If you’ve spent some time around the Grand Canyon, you know that time makes a big difference in your experience of it, that you have to be there awhile before the canyon offers you its most unique moments: an amazing storm, flash flood, rainbow, geological event, or wildlife encounter.
Nancy Rivest Green and her husband Keith have spent decades at and near the canyon, so they have experienced more amazing events than almost anyone, and now Nancy, a fine writer, shares them with us in her new book “Stalking the Wild Dragonfly.”
In each of two dozen chapters she combines a wildlife encounter with natural history information. Actually Nancy didn’t need to do much stalking, as the wildlife usually came to her. The dragonfly came along while she was scouting Hance Rapid. A condor landed to check out her sleeping dog at Shoshone Point. A golden eagle, trying to lift off after grabbing a jackrabbit, dragged the rabbit across her windshield and smeared it with blood. She also saw a coyote carrying a rabbit beside the Colorado River. A peregrine falcon eyed her under a picnic shelter at Phantom Ranch. Ringtails stalked Almond Joy candy bars—but not Snickers or Reece’s—in the canteen at Phantom Ranch. Bobcats left their footprints at her back door and elk visited her school playground at Grand Canyon Village. She has run into bighorn sheep and rattlesnakes on trails, and mountain lions on the rim.
Scorpions have twice successfully “stalked” husband Keith at Phantom Ranch. (Nancy sometimes lets Keith tell his stories in his own words). From her retirement house in the northern Arizona forest, she has observed a fox den romping with playful kits, watched a friendly encounter between her dog and a coyote, and been uniquely surrounded by an elk herd. And in her travels she has met kangaroos in Australia, penguins in Antarctica, whales in Alaska, turtles in Hawaii, and grizzlies at Grand Teton.
In addition to all her wildlife encounters, she relates how she and Keith were once nearly swept away by a flash flood in Phantom Creek. For each animal she meets, Nancy offers its natural history, both basic and obscure. Coyotes, whose name came from an Aztec word, can sniff out something from a mile away and be heard howling from three miles away. A fox can jump 17 feet; a five pound fox can carry a ten pound jackrabbit. Do you know how elk were extinguished in Arizona and reintroduced? Nancy also offers the human connections, including attending a Havasupai ceremony for dead bighorn sheep. She tells us Hopi and Navajo lore on coyotes, and Greek and Inuit legends about bears. The Incas laid out their capitol city in the shape of a mountain lion.
Nancy does not preach environmental messages but they are obvious enough, and personal too when she directly asks a condor to forgive humans for endangering its species. Nancy’s mixture of personal stories and natural history makes this a unique book, which could appeal to a wide audience. Some of the stories would work as charming bedtime stories for children, while the natural history offers plenty of surprises even for the most wellread nature lovers. For anyone, Nancy’s love of nature and the Grand Canyon comes through. “I wake up to the sound of a coyote. It’s still a thrill, no matter how many times I hear it. The pack communicating about a target prey, the celebration of a kill, or just a solitary being exclaiming its joy to the Universe – it’s the sound of the wild.”
— Don Lago