I took this photo a couple days ago. It’s a cactus. The Regal Saguaro, King of the Desert, bane of Dutch miners and Spanish Padres, long-lived and many-spined, the whispering Methuselah of the Big Sky desert.
It’s not a great photo, but it’s not the worst I’ve taken either.
Do we still call them photos, or are they pics now? Or even something else? I’m not that old, but I’m not that hip either.
Cactuses are pretty amazing organisms, they’re like the camel of trees; kinda ugly yet oddly beautiful, tough and hardened and specially equipped to thrive in their native environment. The quintessential American icon. Cactuses have been a part of the New World’s mythology going back as far as we have records, there has always been something numinous about them. There used to be this Saguaro nursery just off the freeway out in the middle of nowhere when I was a kid. We’d pass it by on our way into and out of town and I remember every time being awed by the simple beauty of the plants. My older brother would tell me how lucky we were to live in Arizona, the only place on the whole planet where the giant beasts would grow, there was obviously something special about the place, something that ran deep and tapped into the spiritual energy of mother earth herself.
The desert is such a beautiful biome, the wide open sky and the silent rocky sentinels on the horizon. It’s a place of peaceful solitude, a place of rejuvenation, a place to escape the deleterious conventions of city living. The circle of life is imminent in the desert, in a peaceful, harmonious way. It’s no wonder that so many of the greatest tales we have are set in the desert, spanning all eras and genres. I feel like I’m Muad’Dib watching the twin suns-set on Tatooine, texting Moses on my tricorder and scratching Dogmeat’s ear when I’m out in the desert by myself.
…an indefinable bond is established between you and the veneer of gold on the sand in the late sun – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry