A day’s drive due East from that Mediterranean-like paradise
brought us to an entirely different biome:
Arizona’s Sonoran Desert, home of our Nation’s largest cactus,
Saguaro’s presence dominates the landscape.
Found exclusively in the Sonoran Desert, this slow growing arborescent (tree-like) cactus may live to be 200 years old, grow to a height of 70-90 feet and weigh over 1 ton.
A 10 year old plant may be only 1 1/2 inches tall.
As they age, some grow lots of arms
and some grow none.
Sharp spines that protect soft green skin are used as sewing needles by
members of the Tohono O’odham Nation who gather the sweet, red fruit in the fall.
After the Saguaro dies, its bone-like woody ribs are used for ramada roofs, fences and decorations.
Every part of the Saguaro is useful to some desert dweller.
Gila Woodpeckers and Elf Owls nest in its trunk and
Long-nosed Bat migrants from Mexico feast on the nectar of its night-blooming flowers.
Of course the desert is also home to other flora, fauna, mammals, reptiles, birds
and humankind. At the Sonoran Desert Museum bronze peccaries enjoy the shade of a Palo Verde.
There are cacti and agave of every shape and hue of desert green.
Spanish Jesuits and Franciscans established an impressive trail of missions as they pushed north from Mexico into the desert southwest and California.
One of the most beautiful is found just south of Tucson.
Known as “The White Dove of the Desert” the Franciscan mission of
San Xavier del Bac
is visible for miles away in sharp contrast to the blue Arizona sky.
A National Historic Landmark, Mission San Xavier del Bac was founded by a Jesuit pioneer and explorer in 1692. Work on this building began in 1783. The Spanish Baroque architectural details are stunning.
A few whimsical details now adorn the adjacent modern bookstore.
But at the end of the day,
we wanted to return to the desert to stand with Saguaro.
Patient, Persevering, Predominant.
We listen and try to learn.
We wait with the desert as the sun turns the mountains red.
We watch as Gambel’s Quail scurry along the sandy arroyo and call softly to each other to covey up under creosote bushes before nightfall.
The Wind holds its breath. Stars hesitate.
The soft shawl of Quietness falls.
We wait with the Desert in time and space, between East and West.
The magic pause between heartbeats, drumbeats.
Between the setting of the Sun and the rising of the Moon.
The silver-dollar Moon appears.
A bubble rising effortlessly from the depths of the clear, still sky pool.
Impatient, Coyote calls to the moon.
We were there. So lucky.