paradoxical scream Yummy…snuggling into bed at the end of a lovely cooling rainstorm last night, listening to the drizzle hit the balcony outside the French door next to me, on the very edge of sleep… and a loud screeching pulls be back quickly to full consciousness. Scramble out on to the balcony…what is going on…screaming continues. The cry seems to start on my left, then swoop to the right and settle into the wash just 50 feet away. Is it a young owl that is practicing or calling its mom? But it continues and seems to have a element of terror and fear. Is it a young javalina squealing because it has been caught? After several minutes, silence. My husband thinks it sounded like a cat, young cat. Is there a mountain lion and her cub ‘that’ close to the house? I go back to bed, not sure how I feel, a range of emotions coursing through.

you could try this out This morning I wonder how ‘safe’ it is out there and we walk skirting the general direction of the last screams. Then I pick up the scent of skunk and remembered one of the best laughs i have ever had along with a full range of emotions, with a skunk ‘incident’.  We went out to relax in the hot tub one evening and turned on the heater and there was a terrible squealing as we saw two skunks, tails on fire, running off into the desert, leaving a trail of fire behind. Their ‘tail fire’ seemed to extinguish 30-40 feet away, but there was my husband, running out buck naked with a hose, putting out the fire in the brush near the house…hope those skunks are OK… And the morning glory in the wash were truly glorious after the rain…then, under their spell, I thought it possible that one of them opened her face last night, felt the delicious quench of the rain and cried out in ecstasy… scream3 There are some things we will never know no matter how curious we are, no matter how much we try to figure it out, no matter how we pursue an answer to the mystery. To see the paradox of intensely desiring to know the truth yet the truth being impossible to know…this seems to apply to so much of life right now…especially the mystery of why humans do what they do…

go scream1

Wondering if this baby rattler ate that gorgeous horny toad that has been hanging out under this bush. Can’t imagine how it got its mouth opened wide enough to consume whatever is bulging in its gut.



glory, glory, glory

There was NOT a way that we would not see her, coiled but camouflaged in the exact center of the narrow path we take most mornings to the wash. One dog had already stepped over her when my radar blipped…second dog gets shooed off to the side…third waits behind me while I crawl up closer, closer…I am 18” away and she is so calm that I know I could get closer…but here comes fourth dog, fresh off a chase and steps right over her too…she casually flicks her tongue…OK, no closer.

For her not striking my dogs
For dogs not stepping on her
For letting me get that close
For my camera and getting to examine her great beauty in minute detail now as I prepare the photo for you.


And where have these horn worms been…what an ugly name for such a wondrous creature. They range from pale yellow to psychedelic chartreuse and they turn into the enigmatic sphinx moth that you would swear was a humming bird at first glance. I had seen a few, but today there are gobs of them feeding and fattening up, displaying an unbelievable juiciness; how could a bird resist? Well they feed on host plants with small toxic molecules, which they tolerate, but will rear up, in sphinx pose and spit a slightly toxic green goo from their mouths when threatened.

For metamorphosis
For plant medicines
For unimaginable colors.


I have been on the hunt for morning glory and, in fact, credit it with the ‘real’ launch of this blog during the Big Bloom of 2012, end of August….but OMG, there are so, so many out there with the blessed rains we have had this monsoon! Not a single flower yet, but the fabulous form of the five lobed leaf is worth its weight in gold. In a section of wash that is particularly shady and moist, that I call the garden, we paused and took in the lovely fragrance of mountain marigold and turpentine bush amongst the coiling, spiraling morning glory vines…around the next corner, though, was the utter surprise. The whole side of the wash wall was like an awesome abstract painting…heavenly blue and psychedelic chartreuse in forms and shapes that only the earth could dream! Vines with blue blooms caressing the sticky host plant of the pre sphinx moths…there is not a way I can photograph it and convey even a single percent of its beauty!

For Earth and ALL her creations
For inspiring me to sublime appreciation
For the glory of mornings in the washes
For the comfort of cycles and the endless variation within them.



under the rainbow

There are many, many rainbows in the east in the afternoons and early evenings of the monsoon, but it is very rare to see one in the west. This morning we were treated to one in the very first morning light. Having celebrated a day of significance yesterday, I was curious about the symbolic meaning of rainbow.

the anchor for this rainbow is Wasson Peak, the highest point in the Tucson Mountains.
the anchor for this rainbow is Wasson Peak, the highest point in the Tucson Mountains.

