Singing Wind & Skylight Books

It’s been so long since we got home from our trip to Arizona and California, but there were great bookstores and not all the books bought have been read yet, so I think I can still wring a little timeliness out of this.

Singing Wind Bookshop in Benson, AZ, was its wonderful self. Winifred, the owner, was away in the city getting new glasses, but the Dalmatian was on site and the book selection as good as ever. After a lot of deliberating I wound up buying just two. Roadside Geology of Arizona by Halka Chronic is part of a fairly well-known series of introductory geology guides. I envisioned myself lecturing quite authoritatively from the backseat after that, but because we were often driving roads in the opposite direction the guide was written in it tended to take me a while to get my bearings, so there was a lot of “Okay, so that range back there that we just passed…” The beauty of geology is that barring some sort of giant meteor event this book will not become outdated in my lifetime.

My other pick, Fluid Arguments: Five Centuries of Western Water Conflict, edited by Char Miller, came from a long shelf dedicated to water issues in the Southwest. Although I knew a bit about this before first visiting the region a few years ago, it’s something else to see up close the edges of irrigated fields where it doesn’t just transition to less lush but from crop to absolutely bare earth. I’ve decided I’m going to save this book for the dead of winter, which is when I tend to idealize a Southwest existence for myself. That part of the continent doesn’t need another water consumer. Sixteen essays on the subject should take care of it.

Toward the end of our trip we spent an afternoon in Los Angeles. Apart from a visit to the Museum of Contemporary Art we made no attempt to plan anything. Although that meant we necessarily missed almost everything, after the museum we stumbled upon a neighbourhood we liked the look of, called Los Feliz, and then found a parking spot and then a little French bistro for a late lunch and a bottle of champagne (I guess we were just celebrating not having had to try very hard) and then a fantastic bookstore called Skylight Books, stretched across two storefronts a few doors down from the bistro.

Skylight is one of those increasingly rare establishments that make opening a bookstore seem like a really good idea and not a total folly. I spent a long time in the sustainable design section and (aided by the champagne, no doubt) started to think the world might make it after all – not a level of optimism I expected to achieve in a place even more ruled than most by the automobile. Immediately after that, though, we got stuck in traffic trying to get to the Griffith Observatory. I wound up reading most of my Skylight purchase, Australian poet Les Murray’s newest collection, Taller When Prone, during our slow climb up the hill and then down, before we headed out of the city and back toward Arizona for the flight home.

(The photo was taken during a hike in Catalina State Park, just north of Tucson.)

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