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A Reflection from the Land of the Saguaros

A breeze danced in the wind, mingling with the frantic yips and yaps of coyotes prowling in the distance. We lay in our small tent listening carefully, wondering what those coyotes were up to. They moved around our campground, their sounds mixing in with occasional airplanes taking off and landing in nearby Tucson. Saguaro National Park is like an island in development; from the higher peaks you can even see the line where park ends and neighborhoods begin, and this line has become more prominent in recent years.

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If you look closely, you can see a neighborhood in the distance.

That night in the Sonoran Desert, the night of the coyotes, I let my imagination run wild.

Suddenly the howls, yips and yaps were the Saguaro cactuses themselves, alive and dancing beneath the moonlight. I imagined them full of life under the cover of darkness, and only when the first sun peaked out form behind a rocky mountain did they stop still in their tracks, frozen in animated poses.

So they seem to us, like people with arms flaying, necks stretched high in the sky. Many Native Americans believe they were truly people who live on as our ancestors. You feel something magical walking through a forest of Saguaros. They are like gentle giants, trees of the desert kind.

The Saguaros seem to sing – they have the voices of the birds, the wind. They not only dance and cheer, they communicate with each other too. It occurred to me while catching glimpses of rabbits and coyotes, just how much all the species in this park communicate with each other.

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What struck me in Saguaro is the complex interdependence of the whole system.

We took a nature trail hike and I loved reading the signs. The following summed it up perfectly – it might sound like text from an elementary school science book – but I think every adult could use the reminder:

The interdependency of all life forms begins with the sun, which provides the basic energy to sustain life. The sun’s light furnishes the energy needed by green plants to make food. This energy is converted to food by herbivores, who consume plant seeds, leaves and stems. Still other animals – carnivores – obtain nourishment from plant eaters.

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A plant thrives in the sun’s light.

A rabbit eats the plant leaves.

The rabbit becomes a meal for coyote. 

The original energy of the sun has passed along the chain from the sun, to plants, to animals, and eventually is returned to soil as bacteria and other life enriching organisms.

Life in the desert – from seedling to squirrel, tarantula to turtle – is part of an interdependent chain of life. To destroy one link is to begin the chain’s destruction.

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