Gary Short’s new collection is the work of a mature poet at the peak of his powers, confident of his ability to speak of human betrayal and the fragility of life without bitterness or cheap sentiment, to find poignancy in loss and exaltation in the outwardly mundane. His voice is lyrical, tough, and capable of touching us profoundly.
Short knows Nevada’s austere landscape, its ephemeral beauty, and its stoic people as few writers in any genre do. He also understands the complexities of the human soul and the contradictions of love. So he tells of how his mother, dying of cancer, revisits a day thirty years in the past when her sons trapped a trout and kept it in their father’s horse trough and how now, in her mind’s eye, she carries the boxed-in fish to the stream to release it, “a moment/of having, not loss.” And of how the feathers of a dead owl in a long-dead oak tree have blown loose, “caught and leafed out/from each taloned twig and limb . . . each feather/a separate flight, shining to live.” This is rich and wondrous poetry, deeply moving, unforgettable.
Arc and the Sediment: a Novel
Christine Allen-Yazzie Utah State University Press, 2007 Library of Congress PS3601.L439A73 2007 | Dewey Decimal 813.54
Gretta Bitsilly, a gin-steeped mother of two and self-proclaimed expert at standing just outside the margins of ethnicity and peering in, has been all but eclipsed by the world that eludes her—as a wife, as a writer, as a skeptic in "the other land of Zion," Utah. Gretta has set off to Fort Defiance, Arizona, where she hopes to convince her Navajo husband, who has escaped not from his family but from alcoholism, to come home. Over a sputtering two-steps-forward, one-step-back desert journey, Gretta is diverted by chance, by seizures, an inconstant memory, and the disjointed character of her irresolute quest. She is fueled by a volatile mix of rage and curiosity and is rendered careless by ambivalence toward her marriage—she knows a welcome mat will not be waiting for her, "that white girl" who can't seem to get anything right. On route Gretta fi nds herself lost in the landscape, in strange company, or in her own convolution of language and inner space. With a dictionary and a laptop she attempts to write herself into a better existence—a hopeful existence—and to connect points of intellectual, physical, even spiritual reference.
This tale, though dark and difficult, is infused with tart, twisted humor. Confused, disheveled, self-deprecating, and self-destructive, Gretta is also sharp and funny. Here, first-time novelist Christine Allen-Yazzie breaks apart her own narrative arc but with gritty reality seals it near-shut again, if in rearrangement, drawing us into Gretta's wrestling match with herself, her husband, her addiction, and the road.
The Arc and the Sediment received an honorable mention from the James Jones First Novel Competition, and it won the Utah Arts Council Annual Writing Competiton Publishing Prize.
From endless sand dunes and prickly cacti to shimmering mirages and green oases, deserts evoke contradictory images in us. They are lands of desolation, but also of romance, of blistering Mojave heat and biting Gobi cold. Covering a quarter of the earth’s land mass and providing a home to half a billion people, they are both a physical reality and landscapes of the mind. The idea of the desert has long captured Western imagination, put on display in films and literature, but these portrayals often fail to capture the true scope and diversity of the people living there. Bridging the scientific and cultural gaps between perception and reality, The Desert celebrates our fascination with these arid lands and their inhabitants, as well as their importance both throughout history and in the world today.
Covering an immense geographical range, Michael Welland wanders from the Sahara to the Atacama, depicting the often bizarre adaptations of plants and animals to these hostile environments. He also looks at these seemingly infertile landscapes in the context of their place in history—as the birthplaces not only of critical evolutionary adaptations, civilizations, and social progress, but also of ideologies. Telling the stories of the diverse peoples who call the desert home, he describes how people have survived there, their contributions to agricultural development, and their emphasis on water and its scarcity. He also delves into the allure of deserts and how they have been used in literature and film and their influence on fashion, art, and architecture. As Welland reveals, deserts may be difficult to define, but they play an active role in the evolution of our global climate and society at large, and their future is of the utmost importance. Entertaining, informative, and surprising, The Desert is an intriguing new look at these seemingly harsh and inhospitable landscapes.
The Desert Year
Joseph Wood Krutch University of Iowa Press, 1952 Library of Congress QH104.5.S6K7 2010 | Dewey Decimal 508.79
Now back in print, Joseph Wood Krutch’s Burroughs Award–winning The Desert Year is as beautiful as it is philosophically profound. Although Krutch—often called the Cactus Walden—came to the desert relatively late in his life, his curiosity and delight in his surroundings abound throughout The Desert Year, whether he is marveling at the majesty of the endless dry sea, at flowers carpeting the desert floor, or at the unexpected appearance of an army of frogs after a heavy rain.
