July 12, 2011

Tucson. April, 2010

I have been walking along University Blvd in Tucson for years, past this fence of desiccated ocotillo stalks, dry as dust. Then this year, presto! Heavy spring rains awakened the stalks, they took root, went into leaf, bloomed. A living fence. How miraculous and beautiful. What a wonderful reminder of nature’s powers of transfiguration and renewal. Fouquieria splendens, better known as ocotillo, also known as desert coral, coachwhip, Jacob's staff and vine cactus, although it is not a true cactus. Because of their light weight and decorative patterns, ocotillo stalks have been used as walking sticks for centuries. Protected by state laws, beloved by those who live among them in Arizona and Northern Mexico, they can survive on as little as eight inches of rain a year. Or, as evidenced here, go dormant for long periods before blooming again when conditions are encouraging. Couldn’t we all learn a lesson from that?

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