I grew up in the desert—although our yard did not reflect that. Albuquerque, New Mexico gets less than ten inches of rain a year, but I lived in the more fertile Rio Grande River Valley, in a city well supplied with aquifer water. We had grass and pine trees in the front yard, a horse pasture and garden in the back, and cottonwood trees on every side.
But I also grew up learning about cactus. If we drove up onto the mesa, a wide, flat area on the west side of the river, I could see various types of cacti and experience blowing sand and desert heat. I learned the names of cholla and prickly pear cacti and understood the precious value of water, even if the well from which our family drew its water never ran dry.
Our valley oasis in the midst of the desert was particularly clear when we flew in and out of Albuquerque on various trips. A ribbon of green literally cut through the desert, meandering along either side of the Rio Grande, through town and beyond in both directions, as far as the eye could see. Once we left the valley, flying west, all I could see was vast expanses of undulating shades of brown. There was beauty in the brown—spectacular shapes and shades of color—but the underlying desert showed through clearly.
Now I live in a very different type of desert. Stately saguaro cacti and tall palo verde trees (translated as “green stick,” for its green bark) actually make Tucson appear much greener than most of Albuquerque—at least beyond that fertile river valley. As Henry and I are learning about our own new microclimate, I’ve discovered that I am once again living in a fertile river valley. Although the Santa Cruz River runs nearby, it is dry for much of the year. The underground aquifer, however, has watered generations of crops in this area, mostly cotton, making our particular patch of ground more fertile than most.
Henry and I have moved a lot over the twenty-plus years of our marriage. One thing I’ve recognized is that there’s always more to learn about each habitat we inhabit. As summer slides into fall here—which is still plenty hot, but at least we can begin working on our backyard landscaping projects again in early mornings—we’re beginning to register for local gardening and desert-landscaping classes. They will teach us about the particularities of our new home, and how to garden in sync with the climate and the native species, rather than in conflict with them.
Meanwhile, I’m enjoying the barrel cactus blossoms, which are peaking in these late-summer weeks—something I have not experienced before. There is always more to learn about this precious, God-given world we inhabit.
What have you learned this week? Where has God’s incredible creation spoken to you?