SOWING THE SEEDS of awareness and appreciation for our unique desert environment has been the mission of Native Seeds/SEARCH (NSS) since its inception in 1983, as a means of preserving and distributing native crops.
Their mission reveals the inexorable link between culture and agriculture: not only to employ traditional techniques for growing and caring for native plants, but to celebrate the mythology and sustainability of these centuries-old sustainable ways of living in the desert. "People need to know and learn how to live in the desert in a healthy way...not just about water conservation, but respecting local cultures and climate," says Andy Robinson, co-founder of Native Seeds/SEARCH.
Voices in the Land, a benefit reading for NSS, joins three authors whose work shares a profound respect for the land, and for the traditions of its native custodians. Simon Ortiz, Byrd Baylor and Gary Paul Nabhan each bring their unique gifts to the stage, from Ortiz's rich socio-political poetry of the Acoma Pueblo (After and Before the Lightning and Woven Stone), to Baylor's colorful anecdotal portrayal of a modern O'odham family and their backyard swimming pool in Yes is Better than No, and Nabhan's skillful scientific prose in the richly drawn Desert Legends: Re-storying the Sonoran Borderlands, listeners are guaranteed to have their thirsty souls satisfied.
Ortiz, who has lately been immersed in Yakima Pueblo, has a current sense of how native arts and literature are developing. The animated Baylor similarly has tales to spare of her experiences traveling throughout the Southwest. And Nabhan's humble enjoyment of science and storytelling promise an evening as spontaneous and fresh and the growth process itself. "A lot of what we're talking about is not just bi-national but truly multicultural," says NSS co-founder Nabhan.
Ortiz best sums up the feelings of the group, saying "Native Seeds/SEARCH is an advocate for all humans and land. We all have to take responsibility for our ways of life and for the land. Like air and water, the plants are a necessary part of our culture. It's not just about maintenance and conservation. It's about celebrating the relationship between ourselves and our world."
The Voices of the Land reading begins at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 4, at the Tucson Center for the Performing Arts, 408 S. Sixth Ave. Tickets are $5 in advance, $6 at the door. Ticket outlets include The Haunted Bookshop, 7211 N. Northern Ave.; Antigone Books, 600 N. Fourth Ave.; and Books West Southwest, 2452 N. Campbell Ave. Call 327-9123 for information.
--By Mari Wadsworth
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