Three Saguaros

The shadow of a saguaro climbs a hill between two other sagauros on the Apache Wash Loop Trail in Phoenix Sonoran Preserve in Phoenix, Arizona on January 2, 2021. Original: _CAM9105.arw

When we first moved to Arizona and I started taking pictures in sunlight I struggled with what to do about my shadow. At first I’d try to compose the picture so my shadow didn’t fall in the image, and sometimes still do, but sometimes now I lean into it and deliberately put my shadow into the frame as a reminder that I’m documenting my life in the desert. On this occasion though as I photographed the damage in the saguaro on the left, as the sun sank low a giant behind me threw its shadow all the way up the hill, allowing me to sidle down the trail and hide within it. That’s not just me throwing up my arms pretending to be a saguaro, though I can’t say the thought has never crossed my mind.

The Shroud of Phoenix

A saguaro has sealed off damage where it's skin has split in multiple places on the Apache Wash Loop Trail in Phoenix Sonoran Preserve in Phoenix, Arizona on January 2, 2021. Original: _RAC3511.arw

When I first saw the pattern of damage in this saguaro I was reminded of the Shroud of Turin, only when I later looked at images of the real shroud I realized my remembrance of it was mistaken, it was far more detailed in actuality than memory. This section of damage reminded me of a head, a torso with crossed arms, and legs below, here shown in the seconds before the sun dipped below the mountains behind me. Perhaps the skin of the saguaro split after it ate too many donuts and it sealed the damage with resin to prevent water loss, but I’m not a biologist.

In the Wash

An environmental portrait of a desert cottontail sitting in Apache Wash in Phoenix Sonoran Preserve in Phoenix, Arizona

Most of the desert washes I cross when I hike are fairly small but not so Apache Wash, there are signs as you approach warning you not to enter when flooded and the large debris scattered around tells you why. It was damp on the morning I crossed on my first visit to Phoenix Sonoran Preserve but the rains and thus the danger had long since passed the day before, so I and a pair of desert cottontails enjoyed the quiet before the sun came up.

An close-up portrait of a desert cottontail sitting in Apache Wash in Phoenix Sonoran Preserve in Phoenix, Arizona

Flight

A black-tailed jackrabbit sits next to a foothill palo verde along the Apache Wash Loop Trail in Phoenix Sonoran Preserve in Phoenix, Arizona

On the trails my glimpses of jackrabbits are normally rather brief but this one I got to watch for a while as it casually moved through the desert, feeding as it went. It was aware of me and the others on the trail, mostly mountain bikers and hikers (none of whom stopped to watch). Our time together came to an end when the jackrabbit took flight as a loud plane passed overhead.