Book Review: Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout by Philip Connors

Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness LookoutFire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout by Philip Connors
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I was 19, I spent a summer as a forest fire lookout. It changed my life indelibly, and for that reason, I was interested in Philip Connors’ book. He does not disappoint.

Phillip, for the past 8 years, has spent the summer fire season on top of a 75-foot tower in the New Mexico wilderness, looking for fires. He has only his dog Alice for company (although his wife does visit for occasional weekends.)

His book is an interesting compendium of how it is to spend that much time alone, a history of fighting fires in America and how that changed after the disastrous Yellowstone fires, and how he and his wife deal with the separation for months at a time.

“We seek out wild raspberry bushes where the last of the year’s fruit is turning ripe; I pluck a handful to accompany my evening treat of chocolate, leaving the rest to the bears. On days of heavy rain, hail drumming on the metal roof, I cloister myself in the cabin, drink hot tea, read in my sleeping bag with a fire going in the wood stove. Tattered flags of fog drift past the mountain when the rain breaks…”

If you enjoy reading about nature, and about the nature of solitude, this book is for you.


Writer’s Block


water reflections

I’d been having a miserable writer’s block.

Nothing seemed to help.

I sang, I danced, I walked around the block, I called my sister. Nada.

Then I set the alarm for 4:45 am and changed where I wrote. Instead of at my regular desk I cleaned out a vacant studio and set up a temporary table for my laptop.

I banished the cat.

I turned off my radio. I opened a patio door and watched the sunshine on the red rocks. And listened to the early morning quail and blue jays chattering in the apricot tree.

And I waited.

Got up and did some stretches. Sat down again. Nothing.

Turned off the Internet. Listened to the painted towhee in the Russian sage.

Watched a rabbit getting a drink of water.

Observed a lizard skittering across the summer-hot rocks.

And listened.

And was patient.

And finally the words started to flow.

Ah, home, at last!

Water Moods








I often visit Oak Creek Canyon in the summer to dip my feet in the creek at Ensinoso Falls. Because Oak Creek is spring fed, its waters are always breath-stoppingly cold, a welcome refreshment on a summer’s day!

This year because of the Slide Fire, all of Oak Creek Canyon is closed to visitors, so I drove to the East Verde Valley to encounter Wet Beaver Creek instead.

When I arrived the park was deserted. The camp host was nowhere to be seen. Even his hammock was empty!


The camp cat gave me a sniff before she deserted me for better pickings elsewhere.


As I walked down to the Creek, I spotted first one abandoned sock:


Then two more, nestled like wooly caterpillars among the rocks:


The sound of water roaring, roaring, roaring, told me why no one was sun-bathing today:


The heavy monsoons upstream had caused high waters, swiftly running, muddy, churning. No swimming today in the floods:


The currents pushed against logs, turning them over in its eagerness to move forward, and the water knife-edged into white water:


Where the water eddied, it created not ponds for wading, but entire lakes:


In side pools, the shadows reflected in water holding its breath for a moment:


And in one special place the foam had created a pattern as clear as a thumb print:


If you visit a place with expectations, you may be disappointed.

If you visit with an open mind, the world can be full of surprises.