There are quiet sounds that often get lost in the business of our daily lives. Catherine Reid’s book Falling Into Place: An Intimate Geography of Home is a chronologically organized collection of personal essays meant to entice us to listen. These sounds literally might be “the shuttle and chirr of insect life,” which is what Reid takes notice of while vacationing with her wife in a Floridian metropolis. Politically, those sounds as they relate to Reid are the voices of the underrepresented queer community, or those of women all over the world and throughout history who have thrived despite social constraints. Reid registers the quiet yet vital spirit of these lives and relates them to us.
In Falling Into Place, Reid explores the human condition from an astonishing number of angles. She cites Thoreau, Robert Frost and Mary Oliver as literary influences. But although she is literarily inclined, all of her authority is born of hard experience:
“I have held wild birds and felt their fierce will to flee, and watched them try to find an exit from a house they had erred in entering, and heard them call in the pre-dawn dark, so loud and alone that it seemed they would be owl meat soon, only to hear the same bird call again the next day.”
Her ability to be intimate about her observations—as her title suggests—while at the same time objective, is invigorating. The essays she offers in this collection are all composed with verve, whether concerned with deciphering the lives of majestic birds or examining the subtleties of family life (its own kind of wilderness). Each essay spotlights a different sector of the human soul, and the last one is pithily titled “Resilience.”
Catherine was actually a professor of mine during college, and so I contacted her with a few questions when I knew I would be writing this review. Of the final essay's title, she says, “I felt it important to end on the idea of resilience, for all the sturdiness and optimism implied by the word and the themes of the essay.”
Reid, in fact, writes with such an undeniable optimism that she radiates hope despite what she sometimes has to write about: people being robbed of their right to marry as a result of political ignorance, rivers being robbed of their natural inhabitants through vast amounts of a poison called Rotenone.
Reading Falling Into Place, we learn of a person who has not shied away from life’s trials. Rather, this writer and naturalist has learned to embrace the challenges that arise on the metaphorical and literal paths of life. To that end, in Falling Into Place, Reid describes her meditative practice of hiking treacherous wooded trails alone, and her unique experience of playing musical chairs with prisoners imprisoned for violent crimes. The risks she recounts in Falling Into Place are enough to make a daredevil wince, and yet one marvels at how Reid has maintained the sensitivity needed to write from her heart.
“One of the best compliments to my writing is when people tell me they'll never see the world or walk through it in quite the same way again,” Reid tells me. “They're paying attention in a new way, they tell me, listening for sounds they hadn't heard before.”
Falling Into Place will no doubt garner Reid many compliments, and not just from former students.
Leo P. Neufeld is a chicken wing enthusiast who currently is sitting on a couch. He is of no relation to the painter with the similar name who is apparently famous in Albuquerque; Leo P. Neufeld is very good at drawing stick figures.