“Beautiful Wounds” by Timothy Connor

(Nature Photography/Natural History, 2022)

By James P. Johnson

When I saw this hardcover book on the store shelf, there was no doubt I’d buy it. Eastern Washington’s landscape and the floods that ravaged it during the last ice age intrigues me, and I’ve seen the results while hiking thousands of miles over the years. So many places I’ve visited are pictured in the book.

I recognized the author’s name, a Spokane journalist with a long history of writing about Northwest topics, including in Out There. He details the huge resistance to geologist Harlan Bretz’s explanation of massive floods being responsible for the channeled scablands of Eastern Washington. Bretz’s theories were not met with mere disagreement—he was excoriated, and a dark cloud was placed over him by geologists and scholars. It took years for his theories to be recognized as truths. Connor also explains how physical features of our landscape, first detailed by Bretz, were created by the floodwaters.

Connor also details his personal crisis which eventually led to the book. One morning his wife informed him she wanted a divorce. Not long after the excruciating process, he fell in love again, only to be sat down and told by his new love that she was marrying another man. A dark period followed in tandem with a truth he’d been covering up—fear of being alone without a romantic partner. Resolving to work on himself, he sought therapy by exploring Washington’s scablands.

 These compelling narratives make a nice pairing to the many, full-page photographs of our unique landscape.

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