It basically tells the story of two Catholic priests converting the "natives" and "aboriginals" to Catholicism in New Mexico and Texas in the 1850s. The descriptions of landscape and culture are superb.
But it is the recounting of the white man's ways that take my breath away, particularly in the light of today where we are somewhat more aware of what we do and the evidence of our never-ending destruction of land, sea and water is far more deleterious than it ever was back then.
"...it was the white man's way to assert himself in any landscape, to change it, make it over a little (at least to leave some mark or memorial of his sojourn), it was the Indian's way to pass through a country without disturbing anything; to pass and leave no trace, like fish through water, or birds through the air."
Also, our sense of "decoration" compare unfavourably to aboriginals wherein they contented themselves with decorating only their bodies:
"....upon their blankets and belts and ceremonial robes they lavished this skill and pains. But their conception of decoration did not extend to the landscape. They seemed to have none of the European's desire to 'master' nature to arrange and re-create. They spent their ingenuity in the other direction; in accommodating themselves to the scene in which they found themselves. This was not so much from indolence, the Bishop thought, as from an inherited caution and respect."
I wish I had taken notes back then on books I read as I've done for the last five-six years. But again, with two small children and a full time job, I'm consistently amazed at how much I did read back then.
A journey of self-education, never regretted.