The Land of Little Rain

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Houghton, Mifflin, 1903 - California - 280 pages
3 Reviews
Mary Hunter Austin (1868-1934) moved with her family from Illinois to the desert on the edge of the San Joaquin Valley in 1888. In the next fifteen years she moved from one desert community to another, working on her sketches of desert and Indian life. Spending the last years of her life in Santa Fe, Austin remained a lifelong defender of Native Americans and was recoginzed as an expert in Native American poetry. The land of little rain (1903), Austin's first book, focuses on the arid and semi-arid regions of California between the High Sierras south of Yosemite: the Ceriso, Death Valley, the Mojave Desert; and towns such as Jimville, Kearsarge, and Las Uvas. She writes of the region's climate, plants, and animals and of its people: the Ute, Paiute, Mojave, and Shoshone tribes; European-American gold prospectors and borax miners; and descendants of Hispanic settlers.

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User Review  - Sarah_Buckley - LibraryThing

This might be a great book for people who like to read long, flowery descriptions of scenery and what animals are doing. I personally found it slooooow and boring. I was forced to read it for school ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Paulagraph - LibraryThing

"Mary Austin was convinced that the valley [Owens Valley*] had died when it sold its first water right to Los Angeles--that city would never stop until it owned the whole river and all of the land ... Read full review



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Page 21 - For all the toll the desert takes of a man it gives compensations, deep breaths, deep sleep, and the communion of the stars. It comes upon one with new force in the pauses of the night that the Chaldeans were a desert-bred people. It is hard to escape the sense of mastery as the stars move in the wide clear heavens to rising and settings unobscured.
Page 11 - Tormented, thin forests of it stalk drearily in the high mesas, particularly in that triangular slip that fans out eastward from the meeting of the Sierras and coastwise hills where the first swings across the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley. The yucca bristles with bayonet-pointed leaves, dull green, growing shaggy with age, tipped with panicles of fetid, greenish bloom. After death, which is slow, the ghostly hollow network of its woody skeleton, with hardly power to rot, makes the moonlight...
Page 265 - There are still some places in the west where the quails cry "cuidado"; where all the speech is soft, all the manners gentle; where all the dishes have chile in them, and they make more of the Sixteenth of September than they do of the Fourth of July. I mean in particular El Pueblo de Las Uvas. Where it lies, how to come at it, you will not get from me; rather would I show you the heron's nest in the tulares. It has a peak behind it, glinting above the tamarack pines, above a breaker of ruddy hills...
Page 247 - The first effect of cloud study is a sense of presence and intention in storm processes. Weather does not happen. It is the visible manifestation of the Spirit moving itself in the void. It gathers itself together under the heavens; rains, snows, yearns mightily in wind, smiles; and the Weather Bureau, situated advantageously for that very business, taps the record on his instruments and going out on the streets denies his God, not having gathered the sense of what he has seen. Hardly anybody takes...
Page 10 - Around dry lakes and marshes the herbage preserves a set and orderly arrangement. Most species have well-defined areas of growth, the best index the voiceless land can give the traveler of his whereabouts. If you have any doubt about it, know that the desert begins with the creosote. This immortal shrub spreads down into Death Valley and up to the lower timber-line, odorous and medicinal as you might guess from the name, wandlike, with shining fretted foliage. Its vivid green is grateful to the eye...
Page 17 - Williams tell how he used to drive eighteen and twenty-mule teams from the borax marsh to Mojave, ninety miles, with the trail wagon full of water barrels. Hot days the mules would go so mad for drink that the clank of the water bucket set them into an uproar of hideous, maimed noises, and a tangle of harness chains, while Salty would sit on the high seat with the sun glare heavy in his eyes, dealing out curses of pacification in a level, uninterested voice until the clamor fell off from sheer exhaustion....
Page 5 - ... traces. The sculpture of the hills here is more wind than water work, though the quick storms do sometimes scar them past many a year's redeeming. In all the Western desert edges there are essays in miniature at the famed, terrible Grand Canon, to which, if you keep on long enough in this country, you will come at last.
Page 281 - Come away, you who are obsessed with your own importance in the scheme of things, and have got nothing you did not sweat for, come away by the brown valleys and full-bosomed hills to the even-breathing days, to the kindliness, earthiness, ease of El Pueblo de Las Uvas.
Page 12 - Go as far as you dare in the heart of a lonely land, you cannot go so far that life and death are not before you.
Page 279 - Ave said in the Camp of the Saints. I like that name which the Spanish speaking people give to the garden of the dead, Campo Santo, as if it might be some bed of healing from which blind souls and sinners rise up whole and praising God. Sometimes the speech of simple folk hints at truth the understanding does not reach. I am persuaded only a complex soul can get any good of a plain religion. Your earthborn is a poet and a symbolist. We breed in an environment of asphalt pavements a body of people...

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