The Desert Smells Like Rain
A Naturalist in O'odham Country
In this work, Gary Paul Nabhan brings O’odham voices to the page at every turn. He writes elegantly of how they husband scant water supplies, grow crops, and utilize edible wild foods. Woven through his account are coyote tales, O’odham children’s impressions of the desert, and observations of the political problems that come with living on both sides of an international border. Nabhan conveys the everyday life and extraordinary perseverance of these desert people.
This edition includes a new preface written by the author, in which he reflects on his gratitude for the O’odham people who shared their knowledge with him. He writes about his own heritage and connections to the desert, climate change, and the border. He shares his awe and gratitude for O’odham writers and storytellers who have been generous enough to share stories with those of us from other cultural traditions so that we may also respect and appreciate the smell of the desert after a rain.
Longtime residents of the Sonoran Desert, the Tohono O'odham people have spent centuries living off the land—a land that most modern citizens of southern Arizona consider totally inhospitable. Ethnobotanist Gary Nabhan has lived with the Tohono O'odham, long known as the Papagos, observing the delicate balance between these people and their environment. Bringing O'odham voices to the page at every turn, he writes elegantly of how they husband scant water supplies, grow crops, and utilize wild edible foods. Woven through his account are coyote tales, O'odham children's impressions of the desert, and observations on the political problems that come with living on both sides of an international border. Whether visiting a sacred cave in the Baboquivari Mountains or attending a saguaro wine-drinking ceremony, Nabhan conveys the everyday life and extraordinary perseverance of these desert people in a book that has become a contemporary classic of environmental literature.
“The Desert Smells Like Rain offers a remarkable insight, sensitive but unsentimental, combining the sound perceptions of a scientist with ecological concerns, matching humor and a sense of human frailty with tentative hope for the future.”—High Country News
“His eyes are those of a scientist, his prose and vision a poet’s: spare, evocative, respectful of both facts and mysteries.”—Orion Nature Quarterly
“People often find science boring and ill written. Not in this book. Here the reader is lured into botany, ethnology, hydrology, and a couple of million acres by vivid writing, good pictures, and a beautifully produced book. . . . Anyone ignorant of the desert should begin their cure here.”—Tucson Citizen
“The humor, spice, charm, insight, and compassion with which Gary Paul Nabhan weaves his tale make for enjoyable reading.”—Rio Grande Sun