Nursery of the Spines

A close-up view of water dripping from the tip of a saguaro arm on the Jane Rau Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsale, Arizona in December 2019

Another horizontal saguaro arm in the rain but this one is thriving, it just grew out rather than up. At the tip you can see where new spines will very, very slowly emerge, protected at the base by soft white material (which is what this cactus wren was gleefully ripping out for its nest).

Water Channels

On a rainy Christmas morning water pools up between the pleats of the arm of a fallen saguaro, taken on the Jane Rau Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in December 2019

On a rainy Christmas morning I smiled as water pooled between the pleats of a saguaro, mimicking on the outside how I imagined as a child the water was stored on the inside. But it was a sad occasion too as the normally vertical arm was now horizontal, the old giant having fallen over and died, the green and the chlorophyll fading. They may grow slowly but they fall just as quickly as everything else, a gentle reminder that in this life even the mightiest are eventually humbled. On a brighter note it did make me laugh as I was shooting with a new lens and it always seems I test out new gear in the rain. Not a deliberate choice, rather that I love the rain and used to live in a place with an abundance of it. In this case it was a combination of me taking advantage of holiday sales to purchase a newly announced lens that instantly became a workhorse, timed up with some time off and some winter rains.

Lines & Circles

Rain drops collect at the ends of horizontal spines on a teddy bear cholla on the Jane Rau Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in December 2019

Water drops collect on the horizontal spines of a teddy bear cholla. It’s rained off and on the past couple of weeks but sadly it’s been off on the days I have been too. On Christmas morning however I woke to the sound of raindrops on the rooftops so I grabbed my rain gear and a new lens and spent a lovely morning in the desert.

Blue

A male Gila woodpecker peeks out of his nest in a saguaro in the blue light before sunrise along the Jane Rau Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in April 2019

On that April morning we were up before the sun, he and I, one to mend a broken heart, one to feed his hungry children. Ordinarily I would have loved to watch the comings and goings of this Gila woodpecker and his mate as morning broke but Ellie had died a week earlier and standing still meant being alone with my thoughts, a place I was not yet ready to be. I quickly moved on but with each passing week I was able to slow down more and more until I could happily stay in the moment for as long as my heart desired.

The First of the Second

The head of a bobcat is visible as it peers over a large rock formation on the Jane Rau Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsale, Arizona in July 2019

One more bobcat photo, this is the first one I took of my second ever sighting. Though most of the sky was blue, there were low lying clouds in the east that were frequently changing the light. This morning it worked in my favor as clouds partially obscured the sun as I walked back to check out what initially looked like a coyote-shaped cactus. The clouds not only softened the light but made it more diffuse so that the left side of the cat’s face isn’t in such deep shadow. If I could only choose one I’d prefer the shot where it is peering over the rocks but I also like how here the bobcat’s lovely face is fully shown while it verified I wasn’t a threat before settling in for a nap.

Dressed in Blue and Brown

An environmental portrait of a bobcat peering out from the rocks atop the Jane Rau Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in July 2019

If my former home in the the Pacific Northwest was a paradise of blue and green I could describe my current home in the Sonoran Desert as a paradise of blue and brown, but that would not quite be true. There is far more green in this desert than I was expecting, a dusty green to match the dusty landscape and not the lush blinding greens of the Columbia River Gorge, but green just the same. But it is true enough for this scene, the brown cat in the brown hills, the blue sky behind. There were three pictures I wanted to take on that summer morning, a close shot of the bobcat, this more distant environmental portrait, and an even wider shot showing the rocks down to the desert floor. The latter I didn’t take as since I’m only shooting with one camera I didn’t want to risk taking off the telephoto zoom in case the cat walked up onto the top of the rocks. Instead it settled down for a nap on the ledge in the middle of the frame, out of sight of both me and the rising sun.