Barnes, Scott P. It Must Be…(A Grand Canyon Trip): Drawings and Thoughts From a Winter Trip From Lee’s Ferry to Diamond Creek (December 19, 2010 – January 2, 2011). Charleston: 2011 [ISBN 9780615444055].
In the interest of full disclosure I must admit this upfront. Scott is a dear friend of mine. Gawd, that makes me (and him!) sound ninety years old. Let me rephrase. Scott has a piece of my heart, forever and always. As you might have guessed we were lovers, best friends, roommates, and even classmates at one point. We have 25 years of history. He is, and will remain, the only “ex” with whom I can have an intelligent conversation. To be more blunt, he is the only ex I talk to. Period.
All that being said, I found It Must Be to be a tease, disappointingly short. That was my very first thought upon seeing its size and opening its first pages. It was my last thought when I finished reading it the first time; well after I had seen and imagined its potential. My mind exploded with the possibilities for this slim missive. To say that I wanted more, more, more is a good thing. But, in the end I changed my mind about it all. First, let me back up and write a proper review:
At first glance It Must Be looks like a self-indulgent diary. One of those “vanity press” books when one wants to see themselves in print. In reality It Must Be is an unflinching look at our greatest natural resource, water. Specifically, the Colorado River. Hidden in the journal of a winter adventure down the Grand Canyon Barnes plays devil’s advocate and dares to ask about man’s wanton waste while recognizing we need water for work and for play beyond sustenance. It Must Be speaks to the naturalist, the avid boater, the ecologist, and the historian, but his most obvious audience is the artist. Brilliant color and detail explode from nearly every page. Canyon walls come alive in shades of red and blue, black and green, while the river’s ever-changing energy is captured in the same. While It Must Be is short and sweet (46 pages cover to cover) its final message is loud and clear, “how much do you need?”
Here are the places I thought could have had more “meat.” Barnes mentions Matkatamiba and Havasu Canyon as being highlights of the trip (p 22). I wanted to know why. What made these places worth mentioning? Also, I was intrigued by “mailboxes on page 37. Even though this is a “gimmick” that has been done in the past, I would have enjoyed a sample “note,” something to delicately lift from an envelope, unfold and read (think Nick Bantock). I had questions about these notes (beyond the obvious what did the notes say?), like ‘were the notes weathered and fragile?’ and ‘Were the notes dated and if so, how old was the oldest note?’ As I mentioned before, I thought It Must Be ended way too soon. I wanted more description. What was it like to have those majestic canyon walls crowned over your head? Maybe photographs instead of just a link. More visuals. More stories. Sights. Sounds. (Lights, camera, action!)
But, then again, no. Maybe not. Maybe the point was just what it was, a simple reflection on a meaningful trip. Maybe you as the reader are meant to hunger for more. Maybe the goal was not to satisfy a curiosity but to create one?
Favorite quotes, “Humans fool ourselves, so our desires must be” (p 2, if It Must Be had pages), “We cannot control what we don’t know” (p 10), and “The river must be allowed to flow” (p 30).
Favorite pages of art – 12, 20 & 33.
Author Fact: Barnes has a wicked sense of humor that is laced with sarcasm. It Must Be has hints of that bite.
Book Trivia: It Must Be is part journal, part retrospect, part sketchbook, part didactic, part lecture, and all heart.