A poet and naturalist, Nabhan makes his way by foot along the ancient Franciscan Way from Florence to Assisi, talking to farmers and townsfolk en route.
This most unusual travelogue combines natural history, spirituality — and a lively appreciation of local food and food traditions.
It’s the local scale of Tuscany and Umbria and the accommodation of wild and domestic that intrigues Nabhan.
Imagine sending a number of nature writers out into the same unrelenting stretch of Sonoran Desert. Then consider telling them to focus their attention on just one animal — Ovis canadensis, popularly called the desert bighorn or borrego cimarrón—and have them write about it.
Have them write from makeshift blinds or from behind a gun barrel. Have them write while walking across the Cabeza Prieta at night, or while flying over it trying to radio-collar the creatures. Have them write from actual sightings of the animals or simply from their tracks and droppings. What would result from such an exercise is Counting Sheep, an unusual anthology that demonstrates the range of possibilities in nature writing.
While ostensibly a collection of writings about these desert sheep that live along the U.S.-Mexico border, it also represents an attempt to broaden the scope of the natural history essay. Writers trained in a wide range of disciplines spanning the natural and social sciences here offer a similarly diverse collection of writings, with women’s, Hispanic, and Native American views complementing those in a genre long dominated by Anglo men.
The four sections of the anthology comprise pre-Anglo-American tradition, examples of early nature writing, varied responses by modern writers to actually counting sheep, and a selection of essays that place bighorns in the context of the larger world. Counting Sheep celebrates the diversity of cultural responses to this single animal species in its Sonoran Desert habitat and invites readers to change the way in which they view their relationship to wild creatures everywhere. It also shows how nature writers can delight us all by the varied ways in which they practice their craft.
Counting sheep with these authors will keep you wide awake. . . . essential reading for naturalists and conservationists. Highly recommended.
In a series of beautifully written essays about Native American agriculture and wild plant conservation, Gary addresses the importance of conserving wild plants, the difficulties Native American peoples have had in preserving their agricultural traditions and current wild plant conservation efforts in North America.
“Gary Nabhan . . . is a seer and celebrant of the cultivated plant world before its defilement by modern agriculture. His interests and insights are as diverse as the wild seeds he gathers. Not only does he write beautifully about what he knows, he also goes out into the fields of native peoples collecting and conserving indigenous seeds, returning them to communities from which they have been lost. In words and actions, Nabhan aims to preserve no less than the ‘remaining riches of the living world’ .” – Gretel Ehrlich
Gary has combed the desert in search of plants forgotten by all but a handful of American Indians and Mexican Americans.
In Gathering the Desert readers will discover that the bounty of the desert is much more than meets the eye—whether found in the luscious fruit of the stately organpipe cactus or in the lowly tepary bean.
Nabhan has chosen a dozen of the more than 425 edible wild species found in the Sonoran Desert to demonstrate just how bountiful the land can be. From the red-hot chiltepines of Mexico to the palms of Palm Springs, each plant exemplifies a symbolic or ecological relationship which people of this region have had with plants through history.
Each chapter focuses on a particular plant and is accompanied by an original drawing by artist Paul Mirocha. Word and picture together create a total impression of plants and people as the book traces the turn of seasons in the desert.
Fascinating reading for anyone interested in human ecology or ethnobotany . . . a splendid way to learn to love—and save— the deserts.
In The Desert Smells Like Rain, ethnobiologist Gary Nabhan describes his visits with contemporary Papago Indians, the Tohono O’oodham or “Desert People”. Drawing on his extensive scientific research and study of Papago folklore, as well as his years of work among the Desert People in village gardening and nutrition programs, Nabhan portrays a desert- adapted way of life that has persisted despite the pressures of modern civilization.
“Gary Nabhan’s compassionate observation of Papago land ethics is important work, capable of broad application. He is a naturalist in the full sense of the word, because he has not forgotten the people.” -Barry Lopez