In this refreshing collection, one of our best writers on desert places, Gary Paul Nabhan, challenges traditional notions of the desert. Beautiful, reflective, and at times humorous, Nabhan’s extended essay also called “The Nature of Desert Nature” reveals the complexity of what a desert is and can be. He passionately writes about what it is like to visit a desert and what living in a desert looks like when viewed through a new frame, turning age-old notions of the desert on their heads.
Nabhan invites a prism of voices—friends, colleagues, and advisors from his more than four decades of study of deserts—to bring their own perspectives. Scientists, artists, desert contemplatives, poets, and writers bring the desert into view and investigate why these places compel us to walk through their sands and beneath their cacti and acacia. We observe the spines and spears, stings and songs of the desert anew. Unexpected. Surprising. Enchanting. Like the desert itself, each essay offers renewed vocabulary and thoughtful perceptions.
The desert inspires wonder. Attending to history, culture, science, and spirit, The Nature of Desert Nature celebrates the bounty and the significance of desert places.
Contributors Thomas M. Antonio Homero Aridjis James Aronson Tessa Bielecki Alberto Búrquez Montijo Francisco Cantú Douglas Christie Paul Dayton Alison Hawthorne Deming Father David Denny Exequiel Ezcurra Thomas Lowe Fleischner Jack Loeffler Ellen McMahon Rubén Martínez Curt Meine Alberto Mellado Moreno Paul Mirocha Gary Paul Nabhan Ray Perotti Larry Stevens Stephen Trimble Octaviana V. Trujillo Benjamin T. Wilder Andy Wilkinson Ofelia Zepeda
About the Author
Gary Paul Nabhan is the Kellogg Endowed Chair at the University of Arizona’s Southwest Center. He is author or editor of more than thirty books, including Enduring Seeds, Gathering in the Desert, and Food from the Radical Center. Honored with a MacArthur “Genius” Award, a Lannan Literary Fellowship, the John Burroughs Medal for nature writing, and other awards, Nabhan has lived in the desert for more than forty years.
"The writings in this collection echo, each in their own ways, the surprising declaration made by contributor Paul Mirocha in 'Staring at the Walls,' an essay on Southern Arizona public art: “The desert is succulent—it’s downright juicy out there.”—Kristine Morris, Foreward Reviews
“This book is a celebration, an exploration, an accumulation of voices swept up together in a circle of wind, a deployment of all the senses, including the ones you might have forgotten you had. It is magic, science, memory, miracle. If the desert had a seed, a genetic capsule of itself, it would be this book. And you, reader, are the rain that falls, bringing it to life.”—Craig Childs, author of Virga & Bone: Essays from Dry Places
“It’s about time. Who better to tackle the nature of desert, in its fullness, than Gary Nabhan and these contributors. As a desert musician who loves music that credits landscape and place, this book is my textbook for understanding the nature of what moves me to music.”—Hal Cannon, author of Cowboy Poetry: A Gathering
“Mary Austin, Wallace Stegner, Edward Abbey, Gary Nabhan—the sonorous voices of Arid America. None more knowledgeable than Nabhan, who here leads a choir of voices in a desert chorale.”—J. Baird Callicott, author of Greek Natural Philosophy: The Presocratics and Their Importance for Environmental Philosophy
“We’ve been slow to warm to deserts as places worth learning and caring about. This original and probing little book, led by one of the pioneers in our understanding of desert ecology and culture, should lay to rest the notion that there isn’t much to see (or feel) in these lands of little rain. A bracing and deeply thoughtful collection that should appeal to desert rationalists and romantics everywhere.”—Ben A. Minteer, author of The Fall of the Wild: Extinction, De-Extinction, and the Ethics of Conservation