‘The California Field Atlas’ and ‘Eat Less Water’

REVIEW: Ridge Writers on Books


Both poetic and encyclopedic, “The California Field Atlas” (written and illus. by Obi Kaufmann, Heyday, hardcover, 530 pages, 2017, $45) lays out the entirety of the Golden State as a “single, integrative being composed of living patterns and ancient processes.” The approach encompasses geology, paleontology, topography, historical background and entreaties for the future. Kaufmann populates painted maps with symbolic icons indicating landmarks, trails, camps, lakes, towns, peaks and the like. These he accompanies with watercolor paintings of spiders, wildflowers, trees, birds and prehistoric mammals, all explained in elegant yet extremely instructive narrative detail, including wilderness area acreages, summit heights and distances.

Chapters cover their subjects with an emphasis on the spirit of each place: Of Earth and Mountains; Of Water and Rivers; Of Park and Protection; Of Fire and Forests; and Of Life, Death, and the Desert. Descriptions combine fact and affectionate awe. Kaufmann writes, “America’s longest contiguous mountain range, the importance of the Sierra Nevada over all facets of California’s natural character can not be understated” and “Few corners of the globe compete with Lake Tahoe for its grandiose beauty, ethereal landscape, sparkling blue water and alpine tranquility.” On a Goleta beach, “You will get tar on your feet from the natural seepage as you watch the sun set over the black islands on the horizon.”

Though the clear, concise maps do precisely what maps should do, at the same time they suggest puzzles to piece together to form a unified picture. A manual of geographic literacy with a scientific and political agenda, “The California Field Atlas” makes a lasting impression while every word and image contributes to showing every natural feature of California as alive and deserving of our stewardship.

“Eat Less Water” (Florencia Ramirez, Red Hen Press, paperback, 235 pages, 2017, $17.95) argues that “the solution to worldwide water shortages is in our kitchens.” Activist author Ramirez has researched key statistics we rarely consider, pointing out that even with the care we might take to limit our showers and cut back on irrigating our lawns, we still consume eggs (“1 dozen eggs = 276 gallons of water” to produce), beef (“1 pound of beef = 1,851 gallons”) and so on. She advances a convincing premise and thoughtfully adds water-sustainable recipes.

This monthly column is written by members of Ridge Writers, the East Sierra Branch of the California Writers Club. Meetings are held the first Thursday evening of each month at Ridgecrest Presbyterian Church and free programs are offered throughout the year.

Ridge Writers’ book “Planet Mojave: Visions From a World Apart” is available at the Historic USO Building, Jawbone Canyon, Maturango Museum, and Red Rock Books.

Story First Published: 2018-01-19