The wholeness of water in the desert

desert oasis

I was fortunate to come across this open water near Tavasci Marsh at sunset, just when the world was golden.

It reminded me how beautiful our planet is, in all its changing moods.

Water and light, combining to bring joy in the moment.

A photograph is a secret about a secret.
The more it tells you, the less you know.

~Diana Arbus~

What if time is fluid?

ancient ollas

Even with parts missing where the light shines through, the inherent beauty and grace of these ancient ollas, or water jars, is unforgettable. They are a reminder of our past as a human species. Our yesterday.

But they could be part of our future as well. A new physics theory asserts that time may be fluid, allowing the past, present, and future to exist simultaneously.

If that is true, somewhere, a thousand years from now, an archaeologist is fitting together broken teacups and barbecue platters, wondering what our civilization must have been like! Our tomorrow.

A people without history is like
wind through buffalo grass.

~Teton Sioux proverb~

Just in time inventory

javelina and peach tree

I once lived near a gully that served as a major byway for wildlife. Through it came bobcats who liked to sit on the big rocks and sun themselves, rattlesnakes who would park themselves underneath my bird feeders and wait for dinner, and these guys. If there is one thing that javelina like better than prickly pear cactus, it has to be peaches!

Originally I thought they had these little calendars marked with when the peaches would be ready to eat, but then I found out it is their remarkable memories of where the good stuff is, and their amazing sense of smell.

They know, even before me and the green beetles, when the fruit is ripe and ready to eat.

We are like islands in the sea,
separate on the surface, but connected in the deep.

~William James~

Don’t always believe what you see

Texas Mountain Laurel - Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly

I was attracted to this spot by a smell that took me back to childhood, the wonderful aroma of grape Kool-Aid. This is a Texas Mountain Laurel, or Mescal Bean plant, native to the southwest.

And then when I got there, I discovered this amazingly beautiful butterfly, a black Pipevine Swallowtail.

One gives pleasure to the eye; the other to the nose.

AND, both are highly poisonous!

The mescal bean has seed pods that make both people and animals sick. Even the coyotes won’t touch them. And the Pipevine Swallowtail is so toxic that other butterflies imitate those beautiful orange spots so they won’t be eaten, either.

You can’t always believe what you see…or what you smell!

If it is true, if it is beautiful,
if it is honorable, if it is right,
then claim it.

~Rob Bell~

 

Enter the resourceful agave

Spider web in agave plant

The sharp tips of the giant agave are there for a purpose–to fend off predators such as javelina and hungry cattle intent on a juicy meal.

Too bad somebody didn’t tell the spiders, who found the spines to be perfect tent poles for their webs. Or the wind, who discovered the web to be a perfect receptacle for some spare leaves just blowing around.

It is nice to find something that can be put to more than one useful purpose. Nature is resourceful that way.

The first rule of intelligent tinkering
is to save all the parts.

~Paul Ehrlich~

What remains is precious

What remains is beautiful

In Arizona, both in the desert climate of Phoenix and at higher elevations like Sedona, pomegranates, those expensive jewels of the supermarket, thrive. I’ve seen hedges of pomegranate bushes, so full of delectable red fruit that the branches sink with the weight.

This one I liked, because the remaining fruit seemed almost a hand-carved bird feeder, serving up the sweet pips to all comers.

It reminds me that something doesn’t have to be whole and beautiful to be perfect.

The act of putting into your mouth
what the earth has grown is perhaps
your most direct interaction with the earth.

~Frances Moore Lappe,
author of DIET FOR A SMALL PLANET

 

Brilliant saguaros in the Arizona desert

saguaro cactus all in a line

Saguaro cactus are one of the trees of the desert. But if you have ever observed them closely, you’ll notice that they naturally space themselves out, keeping an almost exact distance between one and the next. It’s almost as though they were planted in a carefully aligned plot by an obsessive gardener.

Imagine my surprise when I found this line of saguaros, all edged up against the rocky cliff. They shouldn’t be doing that. Against the rules!

And then I had an epiphany. These cactus were doing exactly what they should be doing, growing where the water would run off the cliff and nourish them. They knew. I was the ignorant one.

I need to remember that. Sometimes the normal rules of what works and what doesn’t don’t work. It pays to be flexible.

After all, when you come right down to it,
how many people speak the same language
even when they speak the same language?

~Russell Hoban~

The Marie Kondo of the insect world

termite skyscrapers

In the desert, termite colonies thrive. It never gets cold enough to kill them, and sometimes there may be as many as twenty colonies in a yard–or under a house!

After a recent rain, I found these two Lilliputian skyscrapers in a stream bed. Although the water had dried out on the surface, underneath, there was just enough moisture in the earth to allow these tiny bits of sand to cling together when the termites carried them out of their home.

The efficiency of the termite colony is amazing. The insects carry the grains just far enough from the opening that sand doesn’t fall back into the burrow, thus building these tiny mounds. How do they know how to do such an amazing task?

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.
~William Morris~

 

The delight of winter water

Clear Creek at Flood Stage

Imagine standing by this water on a crisp winter day as the rush of cold breeze caresses your face.

This is the Verde Valley’s Clear Creek at flood stage. In a normal flow, water is half this volume, but the creek bed anticipates change. Over the millennia the water has hollowed out a wide swath of normally dry land, preparing for potential that only happens once or twice a season. The trees standing in water are patient, knowing the snow melt from the San Francisco Peaks will eventually pass.

For the desert, this ebb and flow of the water passage is as inevitable as breath itself.

We, too, breathe in and out, allowing room for the intake gasp of surprise and that deep outward sigh of satisfaction.

Snow, snow over the whole land
across all boundaries.

The candle burned on the table,
the candle burned.

~Boris Pasternak~

Alive and Well in the Desert

Alive in the desert

I have a fascination with lichen, perhaps because it is so tenacious and tough. It thrives where there are few nutrients, and in the desert, where there is little moisture as well.

For example, notice this desert lichen, a little crackly about the edges, but still hanging in there.

It is hard to predict where life will take root, and how it will thrive under the most unexpected circumstances.

It’s like that for us, too. There is a vast difference between what we want versus what we need in order to build a life for ourselves. It is often not what we choose, but what we are given that allows us to grow into what we were meant to be.

~For every problem there is a solution
which is simple, clean,
and wrong.

~Henry Louis Mencken~