“No man is an island entire of itself; every man / is a piece of the continent, a part of the main” So wrote John Donne in his oft-quoted Meditation XVII. Theodore Fleming, we can assume has, at least at some point in the past, likely read Donne’s famous meditation, and perhaps was even thinking about it as he examined the discoveries he made in his study of cactus pollination and pollinators near Sonora, Mexico.
When Charles Bowden’s Killing the Hidden Waters was first published in 1977, the population of Arizona – the U.S. state in which he was then living and part of the region in which so much of his narrative takes place – was a little under two-and-a-half million people. In 2003, the year in which his new introduction “What I Learned Watching the Wells Go Down” was added to the fifth paperback printing of the book, the state’s population had risen to over five million. Most who read it thought it both inspired and brilliant, but according to his opening words in the new introduction, he “went wrong.”
As Bowden told Brooke Gladstone during an interview on WNYC’s On the Media regarding his recent book Dreamland, “My dream is to invite a reader into a room and pour a nice cup of tea and then nail the damn door shut.” It is a dream that he has unquestionably realized.