Krutch’s trenchant observations about life prospering in the hostile environment of Arizona’s Sonoran Desert turn to weighty questions about humanity and the precariousness of our existence, putting lie to Western denials of mind in the “lower” forms of life: “Let us not say that this animal or even this plant has ‘become adapted’ to desert conditions. Let us say rather that they have all shown courage and ingenuity in making the best of the world as they found it. And let us remember that if to use such terms in connection with them is a fallacy then it can only be somewhat less a fallacy to use the same terms in connection with ourselves.”
This edition contains 33 exacting drawings by noted illustrator Rudolf Freund. Closely tied to Krutch’s uncluttered text, the drawings tell a story of ineffable beauty.
Contrary to public perception, sand dunes are not barren piles of sand. They are alive with plant life. The dunes themselves even move, sometimes several inches a year. In Dune Country Janice Emily Bowers takes readers from New Mexico's White Sands to Utah's Coral Pink Dunes to the Death Valley dunes of California and beyond. Beautifully written and illustrated, Dune Country is a perfect introduction to the fragile ecosystems of sand dunes.
Originally published in 1995, soon after Death Valley National Park became the fifty-third park in the US park system, The Explorer's Guide to Death Valley National Park was the first complete guidebook available for this spectacular area.
Now in its third edition, this is still the only book that includes all aspects of the park. Much more than just a guidebook, it covers the park's cultural history, botany and zoology, hiking and biking opportunities, and more. Information is provided for all of Death Valley's visitors, from first-time travelers just learning about the area to those who are returning for in-depth explorations.
The book includes updated point-to-point logs for every road within and around the park, as well as more accurate maps than those in any other publication. With extensive input from National Park Service resource management, law enforcement, and interpretive personnel, as well as a thorough bibliography for suggested reading, The Explorer's Guide to Death Valley National Park, Third Edition is the most up-to-date, accurate, and comprehensive guide available for this national treasure.
Field Man is the captivating memoir of renowned southwestern archaeologist Julian Dodge Hayden, a man who held no professional degree or faculty position but who camped and argued with a who's who of the discipline, including Emil Haury, Malcolm Rogers, Paul Ezell, and Norman Tindale. This is the personal story of a blue-collar scholar who bucked the conventional thinking on the antiquity of man in the New World, who brought a formidable pragmatism and "hand sense" to the identification of stone tools, and who is remembered as the leading authority on the prehistory of the Sierra Pinacate in northwestern Mexico.
But Field Man is also an evocative recollection of a bygone time and place, a time when archaeological trips to the Southwest were "expeditions," when a man might run a Civilian Conservation Corps crew by day and study the artifacts of ancient peoples by night, when one could honeymoon by a still-full Gila River, and when a Model T pickup needed extra transmissions to tackle the back roads of Arizona.
To say that Julian Hayden led an eventful life would be an understatement. He accompanied his father, a Harvard-trained archaeologist, on influential excavations, became a crew chief in his own right, taught himself silversmithing, married a "city girl," helped build the Yuma Air Field, worked as a civilian safety officer, and was a friend and mentor to countless students. He also crossed paths with leading figures in other fields. Barry Goldwater and even Frank Lloyd Wright turn up in this wide-ranging narrative of a "desert rat" who was at once a throwback and--as he only half-jokingly suggests--ahead of his time.
Field Man is the product of years of interviews with Hayden conducted by his colleagues and friends Bill Broyles and Diane Boyer. It is introduced by noted southwestern anthropologist J. Jefferson Reid, and contains an epilogue by Steve Hayden, one of Julian's sons.
Great Basin National Park is in large part a high-alpine park, but it sits in one of America’s driest, least populated, and most isolated deserts. That contrast is one facet of the diversity that characterizes this region. Within and outside the park are phenomenal landscape features, biotic wonders, unique environments, varied historic sites, and the local colors of isolated towns and ranches. Vast Snake and Spring Valleys, bracketing the national park, are also subjects of one of the West's most divisive environment contests, over what on the surface seems most absent but underground is abundant enough for sprawling Las Vegas to covet it—water.
Dryland degradation and desertification now affect almost a billion people around the world. Tragically, the biological resources and productivity of millions of acres of land are lost to desertification each year because people remain unaware of strategies and techniques that could improve yields, reduce risk, and begin healing the world's deserts. A Guide for Desert and Dryland Restoration is the first book to offer practical, field-tested solutions to this critical problem.
Author David Bainbridge has spent more than 25 years actively involved in restoring lands across the American Southwest. A Guide for Desert and Dryland Restoration presents the results of his years of fieldwork, as well as research and experience from scientists and practitioners around the globe.
