Since it was spring, the hedgehog cactus were in bloom. Like cucumbers with spines, the hedgehog's magenta flowers sprouted from their top ends like ruffled Easter bonnets. Soon after they blossomed the ocatillo with their flaming orange candles blossomed, along with prickly pears and barrel cacti.
Besides Saguaro east we visited the Tucson Botanical Gardens. A pyrrhuloxia flashed across our path as we walked to the entrance. Inside the gardens wildlife and birds populated this protected area inside the city. Desert cottontails hopped among the agave. Mourning doves walked peacefully among the flowers and along the paths. A Gila woodpecker peeked out at us from its nest in a Saguaro hole. Between Saguaro National Park and the Botanical Gardens I learned much about the Sonoran desert and the plants and animals that now inhabited my world.
Out home sits in the Sonoran desert at the foot of the Santa Rita Mountains. Sycamore Canyon is a wildlife preserve which is being developed to preserve the desert and wildlife around us. There are 8 miles of hiking trails here. The trails are mapped and marked. Small plaques point out the names of plants or habitats of animals. The philosophy is one where people and nature can coexist. Any habitat destroyed in the building process is supposed to be restored and native plants are suppose to be saved whenever possible. I am not sure that this is happening. Still, much open space and green space is being preserved, which makes life here much more enjoyable.
From my windows I can see giant saguaros towering over the desert. Behind me the Santa Ritas rise strong and solid. On the side of one mountain is a white stone projection that I have been told is a former limestone mine. Whenever I leave the house to drive to town I can see this mountain and this mine. I look at them and think, "That is where I live. That is my home." To get to town involves a 15 mile jaunt downhill all the way. To get home is 15 miles all uphill. There are no alternative routes. What goes down must go up! Still, it is this isolation that for the moment gives us peace. The nights are quiet here, with the occasional howl of coyotes. From my yard I can see the milky way, something I missed dearly living near Salt Lake City.
I don't know the name of the mountain behind me yet, but I am determined to find out. It is important to me to know the place I live in. Places are like people; they have personalities and emotions. They have their own characteristics and feelings. Places have moods along with their vegetation, their topography, and climate. I want to know the plants, the paths, the inhabitants of this place. I want to know the contours of the land and where the washes run. Where do the lizards live, where do the rabbits hide? I want to know if I will love it and if it will like me. When you know a place, when you love it, then it becomes a part of you and a part of who you are. It is like knowing your mother or your lover. It is like knowing your self. It is connected to your heart.