August 14, 2013

Watch Out, They Jump

We follow Ina Road for a Sunday drive west of Tucson to be received by Saguaro National Park.

The beauty and the threat of this land cosseted in the light of a sun setting low on the horizon create an allure difficult to resist.

Exotic country to the senses of this coastal Californian.

The flora is a mix of cactus varietals -- saguaro, barrel, prickly pear, crimson hedgehog -- and other barbed plants, such as cholla, ocotillo, palo verde, creosote, ironwood, and yucca, each bearing the mean visage of confident predators ever ready to lash out at careless travelers.

I dare walk the sandy floor of the other-worldly forest and am skewered in my left ankle by two-inch long thorns. The plant possesses an aggressive will to catapult a nodule of needles at me. The cholla is not alone in jumping at men!

The fauna ranges from the cute to the terrible, the desert cottontail seen in abundance and the javelina peccaries salivating in filthy packs. I won’t even mention the banded gila monster or rattle snakes.

And yet the twin hazards of heat and thirst remain perhaps greater dangers.

Back in our car, safe in conditioned air behind tinted glass traveling at speed, we marvel at the expanse presided over by the venerable saguaro cactus, appendages held at the square, swearing an ancient oath to observe.

All around us the songs of God's creations and creatures in praise of Mother Nature calm my spirit even as they quicken my mind in contemplation of life and its myriad systems and diverse operations.

While my ankle is much aggrieved, nonetheless this Sonoran swath of desert with its frequent summer ablutions under monsoon rains continues to fascinate me.