Desert Love

Some people pass through the desert southwest on their travels without feeling the pull to explore. Zoom, right on by. I even heard one person say, “I drove through New Mexico. It is just wasteland.” Not me; I first felt the call of the desert 40+ years ago and it never left, even though I moved on, until recently.

sonoran desertAs a young Midwestern woman living in the Sonoran Desert, life was exotic, with different smells, new sounds, new flora, new critters. I often read the naturalist Joseph Wood Krutch (Krootz). He wrote with deep passion for the natural world, especially the desert.  His books include,  “Desert Year” and “The Voice of the Desert”, where he wrote beautiful descriptions of the desert, but he also had early insights into the care and conservation of our lands. My favorite quote back then: ” If people destroy something replaceable made by mankind, they are called vandals; if they destroy something irreplaceable made by God, they are called developers.

I lived throughout the greater west since leaving the desert, often in high, arid zones. Sometimes I saw hints of the southwest deserts in the high plains or foothills: a prickly pear over there, a dry sandy wash nearby. A clan of coyotes howling at dawn. Nothing, however, stands in for the allure of the desert. Maybe its the contrast of sharp, thorny plant life clinging to jagged terrains with the gentle beauty of a Mexican poppy or a cooing quail.

Now, in my early retirement years, I am back, this time in the Chihuahuan desert! Life is affordable here, but that is only one consideration. While the Chihuahuan Desert looks more sparse than the Sonoran, recent studies suggest that the level of biodiversity (array of plants, animals, and soils) here is even higher than in other deserts. I have even seen my old Wyoming friends, the Pronghorn (antelope), this time grazing close to the Mexican border.  Great beauty lives here are well. Each night I sit outside and watch an endless, magnificent sunset-even a mediocre night is stupendous compared to other places. The sky fills with streaks of color and golden ribbons of fading light. Finally, the sky turns an ombre fabric of gentle pink and blue and the volcanic peaks become silhouettes against the colors.  Despite the massive growth of people and industry in the southwest since I first arrived, I can still find a sense of peace.

Rockhound State Park, New Mexico yucca at sunset

The Chihuahua Desert with signature agave in bloom

Does the desert call to you, at least for a while? You must get into the desert and learn about life here to make the trip worthwhile.  The best places to start are nature centers, wildlife refuges, and museums. In New Mexico, both Las Cruces and Albuquerque have living nature centers (part of the state park system). The Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum outside Tucson is a great introduction as well.

Deserts of the Southwest