No, they whisper. You own nothing.
You were a visitor, time after time
climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming.
We never belonged to you.
You never found us.
It was always the other way round.

-Margaret Atwood, “The Moment”

Borges says, in his literary theory, that there are more or less six themes that authors write about, six stories they tell, though the narratives may vary. All have to do with the human condition: how we love, how we live, how we make a life for ourselves, how we interact with the physical/metaphysical/spiritual, our literal and figurative place in the world. Following this metric, Catherine Reid’s newest collection of nature-centric essays, Falling into Place: An Intimate Geography of Home, is the perfect example of how the personal becomes global through familiar tropes. Utilizing her relationship to her home in the Berkshires as well as the deeply-crafted life with her partner, Reid juxtaposes her identity as a native New Englander with her otherness as a lesbian woman to create lyric tension that sustains the ambivalence of the narrative.

Such careful, intimate consideration of place is difficult to do in our day of technology. It is more common to see visitors experiencing the world through the lens of their iPhones or digital cameras than navigating nature through their known memory, as vessels (the body) contained in larger vessels (the natural universe). Reid manages to skillfully connect with the art of physically and primally knowing a landscape, as an animal might. Everything from her deep connection with the water (and thus, the scarcity) of her home to the catastrophes that have occurred over time (as in the story of the oil spill that would have wiped out an entire ecosystem within one river had it not been for the skillful navigation of a select beaver population), demonstrates the careful and intentional consideration of place as a character in the larger narrative of Reid’s life.

Though the book demonstrates an intimacy as telling as a photo album, the ultimate message of the collection is clear: no matter how deeply you might know a place, the world does not belong to you, and you can claim no ownership. With this book, Reid joins the ranks of other established and intertextual writers who have mastered the art of place, such as Annie Dillard (particularly in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek) and Margaret Atwood. This collection is a stunning representation of the multiplicity of place, and our station within it.

 

Falling into Place: An Intimate Geography of Home
By Catherine Reid
Beacon Press
Hardcover, 9780807009925, 184 pp.
February 2014



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  • Michael Craft

One Response to “‘Falling into Place: An Intimate Geography of Home’ by Catherine Reid”

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