Blooming in the Desert

Last month, my morning walks with Harper became noticeably different. We live in the Sonoran desert, and it is as rugged and rough as one might imagine a desert to be. There are ominous prickly needles, not pleasant soft petals. It is no wonder so many analogies have the desert as a place of trial and hardship. Lush green landscapes or tropical rainforests represent the desirous places of rest and arrival, quite the opposite of our current landscape and setting. We definitely live in a dry and barren land.

But starting sometime in April, I would be hit in the face with the strong fragrance of Spring. It was unavoidable. It was delicious. It filled the wide open spaces of air with intensely pleasing aromas. To top it off, the cactus were visibly flowering. Perhaps you have never lived in the Southwest and did not realize that cactus flower. Yet walking around my neighborhood you would quickly realize that they do indeed bloom, and the blooms are magnificent. It’s as if the brown, rugged backdrop makes their beauty shine even brighter.

Normally these particular cactus look like the scary trees in a horror movie. They have outstretching skinny limbs that remind me of Medusa with her hair of writhing snakes. In Spring, they have multiple golden and orangish flowers that turn them into a glorious burning bush. Medusa got her hair done, darling, and it looks fabulous!

We have these short, round barrel-shaped cactus in our backyard. They are now blooming with bicolored flowers that are so gorgeous they actually make you forget the scent of Harper’s poop nearby…for a second.

These are some prickly pears by our mailbox. Those needles look so menacing and have resulted in a deflated basketball on multiple occasions. But now we at least get to look at pretty yellow flowers while we pump the ball back up.
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These low-lying cactus I see on my walking loop with Harper. They were seriously just showing off. Big time. Pictures cannot do justice to the bright red beauties.
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Our morning walks are the highlight of Harper’s day. I think they might be mine, too. I appreciate starting the morning with these quiet meditations in nature where I am reminded that even in the roughest conditions, living things can survive. Thrive. Make things beautiful. Bloom. And all of these flowers become fruit. They bear fruit. They feed the wildlife. They take their dry, barren situation and learn to adapt. They are often overlooked as ugly, as unwanted, as rough and prickly. But they are so much more than what they appear. I know I would never have understood that unless I had spent time in the desert myself. There is something about experiential knowledge that deepens the messages given on a walk or in conversation or in prayer.

Hey, you cactus, out there, I see you. I know you feel angry enough to spit out prickly pear needles, or feel life has you lying low, or terribly misunderstood. But your Spring time will come. It always does. And you will shine and make others marvel at your beauty. You will bloom and bear fruit. You will realize the desert is given a bad rap and is often a place of tremendous growth and desirable rest.

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