City Nature

Martha Retallick

Publisher: Western Sky Communications Pages: 106 Price: (hardcover) $99.95 ISBN: 9798986857701 Reviewed: July, 2024 Author Website: Visit »

City Nature is the photographic record of Martha Retallick’s journey into her own backyard as she set about landscaping and learning to use a new camera system during a baking Tucson summer.

Retallick first offers information about her background, chronicling her journey from “pint-sized scarlet tanager spotter,” to nature photographer, to explorer, transforming from someone who didn’t “do sports” to a bike mechanic who, with minimal gear, rode her ten-speed through all 50 states. Following this biographical narrative, she details how she was challenged to build her own yard in thirsty Tucson, set up a system of water harvesting, raise food in a desert, and, finally, get up close and personal with the plants and birds around her.

The 14”x11” landscape format is perfect to showcase Retallick’s full-page images. From raindrops on a cilantro leaf, to an iridescent-chested pigeon stretching a wing on a power line, to an okra blossom against a densely blue sky, each photograph is exquisitely composed and presented.

The book is also a delightful read. The author describes the mesquite tree that’s constantly “thinking of new ways to hurt me.” She’s frustrated by camera-shy goldfinches and doves who nest—messily—on her solar system breaker box. Her descriptions of wildlife behavior are funny and fresh: “Mr. Dove acted like a guy shopping the lumber department at Home Depot…picking up twigs, dropping them, choosing different twigs…”

Retallick offers tips for desert gardening and water and includes a list of plants she has worked with, instructions on how to process mesquite pods into flour (accompanied by a recipe on how to use that flour, one of several recipes included), a list of books for further reading, and an index.

City Nature is a personal journey that celebrates desert life and finds joy in the small things our eye often misses, like the intricate netting pattern on a cantaloupe’s skin. It’s highly recommended for gardeners and nature lovers, especially desert dwellers.

BlueInk Heads-up: This book is packed with the names of organizations and resources specific to the Tucson area. It would be a welcome addition to local Arizona libraries, but it includes ideas and information that would be useful in any arid region.

Author's Current Residence
Tucson, Arizona
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