Sometimes when I get to feeling that maybe it’s a little too hard living here in my part of New Mexico, particularly at nearly a mile and a half above sea level, the land gently reminds me why I’m here.
Right now we’re all waiting, hoping, praying for rain. Not too much rain, mind you, not all at once. That’s a male rain and it leads to floods. No, we want a daily dose of gentle female rain that soaks into the soil.
When it finally does rain it’s like a miracle how little it takes for plants to respond. It’s a desert phenomenon: The air smells fresh, withered grass turns green in hours, flowers blossom overnight.
Everything is in a rush to attract, to reproduce. We don’t get all that much rain. Winters are long. Strategies for survival are a necessity.
There are the hardy ones, the few plants that gamble on rain to come. They get going early so they have longer to reproduce and, perhaps, to store up for the coming times of dry and cold. There are seeds that germinate even though nighttime temperatures are still below freezing and daytime temps aren’t much above. There are plants with tough stems that put out bits of green and even blossom early on, while the rest of the world is still dust. Sometimes they die back and come back. Tough plants for a tough climate.
But critters are desperate for moisture as well. For every early leaf there is an insect or animal that lusts for fresh, moist, tender greens. So plants have developed other strategies as well. Around here it seems everything has thorns, needles, burrs, prickles, or barbs. Sharp ones that always end up in me.
They still have beauty, these tough plants. It’s not always obvious, but it’s there. I walk carefully through the sere grama grass that can slice the skin, and step around pale amaranth stems that appear so deceptively fluffy. So intent am I on not getting scratched, pierced, and scraped that I almost miss it: the chartreuse of a fragile cholla blossom nestled in the midst of sharp cactus needles and the barbs of last year’s tumbleweed.
I am once again reminded why I am here. I am blessed to be reminded every day that all I have to do is look and I will find beauty. I am blessed to be reminded that treasures are most valuable when they are rare.
And I am so very thankful.