Confession time. I did not connect the name of the state, Sonora, with the desert of the same name. What can I say? I am more of a Pacific Northwest landscape kind of girl and didn’t spend a lot of time thinking of others. Prior to our move, everything I knew about the desert, I could count on one hand. When I heard the word, I conjured images of Georgia O’ Keefe’s colorful, almost succulent paintings and the smooth, soft lines of Ansel Adams’ photographs.
We arrived in San Carlos in the middle of June. It was very, well, brown. The desert between Hermosillo and San Carlos appears harsh. Jagged mountain peaks rise brazenly from nearly barren land. Hints of green appear every now and then as the landscape is dotted with brush and trees that seem to struggle in the heat. There is nothing to mute the brilliance of the sun in the endless, blue sky above. My eyes hurt looking at it all. Where were the six different shades of Georgia’s orange? And Ansel’s perfectly manicured sand; you know, the fluffy stuff?
I asked because all I was seeing was, well, brown. Succulent? Soft? Try knife-like. I was also pretty sure that was not sand in this desert, but dust. This was later confirmed when I stepped out of the car on our first gas stop, and a strong wind blew it in my face. (Side note: Wind chill is measured and reported in the desert. Summertime wind chills are regularly between 117-121 degrees Fahrenheit!)
On various excursions we examined our new environment more closely. One misstep on a climb up an ancient volcano, led to a piece of rock piercing my son’s hiking boot and cutting his foot. I made the mistake of not wearing long pants on a horseback ride. (With wind chills of 121 degrees, are you kidding me?) My legs rubbed against the brush and trees and came away bloodied. Don’t ever grab a cactus if you slip on a mountain. After a morning trimming our bougainvillea, my arms matched my legs perfectly. How does one even hold a palm frond to fan a person? Those are barbed too. Every single thing in this desert is tined, thorny, or prickly!
Summer is our rainy season. In a blink of an eye, it all changes. There is an explosion of green on the mountains and on the ground. If one looks closely, bursts of purple, yellow, white, and orange appear. Water holes fill, beckoning the abundant wildlife to come closer for a drink. It has taken time, but my notion of a desert is changing. (Nothing personal, Georgia or Ansel.) I am slowly recognizing and appreciating the beauty this desert hides behind its spikes, and spines, and sharp edges. It is an artist in its own right, protecting its creation.