I Heart Deserts

“This isn’t desert. I take you to Saudi. There is desert. No plants.”

Arab students on a school field trip to the Anza Borrego Desert. How to explain to a desert dweller that the word “desert” has a scientific determination that doesn’t include “no plants?”

I like deserts. I like the light in the deserts, the mystery, the discomfort, the harsh little plants that are often incredibly fragrant, the opportunistic blossoms, the creatures who live there. It’s all great to me. The first couple of years I lived in San Diego we had a VW pop-top camper van and that was great for camping in the desert. Good clearance, good traction, self-contained sleeping quarters — sure it smelled a little like gasoline back there, but hey…  I wish I had that camper now.

When it rained, the ocotillo would blossom — red and beautiful and attracting hummingbirds. In spring the desert would be carpeted with wildflowers. Rainstorms could bring down enormous palm trees in flash floods. Deserts are just one extreme after another and sometimes that extreme is extreme heat under which everything waits as if under the hand an oppressor. One of my favorite spots in the Anza Borrego Desert is Mountain Palm Springs. I have hundreds of photos of it on my dead laptop (rip). The one below isn’t mine.


Where I live now it’s called a “desert” too. I am sure none of my Saudi students would buy that driving by fields of blooming potatoes and waving barley, electric yellow canola blossoms and clover fields, such as those we passed yesterday to reach Great Sand Dunes National Park. The stream running in front of the dunes is sometimes high and fast enough for people to ride a boogie board or inner tube. All around it are mountain plants and animals — antelope, deer, elk, mountain lions, etc. and, uh, mountains. The dunes are eons of sand blown across the San Luis Vally from the San Juan Mountains on the western edge and trapped by the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

And, of course, this is my all-time favorite movie. 🙂


4 thoughts on “I Heart Deserts

  1. When my son got to Israel, he wanted to know where the big sand dunes were. He had been planning to sand surf. The Negev is like the Sonoran desert … very much like. No dunes. No sand surfing.

  2. I love your desert! Last time I saw any kind of desert country was when we took a trip years ago to Mesa Verde, camping and hiking at Navajo National Monument along the way. I could happily have lived and died in that part of the country, with its huge, rounded, naked rocks and pinon pines. [In fact, if pushed to it, I would have admitted I thought I must have lived there in another lifetime; it’s as though the land drew me in and marked me for its own.] Lucky you!

    • Yep. Mesa Verde is not too far from here — four hours and a beautiful drive and I haven’t been there. I think I’m lucky, too. When I moved here, I didn’t have the complete picture of where Monte Vista actually is but it’s where I would have moved if I’d been paying better attention. I love northern New Mexico but this is even better for me — higher, colder and 1 1/2 hours from Taos. I’m so happy every single day that I get to live here.

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