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  • Writer's pictureElizabeth Abrams

Mini-Review: The Smell of Rain on Dust: Grief and Praise

The Smell of Rain on Dust: Grief and Praise by Martín Prechtel

"Grief expressed out loud for someone we have lost, or a country or home we have lost, is in itself the greatest praise we could ever give them. Grief is praise, because it is the natural way love honors what it misses." – Martín Prechtel

I’ve found this small book to be a treasure, one I’ve bought for myself and then gifted to someone else more than once. Martín Prechtel is a shaman in the Tzutujil Maya tradition who happened to be born in a New Mexico Pueblo and once again lives here as a teacher after many years in Guatemala. Prechtel is a prolific and lyrical author, an artist illustrating his own books, a musician, and multilingual.

The Smell of Rain on Dust addresses the ills of unacknowledged and unexpressed grief, the norm for modern American society in which death and grief are feared, avoided, and grievers are left alone with their pain rather than socially supported in expressions of grief. Prechtel describes the effects of built up grief as ranging from war to addiction to physical illness. The following statement has often come to mind as I have thought about intergenerational trauma and grief.

“Grief permeates life and grieving can take many forms, but grief can never be outrun or simply thought away, transcended or meditated into nonexistence. Necessary grief when shunned or unattended can easily hide for years, even generations, in the skeletal structure of the family collective psyche. Like light, matter, sound, and energy, grief will eventually manifest even among those in the future who did not consciously experience the loss. So, best to grieve when it’s time, to save the world a lot of war and trouble.”

There’s much solace in this beautiful book advocating a return to carrying the burden of grief as a community and seeing beauty in how we express grief, an antidote to modern society’s grief aversion.

“Grief is a form of generosity, which praises life and the people and situations which we have lost. Grief that praises life shows the depth of our appreciation for having been given life enough to begin with, to experience both love and loss and that with all the mistreatment we humans give to the earth, we still have this amazing unlikely opportunity to actually speak and bathe in the Divine.”


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