Accompanying text includes common & scientific names, ecological & ethnobotanical info, gee-whiz facts and personal stories. Sample pages and the introduction follow below.
Introduction: “Let Me Count the Ways…”
Though I was born and raised in the Midwest and have spent the majority of my adult life in Oregon (with a three year stint in Boston), I have a special, heartfelt love for the Mojave Desert. Compared to farm fields, lush forests or dense urban neighborhoods of those places, the desert is utterly exotic: the landscape of rugged mountains skirted with gently sloping alluvial flows amid flats of gravel or salt and dunes of sand; the vegetation, cacti — smooth-skinned and spiny, shrubs — hoary and grey-green, and flowers — laughing with color in the spring; the animals, whether apparently prehistoric (the reptiles), seemingly out-of-place (the tortoise) or definitely adorable (the ground-squirrel), all gifted with marvelous adaptation for their harsh environment, each to their own.
I find all of it be sublime, which is to say, “of such excellence, grandeur, or beauty as to inspire great admiration or awe.” I am not the first to feel that sentiment, nor, I am sure, the last.
I took all the pictures in this book during two visits to the area, from February to June in 2015 and from February through April in 2016. Photography has been a hobby of mine for over twenty years, since the last days of film, but I’ve never been as fascinated by my subjects as I was in the Mojave Desert. I had to purchase an external drive just to store all the resulting files. This collection was my attempt to showcase only the very best shots, although I admit I probably ended up picking some of my favorites instead.
Culturally, we think of the desert as being lifeless and empty, but that is hardly factual. The diversity of life, both flora and fauna, is vast, far more than most people realize or suspect, even among many who have been there. As a result, the area has not and does not get the respectful, caring touch it deserves and has suffered mightily from mining, ranching, military activity and urban encroachment. The newest threat is from large-scale renewable energy projects such as solar power plants and wind farms that threaten to wipe out large areas, including places that have managed to survive relatively intact until now.
And of course, the people who knew best how to live in this tough-as-nails yet fragile environment, as life-affirming co-creating participants in the web of life — the Native Americans — were viciously driven to the margins by the European Conquest. It remains to be seen if they will ever return home to show the rest of us a true meaning of the word, “sustainability.” As the effects of Climate Change become more severe, their example, both material and spiritual, becomes more vital.
This book is only an introduction to its subject. Fortunately, there are many other resources out there for gaining appreciation of the Mojave Desert, including nature guides, memoirs, histories, novels, and works of art. Of course, a personal visit is the best way to know the area, and to fall in love oneself. My ultimate hope is that you will be inspired to take action to help defend this unique place. There are already people working on it, but they could use more help.
In the meantime, turn the page and enjoy!