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The Magical Universe of the Ancients: A Desert Journal

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Mystery haunts the desert Southwest, in drawings by people who lived millennia ago, in dwellings built of mud and willow and rock; in potsherds, yucca twine, shrunken corn cobs; and in turkey feather remnants. Painted skinhead masks chill the viewer; etched hunters slay bighorn sheep forever; flutes trill hikers to sleep under the Milky Way. Yellow blossoms of Fremont barberry scent the days with saffron. Deep in red rock country at the base of cliffs pocked by water and time, lives a magical universe of spirits, masks, lion tracks, and kivas protected by overhangs and shamans.


Journals by Julie Weston and photographs by Gerry Morrison comprise THE MAGICAL UNIVERSE OF THE ANCIENTS: A Desert Journal. They traveled by car, on foot, and with llamas through the desert landscape, recording in photographs and in journals the sights, sounds, scents, and textures of the ancient and natural worlds of the Southwest, specific monuments and parks and protected wildernesses in Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico.


Morrison's photographs capture the rock art as well as little known ruins--some preserved, some crumbling--juxtaposed with Spanish churches, folds and wrinkles in the landscape, "modern" remnants, and desert wildflowers. Weston's journals complete the spaces between photographs with anecdotes and experiences, including blisters and cactus quill wounds, llamas and their idiosyncrasies, visits to secret places, archaeological and cultural information on the peoples who once lived there, and speculation on why they left their homes, along with meditations on life and death and the Universe.


Every year, attacks on wilderness come from oil and gas drillers, mining companies, and developers. The Secretary of the Interior has proposed reducing to almost eliminating some of the national monuments established in years past. Proposals to open 2.5 million acres of the red rock country of Utah to drilling and development have drawn tens of thousands of letters of protest. People want to protect the environment--the animals, the rivers, the landscapes, the ancient ruins and art, the Wildness. THE MAGICAL UNIVERSE OF THE ANCIENTS: A Desert Journal aids in this effort by showing what might be tarnished with drill rigs and ruined by roads, what might be trampled upon, what might be destroyed. Weston and Morrison hope their work in this book will help preserve and protect this magical universe.


Front cover: Kin Ya'a, tall house, a detached unit of Chaco Culture National Historical Park near Crown Point, New Mexico


 Reader Reviews:

 ROUNDUP Magazine, Western Writers of America (February 2021):


"Shrunken corn cobs, red-painted figures adorning cragged rock, dwellings built of mud and willow tell of another time, another people. And the stories they tell are magical. This photo book shares the wonder of what we call the Southwest, an area of hard grace, stunning beauty and vistas that shatter reality. Written with passion by Julie Weston, a woman from the Northwest, this book takes readers on a journey of discovery and total awe. Weston readily admits her fascination for the boundless miles deemed the West. The photos accompanying her revelations and musing are stunning, mostly black and white, giving the opportunity to appreciate the art of both the long-ago painters and of the photo itself. This beautiful book deserves shelf space."   

                                    -by Melody Groves


Jean Enersen:  "This beautiful book is a culmination of Julie and Gerry's decades long partnership, sharing storytelling and photography. Because their passion for preservation of this Magical Universe is real, heartfelt and apparent on every page, it calls us to action." 


Jane Kirkpatrick: "It's beautiful and filled with word magic as well as photo magic. Thanks tons for writing it and for sharing images."


Jane added this review on Google Books: "I purchased this book for the photographs of Gerry Morrison wanting pictures from the Four corners area as part off my research for a novel I'm writing. And they are fabulous photos. But I fell in love with the words of Julie Weston. Part memoir, part anthropology, all poetic prose, this is a remarkable treasure I'm so happy I've added to my library."


Susan Tweit reviewed our book on Story Circle Book Reviews. Here are some of her comments:

"... Morrison's moody black and white photos, plus a a few in lush color, beautifully evoke the ancient mystique and culptural forms of the Four Corners country. His images offer a new perspective on these oft-photographed places, whether long-abandoned cliff houses and vivid pictographs, or colorful wildflowers and round-shouldered adobe churches.


...Weston's journal entries capture the excitement and awe as the couple, then residents of rainy Seattle, discovered the region's sunlit and dry expanses and multi-colored rock forms in the [2000s]. ... Weston's stories of their adventures and what they learned from their experiences, plus Morrison's photos make for a compelling book."



 Advance Reviews:


"With this book, Gerry Morrison and Julie Weston team up to take you on a magical journey through a fantastic landscape. The only thing better than enjoying Gerry's incredible images and Julie's eloquent words would be to spend as much time as they have in the place itself. Good luck with that!"  Ed Cannady, retired backcountry manager for the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and well known photographer.


"Julie Weston leads us on an enlightening guided tour through the desert Southwest's most distinctive and threatened landscapes, where she brings to life the rich cultural and natural history seeped into its cliffs, canyons, and mountains. Gerry Morrison's poignant images beautifully compliment Weston's engaging journal entries, both serving as a catalog of what's to be lost if we continue our industrialized ways."  Colleen Miniuk, author/photographer of Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona's Wildflowers and Photographing Acadia National Park, and outdoor photographer/writer at CMS Photography.