Rainbow is considered to be a bridge to the heavens, a celestial marking of a union of the 4 elements -the first rays of the Sun/Fire uniting with the Rains/Water in the crucible of the Sky/Air anchored at both ends in the Ground/Earth. It is a restoration of cosmic order and represents the cleansing and fertilizing cycle. It is a message from spirit directly to the heart and soul to TRUST that your dreams will come true and that you will fulfill your purpose.

Biblically it was the symbol of reconciliation given to the human race by God. In the Australian Aboriginal mythology, the rainbow snake is the Creator in the Dreaming. For the Fang of Gabon, Africa it is a transcendent experience to arrive at the rainbow’s center where they can see both the entire circle of the rainbow and of the earth. For Buddhists, the rainbow is the place where individual desire and consciousness are extinguished. In Slavic traditions, a person touched by a rainbow is drawn to heaven, and becomes a half-demonic creature under the power of the god of thunder and lightning. Shamans use rainbow-colored ribbons to journey to the Spiritual realms.

See you somewhere over the rainbow…

i just love the color and shape of this desert hibiscus...seems an oxymoron - desert hibiscus
i just love the color and shape of this desert hibiscus…seems an oxymoron – desert hibiscus


The desert has gone from crispy and seemingly dead everywhere to juicy, green, and alive everywhere. Every clump of brown has green sprouts at its core, reemerging after years of drought. It was all still there, out of sight, underground…desert plants have many varied strategies for enduring drought, which unlike winter that only lasts a few months, can go on for years and years…Many of us have been in a drought for years, with the economic situation pounding our lives down into the ground. Don’t know about you, I am not spouting yet, but witnessing this deserts resilience feeds my resiliency and gives me hope that the Iacks will be relieved and i will soon emerge. Practicing resilience today…

up-early strategy for resilience yields this unique view of almost-new-moon, Venus close by, and just above the red dot of light on the mountain is Mercury, usually too close to the sun to see.
up-early strategy for resilience yields this unique view of almost-new-moon, Venus close by, and just above the red dot of light on the mountain is Mercury, usually too close to the sun to see.
Another serendipitous sight...caught a bird in flight at this lovely sunrise.  NOtice that the ocotillo in the foreground are totally covered with leaves.
Another serendipitous sight…caught a bird in flight at this lovely sunrise. Notice that the ocotillo in the foreground are totally covered with leaves.


…seems acute right now, as if the rains have fertilized the ability to see patterns and I am grateful.

Old and new…There is a gnarly mesquite in the wash that I have admired for years, but this morning I actually noticed how large the diameter on the trunk is. It is so twisted and partially broken and rotted, that it is not easy to distinguish the entire oval of its massive trunk. I figure it is/was about 2’ diameter. The calculator in the head goes into gear…if you got a tree ring every year of a 1/8” that would mean this tree is 100 years old! Damn…and just up the wash, after the luxuriant rains, a baby palo verde just beginning its life.

you can get the scale with the cell phone
you can get the scale with the cell phone


Cactus leaves?…I would call these structures on the cholla cactus a leaf, a juicy plump green protuberance in a gorgeous fractal pattern on the new tips. No…cactus don’t have leaves…I think they do for a short time…I’m watching and they start all tight and clustered at the tip, then these teeny needles start poking out from the base of the ‘leaf’ then the branch reaches outward and stretches. Now the ‘leaves’ are thinning and begin to get shorter as they fuel the expansion of cactus. They will disappear soon, and I’ll watch them shrink and see how long they feed the growth process for the new cholla parts…




How could I have missed this the first pass? A huge black shiny beetle (2”) has munched away at big chucks of this prickly pear pad. He is very busy eating and lets me get a half inch away to capture the process.


