Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert

Williams’ Red first appears to be a disjointed collection of musings. There are, however a number of principal themes to this collection that becomes increasingly lucid as .

  • Nature as a maternal figure
  • Human conceptualization of wilderness
  • Suppression of human animal instinct in modern society
  • Human impact on the natural world
  • Sensual or even erotic connection with nature

Like Abby, Williams believes that we are becoming:

“A society of individuals who only observe a landscape…without entering…[this behavior] is perhaps no different from the person who obtains sexual gratification from looking at the sexual play of others…sensation without feeling”-p106

Williams argues that:

“wilderness is becoming more and more difficult to understand because there is less and less of it around” p177

  • How does separation from first hand experience with something effect our ability to understand it?

Radically different from Abby, Williams openly and deliberately personifies nature. Throughout the text there is an almost constant personification of nature as a female figure, typically as a mother or pregnant female. Frequently it is mixed with Williams’ own sensations or feelings, which is ironic given that she has chosen not to have children. Particularly striking is the passage equating excavation for a foundation to ones “belly being ripped open.”

  • What about nature seems to intrinsically lend it’s self to personification?

Williams makes great mention of her animal self in the ladder half of the book. She argues that modern society and existence has disconnected us from our instinctual responses, forcing us instead to use our mind as the dominant decision making mechanism.

  • How dominant is our animal instinct in every day life?

Being from a family that makes it’s living doing construction, William’s has an interesting insight. What I find most interesting is how readily she abandons her predecessor’s ideals. Williams is very clearly against industrialization and urbanization. Her belief on the idea of “progress” is:

The idea of progress persists only because we a have forgotten more than we have remembered.

  • Given the importance of “collective memory” of society, how effective is our current (predominantly written) method?

In the ladder chapters, Williams presents the concept of nature as erotic. Not simply sensual, but physically stimulating. Perhaps this is the ultimate personification of nature.

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