Because I read so many books each year, I often find myself getting depressed when a book fails to lift me above myself, especially when the genre is inspirational or spiritual in nature. Five star reviews become less common. More and more books seem to be the same rehashed ideas told with slightly new angles. Big deal.
Thank the high heavens, and the high and low desert, for The Richest of Fare, a gorgeously photographed and utterly transcendent “guided tour to the desert’s life-changing spiritual power.” Those words appear on the book cover, and I heartily agree with them. This is one of the most moving, beautiful, spiritually fulfilling books I have read in over a decade, and it has not only renewed my love for the mysterious and powerful desert landscape, but it has also reaffirmed my faith and belief that God is alive and well and living in nature. Reading this book literally made my spirit soar and my heart swell.
Author Phyllis Strupp, who has a long and varied religious history that includes years as an Episcopalian, a bout of Roman Catholicism, and even a long stretch of time spent outside organized religion, lives in the Sonoran Desert and has captured its essence in full and colorful glory. She tells, in lush detail, how each aspect of the ever-changing desert is mirrored by our own spiritual growth as a species, and as individuals, with tons of references to the teachings of major spiritual leaders and Bible quotes galore that really drive home the connection between the dance of nature and the dance of self-discovery and spirit.
There are also quotes from the likes of Walt Whitman, William James, St. Frances of Assisi, Thoreau and other great minds, all set to the accompanying tune of over fifty simply stunning photographs that capture the elusive moods of the desert. Strupp writes like an experienced and insightful spiritual master herself, and the prose is inspiring, moving and educational as it moves our attention away from religion and towards a more personal spirituality that arises out of our relationship with ourselves, one another, nature and ultimately with the Life Force itself, which many call God but can go by other names.
The desert is alive and teeming with life, and how the author uses that activity to parallel her own spiritual journey as well as the teachings of the greats is awe-inspiring. She talks about ancient beliefs, modern physics, religious violence, spiritual awakening and the ecstatic joys of seeing evidence of the mystical in the activities of tiny creatures. Her glimpses into desert life are filled with greater meaning, even as she stares down a bobcat or examines a tiny insect or studies the hunting instincts of a rattlesnake..
The Richest of Fare is as glorious as a desert sunset, as hopeful as a pink-tinged sunrise - a deeply moving book about life, death, spirituality, nature, love, faith, and everything else under the sun, all captured within the author’s own guided tour of the place she calls home. And after reading this book, it is easy to see why she thinks so highly of the desert, which has long played an important role in the transformational journeys of many great spiritual teachers, including Moses, Jesus, Mohammed and even, in a strange sense, Ebenezer Scrooge.