Proud Patriarch of the Desert

Old SaguaroJust across the street from us in Marana, Arizona stands a battered yet proud Saguaro, veteran of perhaps a hundred years in the desert. The broken, and bedraggled appearance is the result of many heavy monsoons, countless attacks by the Gila Woodpecker creating homes for themselves and subsequent tenants. In the photo, if you look closely, you can see a tiny new arm growing just near the top of the stout-hearted giant. No wonder the saguaro is protected, its strength and determination to survive are laudable. It’s pure white bloom in spring is magnificent and happens to be the state flower of Arizona. Three years ago, I wrote and published a piece called “The Lone Saguaro.” I thought I’d share it again.

The Lone Saguaro

The lone saguaro braves the desert chill, unafraid of the approaching darkness. Thus it has been for countless years, for this majestic patriarch of the Sonoran desert. The sun slips reluctantly below the horizon; shadows grow longer, and the air becomes colder — the saguaro longs for rain. Many of its needles slant downward to direct moisture to its roots. More often than not, the rain does not come, only the creatures of the desert night.

A fury tarantula cautiously exits its hole in the sand, hoping to find a mate to share the evening. Beneath a prickly pear, a king snake tests the climate. Stay tightly curled or slither out? He contemplates. Nearby, a pack of coyotes chatters joyfully, choosing the evening song list for their canine karaoke. One melodically howls at the moon, inviting others to join the festivities.

From a distance, a great horned owl, poses the question, “Who?” No one answers. He repeats. Hours pass and the sun’s soft glow, a preview of the new day, glistens above the nearby mountains. High clouds silently tease the saguaro into hopes of rain, but alas, all they bring is another orange and red sunrise.

The saguaro watches the critters retreat, their morning shadows stretching in the morning chill; the great horned owl silently glides off to parts unknown — the dawn of another day in the Sonoran desert. Thus it has been for the lone saguaro – for as many years as there are grains of sand.

Bill Vancil 

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