Preceded by DESERT NOTES (1976) and RIVER NOTES (1979), FIELD NOTES gathers eleven stories that reflect Barry Lopez’s vision of the world as a place of beauty, mystery and magic. Lopez’s faith in humanity and his affirmation of the sacredness of the earth is evident in the rich descriptive language of his carefully crafted stories.
In Lopez’s landscapes, inspirational characters often turn up in unexpected places. In “Teal Creek,” a young man is inexplicably drawn to an enigmatic hermit. Although he never gets to know the hermit, the young man is profoundly affected by the recluse’s deep spirituality. An uninvited “Negro in the Kitchen” provides erudite philosophical insights to a fastidious, self-centered investment counselor. In “Empira’s Tapestry” a terminally ill woman weaves an intricate image that represents her aspirations and passion for life.
Separation from and reconnection to nature is another thematic thread. In “Homecoming,” a botanist, obsessed with academic advancement, forgets the names of the flowers in his own backyard until his young daughter helps him recover what he has lost. Other stories also deal with scientists so absorbed in details that they lose sight of the beauty and wonder of the natural world.
Separation and reconciliation in human relationships is another frequent theme, perhaps best illustrated in “The Runner,” in which a man strives to bridge the gap between himself and his almost supernatural sister.
FIELD NOTES is often dark and disturbing and Lopez avoids easy resolutions. His stories impart a sense of the dignity of life, the holiness of the world, the possibility of transformation, and a feeling of hope for humankind.