Phyllis Strupp,
The Richest of Fare:
Seeking Spiritual Security
in the Sonoran Desert

(Sonoran Cross, 2004)

"This book will help you to paint the 'you are here' dot on the map of your spiritual life." Thus begins this 250-page work that uses pictures and descriptions of the Sonoran Desert of California, Arizona and Mexico for what its cover calls "A Guided Tour to the Desert's Life-Changing Spiritual Power."

The spiritual journey is ultimately an individual one, so this book may help some people and leave others cold (or hot, since it covers the desert). But author Phyllis Strupp undoubtedly succeeds in explaining why the desert has been a place of inspiration for many great religious leaders.

This is not a work of theology. Strupp gives the reader photographs and written observations of nature instead of religious arguments. There are also many quotations, at the beginnings of chapters and throughout the text, including ones from the Bible, Walt Whitman, Thoreau's Walden and even Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz. It is not the type of book most of us will want to read from cover to cover in a few sittings. It is probably better to absorb a little at a time, giving pause to think about and reflect on the passages.

The early chapters relate some of the many stories of the Bible that took place in the desert, and talk about the creation of the world from both the biblical and scientific viewpoints. Many, perhaps most, readers will be familiar with this information.

But the point of Strupp's sometimes fanciful expositions, mixing ancient texts with Einstein's theories, are not to inform but to give perspectives on our place in the world. As she says, "We don't know exactly what is going on in the physical universe." Although she does believe, "The dark skies of the desert are a window on the soul of the cosmos." Or to quote a sentence that could be said to sum the thoughts in the book: "To believe in God is to believe that everything and everyone in the Creation has a purpose."

Some readers might find this work leaning too much towards a new age philosophy. For example, Strupp writes, "Earth, water, the human body, and faith complete a circuit with the Divine Dimension." But as she writes towards the end of the book, the new age "has little to do with Aquarius, goddess, crystals, feng shui, Wicca, magic, or aliens." Rather, Strupp sees the age as a global spiritual reawakening, "the eternal truth born anew in the current space and time."

Cynics might think that the harmony of nature in the desert that she describes and shows in her photographs does not foreshadow a change in the human community where we live. Individual readers, however, should find that Strupp brings the desert to life, both in its ecology and its lessons for human spirituality. That is the richest of fare that this book has to offer.

- Rambles
written by Dave Howell
published 9 April 2005

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