The book discusses the ecology of desert plants, explores the causes of desertification and land abuse, and outlines the processes and procedures needed to evaluate, plan, implement, and monitor desert restoration projects. It sets forth economical and practical field-tested solutions for understanding site characteristics, selecting and growing plants, and ensuring that they survive with a minimal amount of water and care. Each chapter represents a guide to a critical topic for environmental restoration; extensive photographs, diagrams and drawings give detailed information for immediate application, and additional resources are included in appendixes.
A Guide for Desert and Dryland Restoration is the first comprehensive book focused on restoring arid regions, and clearly demonstrates that arid lands can be successfully rehabilitated. In addition to restorationists, the book will be an invaluable resource for anyone working in arid lands, including farmers, ranchers, gardeners, landscapers, outdoor recreation professionals, and activists.
Mark C. Taylor University of Chicago Press, 2007 Library of Congress BF1891.B64T39 2007 | Dewey Decimal 203.7
The desert has long been a theme in Mark C. Taylor’s work, from his inquiries into the religious significance of Las Vegas to his writings on earthworks artist Michael Heizer. At once haunted by absence and loss, the desert, for Taylor, is a place of exile and wandering, of temptation and tribulation. Bones, in turn, speak to his abiding interest in remnants, ruins, ritual, and immanence. Taylor combines his fascination in the detritus of the desert and its philosophical significance with his work in photography in Mystic Bones.
A collection of remarkably elegant close-up images of weathered bones—remains of cattle, elk, and deer skeletons gathered from the desert of the American West—Mystic Bones pairs each photograph with a philosophical aphorism. These images are buttressed by a major essay, “Rubbings of Reality,” in which Taylor explores the use of bones in the religious rituals of native inhabitants of the Western desert and, more broadly, the appearance of bones in myth and religious reality.
Meditating on the way in which bones paradoxically embody both the personal and the impersonal—at one time they are our very substance, but eventually they become our last remnants, anonymous, memorializing oblivion—Taylor here suggests ways in which natural processes can be thought of as art, and bones as art objects. Bones, Taylor writes, “draw us elsewhere.” To follow their traces beyond the edge of the human is to wander into ageless times and open spaces where everything familiar becomes strange.
By revealing beauty hidden in the most unexpected places, these haunting images refigure death in a way that allows life to be seen anew. A bold new work from a respected philosopher of religion, Mystic Bones is Taylor’s his most personal statement of after-God theology.
The Mojave Desert has a rich natural history. Despite being sandwiched between the larger Great Basin and Sonoran Deserts, it has enough mountains, valleys, canyons, and playas for any eager explorer. Ancient and current waterways carve the bajadas and valley bottoms. This diverse topography gives rise to a multitude of habitats for plants and animals, many of which are found nowhere else in the world.
A Natural History of the Mojave Desert explores how a combination of complex geology, varied geography, and changing climate has given rise to intriguing flora and fauna—including almost 3,000 plant species and about 380 terrestrial vertebrate animal species. Of these, one quarter of the plants and one sixth of the animals are endemic.
The authors, who, combined, have spent more than six decades living in and observing the Mojave Desert, offer a scientifically insightful and personally observed understanding of the desert. They invite readers to understand how the Mojave Desert looks, sounds, feels, tastes, and smells. They prompt us to understand how humans have lived in this desert where scant vegetation and water have challenged humans, past and present.
A Natural History of the Mojave Desert provides a lively and informed guide to understanding how life has adapted to the hidden riverbeds, huge salt flats, tiny wetlands, and windswept hills that characterize this iconic desert.
The New Desert Reader
Wild, Peter University of Utah Press, 2006 Library of Congress F786.N48 2006 | Dewey Decimal 917.8
The New Desert Reader brings together a historical cross section of writing about the American Southwest in selections that demonstrate how thinking about American deserts has changed from the earliest times to the present day. Beginning with the centuries-old legends of the Tohono O’Odham Indians, it moves through the foresighted observations of John Wesley Powell, one-armed explorer of the Grand Canyon; continues with the delicate appreciations of Mary Austin and Joseph Wood Krutch; includes examples of the keen activist writings of Wallace Stegner and Edward Abbey; and finishes with such contemporary desert writers as Tony Hillerman and others.
A slow change in outlook dominates the book, as attitudes shift from viewing the desert as a place to be despised or exploited to an appreciation of it as a special place, an arena of highly complex natural communities, and a wild refuge for the human body and soul. Comprehensive and brightly informative, The New Desert Reader will be invaluable to anyone interested in the history, literature, and beauty of North America’s treasured desert places.
In the darkness of the star-studded desert, bats and moths feed on the nectar of night-blooming cactus flowers. By day, birds and bees do the same, taking to blooms for their sweet sustenance. In return these special creatures pollinate the equally intriguing plants in an ecological circle of sustainability.