Where is that mocking bird today, that serenaded all of us with a phenomenal variety of tunes for a solid, and I mean zero pauses, 16 hours yesterday from a perch on the wind generator, high above the ground…? Missing him….hoping you will be in noticing more today…

head in shit

We have been blessed with 3” of rain in the last two days…YEAH!! The rainworms/millipeds are out in force and curl into a spiral to protect their bellies whenever we get near. But this morning, this one would not budge, in fact I even touched it… it could not be distracted. It had its head buried deep in a clump of shit…haha…been there, done that…!

head in shit
head in shit
my babies enjoying a big puddle
my babies enjoying a big puddle



Say what…? That is ‘Sahuaro harvest’ in Tohono O’Odham.

I have a deep affection for the Sahuaro sisters around here, most of them are grandmothers. I realize that I am blessed to be in a very unique environment; Sahuaro forests like this one I live in are very rare on the planet, only existing in this high density in small areas of southern Arizona and northern Sonora. You can see above that my banner, what I consider to be ‘me’, is a picture of my shadow superimposed upon a Sahuaro and I write about them frequently.


I very much enjoying the unusually abundant Ha:San~Bak this year and that was amplified by the research I did this morning to write this. For the Tohono O’odham, the Sahuaro provides for the physical and spiritual sustenance of the people, in fact the calendar year began at the Sahuaro harvest. Extended families would make camp in the Sahuaro forests, possibly even right here on this land, and collect and process fruits for weeks following specific rituals that would ensure an abundant monsoon rain immediately following the harvest. The fruit, called Bahidaj, is highly nutritious and a serving of five fruits has about 167 calories, four 4 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat and is high in soluble fiber and vitamin C. The syrup rendered was sealed in jars and the seeds were dried and ground over time and made into cakes.


For more information:

I also learned the story of the origination of Sahuaro and was surprised to find out that, even though they are so masculine in form when young, the first Sahuaro sprung from a young girl. It is a touching story, recorded in 1945 that you can read here:

if this doesn't look feminine, nothing does...
if this doesn’t look feminine, nothing does…
this year was particularly abundant
this year was particularly abundant

The people would celebrate and gorge and have copious weight gain. Some of the juice, which would only last a few weeks, was fermented and used ceremonially with singing to call the rain down. (I make it into a margarita and celebrate too.) Unfortunately, the ceremonies were prohibited at the turn of the last century, and though no longer prohibited, traditions have been fading and are rarely practiced today. Some even propose that the suppression of the essential, ancient Sahuaro rituals has contributed significantly to their decline, along with human encroachment. When humans are able to see a thing as sacred they value, protect, and nurture it. Perhaps it is our inability to hold so many things as sacred that ultimately results in their demise. Thanking the Sahuaros for all that they do/be and may I hold them sacred for all of my days.

dove gorging
dove gorging
ants gorging
ants gorging
piling it up outside the 'door'
piling it up outside the ‘door’
fruit speared on a cactus
fruit speared on a cactus


After three quenching rains in a week, this morning was a relief. There is nothing quite as delicious as a very light rain on your warm skin, and its effect is exaggerated by the contrast to the sizzling, scorching sun that drives us to rise and walk before the relentless rays hit.

Life comes out from underground:

-the rattler, out to gorge, politely warns us of its presences at the side of the path.

quench b1

-the brilliant, velvet mites create an odd scene of tiny, fuzzy red dots moving quickly over the earth in great numbers. If you don’t ‘zoom in’ you would miss this display.

quench b3

-the resurrection plant, that seems to grow overnight, true to its name, nestles up around a prickly cactus providing another demonstration of contrast in the desert.

quench b4

-the rain worm, millipede, startled by all the footfall, curls into a marvelous spiral.

quench b2


out on a limb(er bush)

There is a remarkable plant in the Sonoran desert (its northernmost range is just a few miles north of Tucson) that looks barren most of the year and if it did not have these beautiful mahogany colored branches you would think it was dead. The branches flex like a rope but spring back into their graceful splay form. There is natural latex in them and they were used by the natives to make baskets, so the common name is Limber Bush (Jatropha cardiophylla). If you crack them they exude a sap that stains a blood red when it dries, therefore another name for them, Sangre de Cristo. It is very abundant around here, but actually is not very common.

quarter inch flower
quarter inch flower

In early June in a deep corner of a wash I noticed teeny buds all over a clump of these Limber Bushes. Strange…that usually does not happen until the monsoon hits and it is nowhere in sight. I wondered how this was happening. We had not had a rain in over 6 months and everything else out here was CRISPY. The next time I saw them, a week later, there was a surprisingly large fruit/seed pod hanging there. I had never seen one before and now felt I ‘knew’ this plant better, having seen how it secures the continuing existence of its species.

