Travels in a sublime wasteland

  • Sunshot: Peril and Wonder in the Gran Desierto, by Bill Broyles and Michael Berman
 

It is a gift when an author transports you to the place he loves most. Writer Bill Broyles and photographer Michael Berman accomplish this in Sunshot: Peril and Wonder in the Gran Desierto, an exquisite portrait of place. Arizona’s Cabeza Prieta and Mexico’s Sierra Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar lie at the heart of the Sonoran Desert. This gritty vastness is the backdrop to daily news of human smuggling and immigrants dying in the borderlands.

Broyles, a researcher with the University of Arizona’s Southwest Center, illuminates the region’s natural history with his sharply focused essays, superbly complemented by Berman’s black-and-white photographs.

Broyles has often explored the Devil’s Highway, 130 miles of spiny, baking wasteland from Yuma, Ariz., eastward to Sonoyta in Sonora, Mexico. From his informal research on rattlesnakes to a hike retracing the historical route of salt gatherers, he uncovers the desert’s essence.

Berman’s photographs reveal the contradictions of this place in stark, perfect detail. In one, ocotillos spring from a patch of basalt, rioting in numbers that defy the barrenness of the ground.

Broyles’ empathy coexists comfortably with his desert-rat toughness. After an experiment with heat’s effects on his body in a parked car, he wonders, "What if I had been an infant, invalid, or pet, and couldn’t have opened the car door? What if I had been out there … on El Camino del Diablo?" Broyles’s compassion shines as he reflects on the border’s varied inhabitants: village residents, the Border Patrol, author Charles Bowden, a piñata maker.

Ultimately, Sunshot speaks for a desolate place that needs our attention, as immigration rises and resource conflicts continue. We are compelled to acknowledge the Gran Desierto, thorns and all. "People don’t come to love the desert by rationalizing," Broyles writes. "They live here for a time and then accept its song or reject its noise."


Sunshot: Peril and Wonder in the Gran Desierto

Bill Broyles and Michael Berman

256 pages, softcover: $24.95.

University of Arizona Press, 2006

High Country News Classifieds
  • CARBON RANCH PLANNER
    The Quivira Coalition (www.quiviracoaltion.org) is a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic, and social health through education,...
  • EDUCATION AND OUTREACH DIRECTOR
    Education and Outreach Program Director The Quivira Coalition (www.quiviracoaltion.org) is a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic,...
  • WESTERN DIVISION DIRECTOR OF FIELD PROGRAMS
    DEADLINE TO APPLY: October 29, 2021 LOCATION FLEXIBLE (WESTERN HUB CITY PREFERRED) Overview The Land Trust Alliance is the voice of the land trust community....
  • COMMUNICATIONS AND OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Communications and Outreach Associate Position Opening: www.westernlaw.org/communications-outreach-associate ************************************************* Location: Western U.S., ideally in one of WELC's existing office locations (Santa Fe or Taos, NM, Helena,...
  • FREELANCE GRAPHIC DESIGNER & PROJECT COORDINATOR (REMOTE)
    High Country News (HCN) is seeking a contract Graphic Designer & Project Coordinator to design promotional, marketing and fund-raising assets and campaigns, and project-manage them...
  • FILM AND DIGITAL MEDIA: ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF INDIGENOUS MEDIA, CULTURAL SOVEREIGNTY AND DECOLONIZATION (INITIAL REVIEW 12.1.21)
    Film and Digital Media: Assistant Professor of Indigenous Media, Cultural Sovereignty and Decolonization (Initial Review 12.1.21) Position overview Position title: Assistant Professor - tenure-track Salary...
  • REAL ESTATE SPECIALIST
    To learn more about this position and to apply please go to the following URL.
  • ENVIRONMENTAL GEOPHYSICS
    "More Data, Less Digging" Find groundwater and reduce excavation costs!
  • RARE CHIRICAHUA RIPARIAN LAND FOR SALE
    40 acres: 110 miles from Tucson: native trees, grasses: birder's heaven::dark sky/ borders state lease & National forest/5100 ft/13-16 per annum rain
  • CENTRAL PARK CULTURAL RESOURCE SPECIALIST
    Agency: Oregon Parks and Recreation Department Salary Range: $5,203 - $7,996 Position Title: Central Park Cultural Resource Specialist Do you have a background in Archaeology...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    Come live and work in one of the most beautiful places in the world! As our Staff Attorney you will play a key role in...
  • ARIZONA GRAZING CLEARINGHOUSE
    Dedicated to preventing the ecological degradation caused by livestock grazing on Arizona's public lands, and exposing the government subsidies that support it.
  • OPERATIONS MANAGER
    Position Summary: Friends of the Inyo (friendsoftheinyo.org) is seeking a new Operations Manager. The Operations Manager position is a full-time permanent position that reports directly...
  • WATER RIGHTS BUREAU CHIEF
    Water Rights Bureau Chief, State of Montana, DNRC, Water Resources Division, Helena, MT Working to support and implement the Department's mission to help ensure that...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Amargosa Conservancy (AC), a conservation nonprofit dedicated to standing up for water and biodiversity in the Death Valley region, seeks an executive director to...
  • DEVELOPMENT & OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Southeast Alaska Conservation Council is hiring! Who We Are: The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) is a small grassroots nonprofit based out of Juneau, Alaska,...
  • DESERT LANDS ORGANIZER
    Position Summary: Friends of the Inyo seeks a Desert Lands Organizer to assist with existing campaigns that will defend lands in the California desert, with...
  • IDAHO CONSERVATION LEAGUE
    Want to help preserve Idaho's land, water, and air for future generations? Idaho Conservation League currently has 3 open positions. We are looking for a...
  • LUNATEC ODOR-FREE DISHCLOTHS
    are a must try. They stay odor-free, dry fast, are durable and don't require machine washing. Try today.
  • EVENTS AND ANNUAL FUND COORDINATOR
    The Events and Annual Fund Coordinator is responsible for managing and coordinating the Henry's Fork Foundation's fundraising events for growing the membership base, renewing and...