I’ve lived in the Northeast of the United States all my life. Therefore, my conception of “the desert” was the Sahara, just endless miles of white sand. Much of Southern California seems to fit that bill too! However, when my daughter and her family moved to Phoenix, although very different from anything I was ever akin to and dry as dry can be, there is life everywhere!
I’m not a city or suburban kind of gal but I want to see my grandbabies grow up, so when I started searching for property, it had to be close enough, but, yet, far enough away. I found a gem of a property in the desert highlands. I drove out there yesterday and easily call it “home” even though there is no building! It is so beautiful, quiet, peaceful, interesting, challenging —I could go on, but I think you get the point! It is also teeming with life.
Sadly for prospectors, indigenous tribes and homesteaders, they had no idea that this rocky, dry land has an abundant aquifer far below. I realize how fortunate I am that we will easily have water by just making a phone call and emptying our bank account! However, yesterday as I walked I realized just how wonderfully the desert provides and I’m really just a beginner at this.
The picture above is indicative of nature’s provisions and beauty. Although I understand a saguaro cactus will make you pretty sick, and the ocotillo plant is basically a sticker bush from hell, they are beautiful! Saguaro’s offer great entertainment when traveling too, each one of these giants has it’s own personality. They are majestic and beautiful. I haven’t checked into the benefits of the ocotillo, I’m just afraid of them!
If you are going to retire in the desert, a good thing to do is to educate yourself on survival skills and learn what the desert floor has to offer, other than rattlesnakes! Two plants that have great benefits are the prickly pear and desert sage which grow like weeds. They grow everywhere and are nearly impossible to kill as most weeds prove themselves to be.
I love to use the sage when cooking soup. My, my, my, it adds a rich flavor to almost anything. However, what I didn’t know about sage is the natural healing qualities the plant offers. Using the leaves topically can enhance the healing process. Sage can be used to give relief from an upset stomach and other digestive tract issues “to the very end”. Sage also has anti-bacterial qualities. Here is a great website, Natural Living Ideas, that offers 20 different ways sage can be used. You don’t have to be in the desert, you can grow sage almost anywhere, including inside. However, I find great comfort knowing the power of this abundant weed!
The other plant pictured is the prickly pear. Now let me tell you, you don’t want to be falling into one of these buggers. Yes, those spikes are as sharp as a needle and can really put a hurting on you! But see those cute little polka dots? Each dot is hundreds of mini-spikes. Touch one of those by accident and you’ve got some four-letter-word language coming from the leader of the church choir! They are NASTY with a capital N.A.S.T.Y.!!!!!!!! HOWEVER (see, Mr. Nasty capitalized cactus, the however you offer can be capitalized too!)
These cacti grow everywhere, they are like rag-weed in the Northeast.
They are tough, resilient, and life-giving as all-get-out!
I’ve actually seen evidence of the free-range cattle and donkey’s that have taken a bite. DumbASS donkeys! Actually, these animals are smart. Prickly pear offer a plethora of goodness: hydration, vitamins and antioxidants. They are rich in nutritional goodness. However, if you are a human being you need to learn how to handle with care, not just bite into like an ass! I’ve not tried it yet, but I understand that the paddles are good to grill, or cut up in a salad and eat raw.
The fruit of this plant is ridiculously good. Although many people make jelly from it, I think adding sugar isn’t necessary. I took some home the last trip. Imagine going through TSA at the airport with a box of prickly pear! Actually, I put it in my checked bags and left a love note on top. “Dear TSA, if you happen to physically check this box . . . please be careful, yada, yada, yada.”
What about those little polka dots? Each fruit has thousands of mini-prickles but if you learn how to handle them, oh my, inside is the most luscious, juiciest, yummiest and quite healthy meat. You can eat it raw, make juice, wine, add to salad, the uses are limitless.
As I have learned more about the abundance of the desert, I have more confidence moving there. Yesterday I had a lot of time to think as I walked around, with caution, a walking stick and a 357 Magnum (The desert also offers, let’s say, certain death if you’re not careful!). Here’s what I contemplated. Life can be a desert. Life can be dry, harsh, unforgiving and it can be overwhelming and dangerous, like the flats and mountains of the Sonoran. However, can it possibly be true that even in the midst of the harsh, dry times of life there is abundance? Could it possibly be that there is health, healing and life-giving-nutrients for body, mind, and spirit even in the driest times of life? I have been there too, and yes, I believe if we look for it —- there is hope, love, health, and strength giving abundance.
I hope that you are living through a wonderful time of life. However, especially during the holidays, it can be difficult for many. I hope that you can find solace, strength, and healing in the midst of your desert.
Enjoying the Adventure!