James G. Cowan's Letters from a Wild State: Recovering Our True Relationship with Nature is a poetic, pensive, and remarkable document about the wisdom of Australian Aboriginal ways. It deserves a serious and sensitive reading.

Cowan, who studied traditional peoples in Morocco and the Central Sahara, has spent the past ten years focusing on the lives of Australian Aboriginals. Here he writes about his journeys in the wilderness. Cowan is especially intrigued by the ability of his friends to read the land and decipher all its nuances. This outward sense of spiritual geography is accompanied by an inward journey spurred on by totems such as the sea eagle or crocodile. He concludes, "I say my nomad friends have managed to amass for themselves a surplus of wealth not in the least bit associated with ownership or possession — their wealth lies in existence."

Left alone in a cave, Cowan ponders the nature of reality and realizes how dependent the Aboriginals are on the accumulated wisdom of the past. He feels strange forces working him over at Jim Jim falls, a ceremonial site which is the place of repose for Australian ancestral spirits. The Aboriginals view the place as "a spiritual warehouse where age-old intuitions are permanently stored."

During his many excursions into the outback, Cowan begins to sense that nature is watching and listening to him. He by longer looking and deeper listening. He muses: "This is the environmental equation that we have yet to master; how to give back to the earth as much as we receive."

After pondering the dream journey of the Aboriginals along with their ceremonial dances, Cowan comes away with a revitalized appreciation for the importance of ritual. Letters From a Wild State contains dispatches we desperately need to hear and take to heart.