Fire Season:

Field Notes

from a Wilderness Lookout

by

Philip Connors

240 p.

Published in April 2011, by Ecco

This book counts for

My Dewey Decimal Challenge

and for

The 2011 Non-Fiction Challenge

MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS BOOK

I read this book because of my love for nature and hiking, and also solitary life. I found all this in the book, but much more! I learned a lot about fire management, I have to say I did not know that we were actually letting some fires burn out there, because it’s actually very good for the trees regrowth, just as nature took care by itself for centuries of fires, and tree management.

I enjoyed the author’s beautiful prose as he contemplates and scrutinizes the horizon at the top of his tower, for several months every year, in New Mexico. The job is even tempting, though the thunderstorms seem very very scary.

EXCERPTS

Days pass in which there is nothing but wind, bending the pines to postures of worship of an unseen god in the east. p.35

I prefer to live, at least part of the year, out here on the edge, where worship of the material recedes and acquaintance with the natural becomes possible. p.73

Up here I’m not a six-foot-tall billboard or a member of a coveted demographic; I’m a human being, and as such I find it restorative to be in the presence of certain mysteries our species once knew in its bones, mysteries ineffable and unmediated. p.74

WHAT IS IT ABOUT

For nearly a decade, Philip Connors has spent half of each year in a 7′x7′ fire lookout tower, 10,000-feet above the ground in one of the remotest territories of New Mexico. One of the least developed parts of the country, the first region designated as an official wilderness area in the world, the section he tends is also one of the most fire-prone, suffering more than 30,000 lightning strikes each year. Written with gusto, charm, and sense of history, “Fire Season” captures the wonder and grandeur of this most unusual job and place: the eerie pleasure of solitude; the strange dance of communion and mistrust with its animal inhabitants; and the majesty, might, and beauty of untamed fire at its wildest. Connors’ time up on the peak is filled with drama-there are fires large and small; spectacular midnight lightning storms and silent mornings awakening above the clouds; surprise encounters with long-distance hikers, smokejumpers, bobcats, black bears, and an abandoned, dying fawn. Filled with Connors’ heartfelt reflections on our place in the wild, on other writers who have worked as lookouts-Jack Kerouac, Edward Abbey, Norman Maclean, Gary Snyder-and on the ongoing debate over whether fires should be supressed or left to burn, “Fire Season” is a remarkable homage to the beauty of nature, the blessings of solitude, and the freedom of the independent spirit. [Goodreads]

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Philip Connors has worked as a baker, a bartender, a house painter, a janitor, and an editor at the Wall Street Journal. His essays have appeared in n+1, Harper’s, the Paris Review, and the Best American Non-required Reading anthology. He lives in New Mexico with his wife and their dog. [Amazon]

REVIEWS BY OTHERS

“Philip Connors has crafted a book illumined by the gob-smacked, wide-eyed, inquisitional wonder at creation. . . . Fire Season is for pilgrims, pedestrians, hikers and anchorites, city dwellers, and solitary sorts: a treat for the senses, fit for the long haul. Bravo! (Thomas Lynch, author of The Undertaking)

“In an age of relentless connectivity, Philip Connors is a conscientious objector. His adventures in radical solitude make for profoundly absorbing, restorative reading. The soul that learns to keep its own company, this book reminds us, can never be alone.” (WALTER KIRN, author of Up in the Air)

“FIRE SEASON is an urgent, clear, bright book; it is both lyrical enough to arrest breath and absolutely compelling, reminding us why we need fire, solitude, wilderness. Find room on your bookshelf next to Wallace Stegner and Norman Maclean; Philip Connors is here to stay.” (Alexandra Fuller)

“This book captures all that is grand about our western wilderness.” (Vail Daily)

Fire Season is a beautiful narrative, evoking a reverent appreciation for protecting some of nature’s remaining wild places.” (San Francisco Book Review) [Amazon]

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