The Sonoran Desert is the most biologically diverse desert in the world. Four species of columnar cacti, including the iconic saguaro and organ pipe, are among its most conspicuous plants. No Species Is an Island describes Theodore H. Fleming’s eleven-year study of the pollination biology of these species at a site he named Tortilla Flats in Sonora, Mexico, near Kino Bay.
Now Fleming shares the surprising results of his intriguing work. Among the novel findings are one of the world’s rarest plant-breeding systems in a giant cactus; the ability of the organ pipe cactus to produce fruit with another species’ pollen; the highly specialized moth-cactus pollination system of the senita cactus; and the amazing lifestyle of the lesser long-nosed bat, the major nocturnal pollinator of three of these species.
These discoveries serve as a primer on how to conduct ecological research, and they offer important conservation lessons for us all. Fleming highlights the preciousness of the ecological web of our planet—Tortilla Flats is a place where cacti and migratory bats and birds connect such far-flung habitats as Mexico’s tropical dry forest, the Sonoran Desert, and the temperate rain forests of southeastern Alaska. Fleming offers an insightful look at how field ecologists work and at the often big surprises that come from looking carefully at a natural world where no species stands alone.
The annual seasons and rhythms of the desert are a dance of clouds, wind, rain, and flood—water in it roles from bringer of food to destroyer of life. The critical importance of weather and climate to native desert peoples is reflected with grace and power in this personal collection of poems, the first written creative work by an individual in O'odham and a landmark in Native American literature.
Poet Ofelia Zepeda centers these poems on her own experiences growing up in a Tohono O'odham family, where desert climate profoundly influenced daily life, and on her perceptions as a contemporary Tohono O'odham woman. One section of poems deals with contemporary life, personal history, and the meeting of old and new ways. Another section deals with winter and human responses to light and air. The final group of poems focuses on the nature of women, the ocean, and the way the past relationship of the O'odham with the ocean may still inform present day experience. These fine poems will give the outside reader a rich insight into the daily life of the Tohono O'odham people.
The author of The Desert, the book that made the American landscape accessible to the mainstream mind, was much less like his fellow environmental prophets John Muir and Henry David Thoreau than he would have had us believe. Van Dyke claimed to have wandered "alone on horseback for thousands of miles through the American Southwest and northern Mexico," as readers of The Desert—now in the millions since the book was published in 1901—were told. He did not. In The Secret Life of John C. Van Dyke, Teague and Wild unmask the desert saint with Van Dyke’s own recently discovered letters. These letters depict a privileged, patrician, and pampered member of the upper-class. His incriminating correspondence reveals that he saw most of the desert from plush railroad cars and grand hotel rooms. In the introduction, the editors clear up many misconceptions scholars currently hold about Van Dyke’s ecological principles, about his outdoorsmanship, and about his trip through the desert itself. As the centennial of the publication of The Desert approaches, this lively collection of letters helps set the record straight. The John C. Van Dyke unveiled in The Secret Life is a more varied character than we had supposed—still worthy of much admiration for his remarkable accomplishments, but still mysterious, and not the man we thought him to be.
Mozingo presents the life histories of more than sixty species of both common and unusual shrubs, and discusses how shrubs grow, reproduce, and adapt to the extreme weather conditions that are part of daily life in the Great Basin. Drawings by Christine Stetter.
Where Clouds Are Formed
Ofelia Zepeda University of Arizona Press, 2008 Library of Congress PS3576.E64W47 2008 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
Ofelia Zepeda is a Native American poet who possesses a kind of double vision. She sees the contemporary world through her own highly observant eyes and, at the same time, through the eyes of her Tohono O’odham ancestors. Seeing this way infuses her poetry with a resonance and depth that makes it a delight to read—and re-read.
Zepeda is as clear-eyed about the past as she is about the present. She recalls waiting for the school bus on a cold morning inside her father’s truck, listening to the sounds of the engine, the windshield wipers, and the “soft rain on the hood.” She remembers celebrating Mass on the “cold dirt floor of the Winter Solstice.” In the present, she sees both the frustration and the humor in a woman she observes trying to eat pancakes with one hand while her other resides in a cast: “Watching her, I realize eating pancakes is a two-handed job.”
Whatever she sees, she filters through her second set of eyes, which keep the past always present. She tells of traveling to Waw Giwulig, the most sacred mountain of the Tohono O’odham, to ask for blessings—and forgiveness. She writes that one should always bring music to the mountains, “so they are generous with the summer rains.” And, still, “the scent of burning wood / holds the strongest memory. / Mesquite, cedar, piñon, juniper, . . . / we catch the scent of burning wood; / we are brought home.” It is a joy to see the world afresh through her eyes.