3/4" pod
3/4″ pod

This year’s Sahuaro fruit harvest has been the best in memory and the Sahuaro started the process and flowered way back in May…what did they know/sense? I can’t imagine that a plant that typically lives for over a hundred years would deplete itself of the moisture from the top third to half of itself and produce all that juicy, juicy fruit…especially when we are in a decade + drought. I read an article in the paper last week where a scientist, having noticed a similar abundance in Sahuaro National Park East, said that since they had not fruited much in the last three years, they were catching up this year…come on…why this year…how could they know? Well… I am proposing something even further out on the limb: ‘They’ sense we will have and abundant monsoon this year. Animals go to high ground when a tsunami is coming, why not plants severely depleting a precious resource and fruiting big time when a wet summer is in store?

notice the beads of moisture/sap on the leaf edge and the bark, 1/2" leaf bud will grow to 2"
notice the beads of moisture/sap on the leaf edge and the bark, 1/2″ leaf bud will grow to 2″

So far I’d say They know…we don’t, they do. We had a quarter inch of rain in the very first cloud build up the other day (also unusual, since we normally get teased for weeks before it actually rains) and have had a second rain already…time will tell, but my money is on the wise old desert plants. Haha… we humans think we know so much with our satellites and data stores and algorithms…

teeny fuzzy  funnel spider web next to the flower
teeny fuzzy funnel spider web next to the flower

beautiful trash

Fortunately, I actually looked at what was in the dust pan before I just dumped it in the trash, whilst cleaning up the yard…lines and texture and color and curls and delicacy and delicious variety. Guess I’ll start to pay more attention to everything and expect to be surprised.


Sahuaro Boots and Birds

Ahhh…early mornings in the deep cut washes, the sun has not entered them yet, and the animals are having a party. Around one particular Sahuaro there were several varieties of birds hanging, flying, diving, yakking…One is tending a nest, a hole in the Sahuaro about 4 feet down, another is munching fruit on the top, swallows are buzzing round and round.


These nests inside the Sahuaros are quite spectacular, shady, and cool. They exist inside the ring of ribs that are the bones of this giant cactus. When the giant falls and gives up its water it leaves behind these tough containers that are called ‘boots’, probably because they often have an L shape and resemble a boot.


Woodpeckers and Flickers carve the nests one year, returning the following when it has hardened to be used. But this nest has been taken over by a pair of Purple Martins, the largest swallows around here. He has this gorgeous, seemingly impossible color, blue/black, and is the one tending the nest. She has a light belly and stays sitting on top, even when we are making a racket below.


While researching what kind of birds these were I discovered that Sahuaros Boots are illegal to collect…well that is probably a good thing, though over the decades several have made themselves know around here and adorn the yard.


More about Sahuaros:


Abundance is Everywhere

When you look out across the desert right now it looks barren and brittle. There has not been a rain, other than a trace, in 7 months and the temps have been over 100 degrees for most of the last 30+ days. The sun is brutal and the days are long.

How anything survives out there, much less thrives, seems impossible. The dogs nap all day under the cooler and don’t even bother to get up and bark when someone arrives. No one has been visiting my compost heap (I don’t really compost I just throw waste in a pile outside and it is often gone by the next morning) for weeks. The slices of bread from half a loaf have turned into crackers. What is going on?


The mesquite & palo verde trees and several shrubs are dumping tons of pods. There are piles in waves like sand dunes everywhere. The Sahuaro fruits are busting out and blowing billions of seeds, but that is a whole other post. So though it appears barren, there is great abundance, and of the very potent variety, with lots of proteins and sugars and the critters are stuffing themselves with the desert bounty!


I think this could very well apply to most everything in this universe really. Even humans can demonstrate this-just after a great natural disaster, they are kind, generous, and cooperative with everyone…probably practicing Sublime Appreciations involves Seeing the abundance in the barrenness. It has sure felt barren in the last few months…no posts here for months…it appears the ‘old’ blog transferred and survived the 6/25 cutoff and exists in a form below. It feels like the flow has turned on again, so more soon…