My Liege

A front view of a regal horned lizard on the Watershed Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in June 2019

I don’t understand the fascination with royalty but this lizard may change my mind. Sunday morning after watching a sleepy Harris’s hawk as the sun rose I met this regal horned lizard on the Watershed Trail. I love all the lizards but I rarely see this one, I suppose that is by design.

The Last Leap

A dead lizard, its separated tail beside it, is swarmed with ants along the Watershed Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve

I came across this flattened lizard (a tiger whiptail I think) and took some time deciding if I was going to photograph it or not. Finally I changed lenses and took a picture as a tribute to this once beautiful creature as ants swarmed the lifeless body. The lizard had shed its tail, now lying beside it, in an unsuccessful attempt at saving its life. The trail is heavily used by mountain bikers so perhaps it wasn’t able to get out of the way of a bike or perhaps a predator killed it but got scared off before it could eat its meal. Or perhaps a hiker stepped on it, someone once stepped on a newt I was photographing (fortunately the ground was soft and the newt unharmed).

Sorry little one.

Heroes

A saguaro has broken apart and fallen over along the Watershed Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve

This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’ But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears.
Zechariah 7:9-11

Let us not delight in the suffering of others, nor celebrate lies and cruelty. We know why assault victims don’t come forward, it is because we are monsters. Enough. We need not be. To those who suffer in silence. To those who suffer in public. To Anita Hill. To Christine Blasey Ford. To those who stood tall, to those knocked down, to those who suffered for us, you are heroes, still.

Identification

A view of the desert landscape before Brown's Mountain as seen from the Watershed Trail with a wide varienty of plants including many of the typical cactus species

At first every view in Arizona was a bit unsettling because it was so unfamiliar. The chance to explore somewhere quite different than my beloved Northwest was one of the attractions of moving here and the undercurrent of unease dissipated with each passing day. It took longer on the trails as nearly everything in my view was new to me and I couldn’t even put names to most of what I saw. I hiked as often as I could and studied when I got home and the desert changed beneath my feet into my home.

One picture can’t encapsulate all that is the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, nor even the Brown’s Ranch area that I haunt the most, but this is a mix of much of what I see. The tall cactus you probably recognize as a saguaro, that one I could identify even before I arrived. Embracing the saguaro in the center is a crucifixion thorn (there are several plants with this name, this is the canotia). Scattered around are teddy bear cholla, buckhorn cholla, compass barrel cactus, foothill palo verde, and Engelmann prickly pear. And a bunch of plants I can’t yet identify.

In the background with the long scar running down its flank is Brown’s Mountain with Cone Mountain behind and to the left. From where I was standing Cholla Mountain was to my right, Granite Mountain behind me. Each of these hills has a distinctive look which made it easier to orient myself on the many interconnected trails.