This piece was written on the stolen lands and waters of the Tohono O’odham and Yaqui/Yoeme.
Imagine yourself standing in the Sonoran Desert on a caliente summer day. Let’s paint the landscape by adding deep blue for the mountains that emerge in every cardinal direction and strokes of brown that create texture on the ground, the structural limbs of plants, and fill every crevice on this landscape.
You may feel the dusty, sturdy earth beneath your feet, the same sweeping surface that clouded the vision of indigenous ancestors’ eyes as they navigated through these desert lands. You may observe the occasional desert breeze that moves through your body, swaying nearby palo verde trees and breaking up the lull of the endless heat.
As you take a step, you might have a gentle creosote bush tapping you on your shoulder with its branch. It is full of waxy leaves and fuzzy globes from its flowers resembling planets in an out-of-focus telescope. Down in the wash, a catclaw acacia may have pulled on some fibers from your backpack, leaving a mark from its thorns that will remind you to watch out for it next time. You may see the sprinkles of desert confetti left behind from the blooming party that was hosted by the yellow petals of brittlebush, the red torches of the ocotillo, the pale-orange drapes of the globemallow, and the pink rays of starlight from the fairy duster. You make eye contact with a broad-billed hummingbird darting across- maybe spotting a flash of vibrant blue-green and blue-turquoise hues on its’ body and neck.
You may notice with only your ears the sounds of the desert spiny lizards scrambling through rocks and fallen mesquite tree branches. The cooing of the white-winged dove becomes your steady metronome, giving you the tempo, rhythm and heartbeat of the desert as the day unfolds. White-winged doves, you see, are warm and feathered fragments of saguaro flying in the desert- as the white-winged doves synchronize their migration with the reproductive cycle of the saguaro and maintain an asymmetrical ecological interaction.
The sweat beading up on the back of your neck feels cool, despite the powerful Sonoran Sun, beating down on your head. You may decide to seek refuge by stepping into the long and narrow shadow of an elder saguaro.