Fear of Flying

A close-up of the jumbled arms of an old saguaro on the Metate Trail in Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area in Cave Creek, Arizona on February 27, 2022. Originals: _ZFC1441.NEF to _ZFC1450.NEF

I’ll do just about anything to avoid getting on a plane but it’s not because I’m afraid of the plane crashing. Rather this jumble of saguaro arms is a visual representation of how I feel when packed into a crowded boarding area or jammed into the ever-shrinking plane seats. Thankfully I rarely have to fly as let’s just say I’m not a fan.

While I was thinking of that when I took this image early in the year, it’s also how I came to feel about much of this year, which got me thinking about bringing my retirement date in as early as we can, to live a quieter and simpler life.

Taken with the Nikon Z fc and 105 mm macro lens, this is a focus stack of 10 images so I could keep even the background arms in focus, to better emphasize the jumbled nature of this gorgeous cactus up in Spur Cross.

Broken Beauty

A close-up of the broken portion of a saguaro arm that shows the green skin, the spongy material where water is stored, and the woody skeleton. Taken on the Metate Trail at Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area in Cave Creek, Arizona on February 27, 2022. Originals: _ZFC1543.NEF to _ZFC1547.NEF

It’s always a bit sad to see the old giants breaking down but this fallen arm provides a view into the interior life of the saguaro. On the outside is the familiar waxy skin tinted green by chlorophyll. Light for photosynthesis is ever-abundant in the desert but rainfall is not, so filling most of the interior is a spongy material where water is converted and stored. Storing water is one thing, supporting its weight is another, a burden borne by the wooden skeleton that runs the length of the saguaro, shown here as broken ribs that shattered as the arm fell from the body.

The saguaro itself still looked healthy to my novice eyes, it will seal off the wound and might well outlive me despite having a head start of two or three of my lifetimes.

Baby Steps

A look down at one of my Merrell waterproof hiking shoes as I stand next to the water of Cave Creek on the Spur Cross Trail at Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area in Cave Creek, Arizona in January 2020

For a while now I haven’t ventured out to parks I haven’t visited a number of times, partly because I like getting to know an area over time but also because I was trying to limit the number of new things in my life after a couple of years of significant change. I took a few days off at Christmas and decided to take some baby steps with my free time, finally visiting a couple of county parks I hadn’t been to yet and getting an annual pass. One park was the babiest of steps as I accessed it from a trail I hike all the time. I was back at work the next week but had New Year’s Day off, planning to sleep in and be well rested for the remainder of the work week. However as has happened multiple times recently, I woke up early and couldn’t get to sleep so I headed up to visit a third county park near here, Spur Cross Ranch.

I could hardly believe my eyes but for the first time since I left Oregon I saw running water on the trails! I first crossed Cottonwood Creek, which was such a trickle I hopped over it, but Cave Creek was flowing like an honest-to-goodness creek. I decided to commemorate the occasion with a picture of my hiking shoe next to the water, a rather poignant moment for me as I bought these waterproof shoes right before my team got laid off a couple of years ago and thus never had a chance to use them in the wet of the Pacific Northwest. I’ve worn them on occasion here but they have been in regular use this winter and did great on a couple of recent hikes where it poured rain.

Some reminders of my former home in my new home, I’ve been beyond blessed to be able to live in such beautiful places.