Amazing Arizona

Desert plants keeping their distance from each other

    I used to pour over every article and photograph in the Arizona Highways magazines. It seemed wonderful to live in a land of sunshine and little rain, where every road led to adventure and romance. But my attempt to find a job in Arizona ended before I got there, when I discovered that my previous contract in Washington was still in effect. Then I met and married my husband and later followed him to Alaska.

    Now, in my later years, I’ve had many opportunities to visit my “dream state” and the daughter who lives there. I’ve told about the variety and adventure to be found in Arizona in previous Sun Breaks posts. The sunshine is wonderful in late winter-early spring, although daughter and son-in-law have a somewhat jaundiced outlook on the long, hot summers when they can only go outside in the evenings or early mornings.

A plant that pricks…a fishhook barrel cactus

    Arizona is an amazing state. Although it’s true that many of the plants and animals either bite, prick, or poison you, it’s also true that they’re marvelously adapted to the environments where they live.

   It’s true that there are wide, monotonous deserts where the few plants that grow keep their distance from each other. There are also mountains and forests, canyons and dry creeks that run so full in the sudden storms, the water sweeps ahead of it everything that doesn’t get out of the way.

  Animals can be strange, like the javelinas (peccaries) with oversize heads and no necks. They can be familiar and adaptive, like the coyotes that run through back yards.  Our kids, who live near the outskirts of town, opened their front door one morning to find a rattlesnake on their stoop. Some areas are birders’ paradises. If it’s been a wet winter, the first days of spring bring sweeps of wildflowers to the rocky hillsides. Some “belly flowers” are so tiny one must get down on hands and knees to examine them.

When threatened, the chuckwalla wedges itself into a crevice and inflates itself with air. Photo: Ed Mills

Owl family in a saquaro cactus. Photo: Ed Mills

    Arizona people are as varied as the landscape. There are 21 federally recognized native American tribes and over a quarter of the state is reservation land. Many folks trace their ancestors back to the indigenous people of Mexico and to the Spanish explorers who settled there. You can find almost any skin color or accent on the city streets. The population of Arizona swells with an influx of retirees from the colder states every winter. They bring their own homes on wheels or keep a winter home in places like Apache Junction or Yuma.

    Everywhere we go, we share the highways and the beauty spots with visitors like us, who have come to enjoy the sunny playground that is the state of Arizona. Thank you for sharing, Arizonans!

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