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 animalOvis canadensis, popularly called the desert bighorn or borrego cimarrónand 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.
David E. Brown
William T. Hornaday
Gary Paul Nabhan
Harley G. Shaw
Anita Alvarez de Williams
Terry Tempest Williams
"Spring on the Sonoran Desert can be a four-month-long spectacle of life and color. Within these well-written pages, Alcock exposes us to the plant and animal life of a land many regard as desolate. To Alcock, the desert has a constant evolutionary beauty he never seems to tire of. Alcock's approach to his subject is an elegant ...
On October 7, 1962, Bruce Berger and three friends embarked on what may have been the last trip taken through the Colorado River's Glen Canyon before the floodgates were closed at Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell began to fill. After thirty years, one can grieve for what was lost and then, like Berger, take another look around.
The Southwest Berger sees is an unusual, even odd, place, with inhabitants that are just as strange. In this collection of essays he introduces us to people and places that define a region and a way of life. We meet eccentric desert dwellers like Cactus Pete, who claimed to have mapped the mountains of Venus long before NASA penetrated its clouds. We chart the canals of Phoenix, which have created a Martian landscape out of an irrigation system dating back to the ancient Hohokam; stay at a "wigwam" motel in Holbrook, whose kitsch appeals even to Hopis; and dim our lights for the International Dark-Sky Association's efforts to keep night skies safe for astronomy.
Focusing on the interaction of people with the environment, Berger reveals an original vision of the Southwest that encompasses both city and wilderness. In a concluding essay centering on the sale of his mother's estate in Phoenix, he concedes that "our intention to leave the desert alone has resulted, unwittingly, in loss after loss, simply by our being here." Sometimes there are lossesa canyon, a housebut Berger attunes us to the prodigies of change.
The Sonoran Desert, a fragile ecosystem, is under ever-increasing pressure from a burgeoning human population. This ecological atlas of the region's plants, a greatly enlarged and full revised version of the original 1972 atlas, will be an invaluable resource for plant ecologists, botanists, geographers, and other scientists, and for all with a serious interest in living with and protecting a unique natural southwestern heritage.
An encyclopedia as well as an atlas, this monumental work describes the taxonomy, geographic distribution, and ecology of 339 plants, most of them common and characteristic trees, shrubs, or succulants. Also included is valuable information on natural history and ethnobotanical, commercial, and horticultural uses of these plants. The entry for each species includes a range map, an elevational profile, and a narrative account. The authors also include an extensive bibliography, referring the reader to the latest research and numerous references of historical importance, with a glossary to aid the general reader.
Sonoran Desert Plants is a monumental work, unlikely to be superseded in the next generation. As the region continues to attract more people, there will be an increasingly urgent need for basic knowledge of plant species as a guide for creative and sustainable habitation of the area. This book will stand as a landmark resource for many years to come.
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