The Mojave: a Portrait of the Definitive American Desert
by David Darlington
I travel with books. A recent trip took us from Southern California to Taos and then back home to Davis. Our first day on the road took us over Cajon Pass and across the Mojave Desert with David Darlington’s The Mojave: a Portrait of the Definitive American Desert along for the ride. Darlington’s book, first published in 1996, shares his efforts in getting to know this unique environment. As we made our way east on a “cool” early fall day, skirting the southern edge of the Mojave National Preserve for much of the way, we continuously enjoyed mountain views, a greeness, yes, to the desert floor, and that huge blue, bright, almost too bright, sky. I have no doubt that Darlington’s book helped me enjoy the Mojave more fully and inspired a heightened appreciation for the people and critters who inhabit this beautiful, but harsh, landscape.
The Mojave is an unceasing contradiction, a continual koan, a riddle designed to confound preconceptions. It’s a wilderness defined by human ambition, an empty place full of activity, a blank slate brimming with meaning, an overflowing void. Confronting it, we return to something resembling our attitude when we first entered the world: vulnerable and defensive, excited and terrified, at ease and in danger of desolation. Exploring it, we investigate not merely our most misunderstood landscape, but our own perplexing, profound hopes and fears. — from The Mojave, by David Darlington