodies, our houses, our yards, our streets, our Earth with too much stuff, much of it toxic. We must remember that one of the most coveted treasures of all is, as Jon says, "a breath of clean air, a sip of pure water, the silence and solitude that allows one to hear the rush of wind across unspoiled landscape." "Canyon Wilderness" is a treasure worth holding close to our hearts, reminding us of all that we need to think about.