The mighty saguaro cactus, the tallest and largest in Arizona, takes a staggering 15 years to grow a mere foot and 50 to 75 years to grow its first arm. By the time these massive giants tower over the desert trees, they are 100 to 200 years old and have survived droughts, sudden torrential rains, brutal high winds and even snow. Hmmmm? I think. Strength and dignity with age - I somehow find that thought comforting.
Brittle bush, the little flower that dramatically paints the rocky hillsides and flats with its dazzling yellow colour, is just one small Sonoran Desert example of adaptation and survival. Two sets of leaves can grow depending on seasonal conditions. "When the climate is cooler and has more moisture, pale green leaves appear. These leaves are designed to absorb a lot of sunlight. During the intense summer heat, another set of leaves grow. These leaves have a layer of white hairs that act as a sun block to protect the leaves from getting burned".* How many of us, especially as we get older, remain rigid in our beliefs and unable to embrace change? Adapt, is the overwhelming desert message I hear. Adapt. I need to continually remind myself of that persistent little brittle bush.
To hike through the desert in springtime is to enjoy a desert floor decorated in yellow, reds, purples and whites. Adapting to and surviving a harsh climate in no way prevents the desert from displaying its true beauty. I hear you desert. No matter how difficult times and circumstances may be, I need to respond with kindness and understanding, with beauty.
Crazy, you say. The musing of a "retired" mind perhaps, but I find life lessons here. Most of all I find peace. Somehow this Sonoran Desert, this little speck on our vast planet has found its way into my heart. And I love that.
* Desert in Bloom, Smith-Southwestern Inc.