Reaching Keet Seel

REACHING KEET SEEL: RUIN’S ECHO AND THE ANASAZI offers a collection of essays and sketches on the land and peoples of the Four Corners region of the American Southwest, an area situated between the Colorado River to the West and the Rio Grande to the East. It embraces the corners of Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. The Four Corners is the site of the most important Anasazi cliff dwellings: Mesa Verde in Colorado, Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, Hovenweep in Utah, Canyon de Chelly and the remote Keet Seel—the best preserved—in Arizona.

Keet Seel serves as the focus of one principal essay. To Reg Saner it captures the forbidding beauty of the Colorado Plateau and its civilizations, a beauty that continues in the Hopi culture found there today. Captivated by the lure of tribal life but not blind to its limitations, Saner celebrates the land and its peoples. He captures the sense of belonging that tribal existence offers, including membership in an organized society and a bond with nature and the land. This bond between the individual and his setting supports spiritual values and promotes the growth of animistic religion.

For moderns, unable to bridge the gap between a vanished culture and their time, Saner attempts to recreate the viewpoints, emotions, and understandings of earlier peoples, showing how they perceived their mountains, skies, flora, and fauna. He follows in the Anasazi footsteps and provides poetic descriptions of what he sees, so that the reader vicariously experiences the nearly vanished way of life.

Readers who enjoy the nature writings of Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, and Joseph Wood Krutch will find Saner’s elegant prose congenial. While the book includes detailed description, its greatest appeal lies in its suggestiveness.