Like many of you, I find myself in “self-isolation”. We recently returned from Arizona, and will not be venturing out among the crowds anytime soon.
Solitude isn’t so bad, as it turns out. There is time for long walks in the forest, quiet hours with books, and --- my favourite---sorting through memories captured in photographs.
I am constantly reminded of how truly blessed we are by the Creation-treasures that surround us. By sharing some of these photos and stories over the next days, I hope that you, too, will be uplifted and encouraged in this season of uncertainty. Stay well, care for one another (from a distance!!) and yourself, and embrace the opportunity to spend time in Nature.
1. A Song in the Desert
During our first week in Arizona, we stayed with friends in a house that backed onto a small mountain filled with semi-desert life. There were empty lots on either side of the property, providing plenty of opportunities for me to wander.
The first sound to begin each morning was the song of the handsome little Cactus Wren.
His song is made up of a series of loud, repetitive noises, not particularly sweet or melodious, but apparently very appealing to lady Wrens. This female flew in one morning while the male was singing, and they proceeded to mate in the cactus plant!
Both birds then poked around among the thorns to find food along the fleshy part of the Cholla Cactus. Cactus Wrens eat insects and fruit, and, like most desert creatures, need very little water.
Once the noisy Cactus Wren was awake, other animals came to life as well. A family of Desert Cottontails, with their huge ears, white “moustaches”, and reddish legs and necks, played chase every morning in the sparse vegetation.
Round-tailed Ground Squirrels popped in and out of their burrows, enjoying their breakfasts of dew-covered grass.
And one morning a very different-looking creature appeared briefly. This Harris’s Ground Squirrel scooted by quickly, carrying its tail over its back (as is the habit of this species) to shade itself from the Arizona sunshine.
Hard to believe that so many creatures can survive in what we consider to be a hostile environment. Many of the plants that grow in the desert have built-in protection....
Engelmann’s Hedgehog Cactus
Fish Hook Cactus in Bloom
In spite of their best defences, Cacti are well-used by a number of animals for perching and food-gathering. This Curve-billed Thrasher would often find a meal,
then stand atop a large Saguaro with his prize before flying off.
The giant Saguaro Cacti are also favourites of home-builders: the Gila Woodpecker drills cavities, and nests inside. This male Gila, with his red head, was puttering in the Palm trees
while the female waited patiently for him on the Saguaro!
Once the holes are a few years old, and well-scarred, the Western Screech Owl will sometimes take over these Cactus homes.
The desert can be a hostile, threatening place. Our world in general is also somewhat “prickly” and difficult at the present time! We will need to find ways to adapt and change, with the help of medical experts, if we are to weather these tough challenges. In spite of it all, there is usually something to sing about....
One important piece of advice, in the midst of the present crisis, is to stay at home if we can. For the sakes of all of us, but especially the service workers and people on the front lines, it is important that we self-isolate as much as possible during these times, in order to limit the spread of this deadly virus. Going for a walk, or a run, or a bike ride every day (alone or with our “housemates” for now) instead of taking a trip to the mall, or the movie theatre, or the gym, will make a big difference in controlling this epidemic.
For most of us, home is a pretty good place in which to spend time anyway.....