Down in a dusty wash filled with rocks and pebbles, I sat looking up at a large Palo Verde tree, observing and recording notes about this beautiful plant of the Sonoran Desert.
Something tugged, almost an insistent tap on my shoulder, forcing me to turn my gaze away from the tree and above the wash. The late afternoon moon was on the rise, already casting a faint silver light to the landscape. The moon smiled down on a giant Saguaro, its light softening the sharp spines into a glittering halo.
“Let’s come back to our circle and share,” Cyndi called.
Seven of us had gathered to participate in Cyndi’s workshop on plant spirit relationships.
Our morning session focused on discussion of the medicinal plants of the desert and meditation as preparation for our foray into the desert. Nothing prepared me for the magnetic pull of the Saguaro and even as we circled in the wash sharing our experience, the desert giant continued to draw my gaze.
“Choose another plant or the same plant if you wish. Approach it with humility and offer love and gratitude.” Cyndi intoned.
I had no choice but to answer the Saguaro’s call. With bowed head, I stepped out of the wash and slowly picked my way to the cactus, sidestepping Mormon Tea, Burr Sage and Creosote, all plants worthy of my attention any other day. Finally, I stood before the towering Saguaro.
It rose straight and true to the sky, at least three times my height; its tip directly aligned with the silver moon.
I suspected it was young, for it had no arms, but its base was careworn and damaged, whether by fire or animal I did not know.
With arms outstretched I raised my head, and softly spoke:
“Great Saguaro, with humility I welcome you. I welcome you into my heart, my mind, my body and my soul. I offer great gratitude for the blessings you offer, the lessons you can teach me, the beauty and grace you see fit to share.”
Like a bolt of lightning, a jolt of energy pierced my left index finger. The energy filled my hand before shooting up my arm, through my heart and down my right arm and into my right hand. Like an electric current, the energy cycled through my body. My hands grew heavy and full, as if I was holding the weight of the Saguaro itself.
“I see your damaged body, tell me how you are,” my thoughts went out along the current to the Saguaro.
“I am strong,” the Saguaro answered.
I knew it to be true, and was overcome with inspiration.
“Thank you for sharing your energy with me,” I silently intoned.
Several days later, I sat across the breakfast table from my husband Tom. Tuesdays normally meant a trip to the health club for me, but on this particular day, the image of the Saguaro rose clear in my mind.
“I’m going hiking today,” I told him.
Tom looked at me with surprise.
“I need to visit the Saguaros,” I explained.
After filling my canteen and my backpack with a snack, I set off down the road to the Lost Goldmine Trail, a path I knew wound its way through a great forest of Saguaros.
The parking lot at the trail head held only one car, which pleased me, for I desired private time with the forest.
The early morning cool burned off quickly. As I stopped for a drink of water, I also shed my outer layer. Tugging the long sleeves of my t-shirt down to my wrists, I continued, the morning air fresh against my cheeks.
The winter rains had been sporadic, yet the desert plants put the meager water to good use, and the land around me was green with promise.
Cyndi’s teachings bubbled up as I recognized Creosote. The Native Americans knew this plant to bring harmony with the sun. Giving thanks, I plucked a few leaves and chewed them slowly, relishing the toughness. Wolfberries crossed my path from time to time, heavy with tiny green fruit, and I mentally noted the place so I could return to harvest.
The trail wound its way around, down through the occasional wash, and climbed steadily until I found myself walking along the base of the mountain. Barbed wire separated the trail from national forest land.
As the trail turned slightly north, fingers of sunlight painted the jagged mountains in brilliant coppers and golds.
Throughout my walk, Saguaros populated the desert land on my right, but I knew the place I needed to be—a place of complete immersion in the forest.
I arrived mid-morning. Great Saguaros of every shape and size circled around me, spanning the desert floor beneath my feet, and rising above me up the mountainside.
Saguaros bordered the trail, forcing it to twist and turn around their stout bodies.
As I stood in their midst, I felt their welcome.
Sliding my pack off my back, I sat on a boulder and drank deep from my canteen. The forest was thick, and as the breeze stirred my hair, I thought I caught a wisp of a song bouncing from cactus to cactus. Is there a song of the desert?
The Saguaros were peppered with holes created by Gila Woodpeckers searching for insects. The Saguaros compartmentalize the holes, scarring them over into safe havens for nesting desert birds. Perhaps the music I heard came from a small wren nestled deep within one of these giants.
Sitting on the boulder, the sun warm on my back, I closed my eyes and drifted into a light meditation.
How long I sat there is uncertain, but after a time I roused myself and stood, arms outstretched, facing east. Chanting my prayer, I turned ever so slowly to greet the Saguaro marching from each direction.
Once again, energy poured into my left hand, not as shocking as the first time, but rather like a firm handshake. The energy cycled through me and I felt sturdy and strong. Strong enough to weather whatever life brings me, strong enough to serve Spirit. As the energy dissipated, I knew Saguaro has come to me as one of the many guides I have encountered on my path.
Our connection told me I could count on Saguaro’s strength whenever I felt challenged.
Kathy O’Dwyer moved to Aravaipa Canyon Ranch, a retreat center located in the pristine wilderness of Aravaipa Canyon, Arizona, at the age of 56. While living and working on the ranch Kathy gave birth to her book Breathing Blue which chronicles her two years in Aravaipa. A former lifelong Chicagoan, she spent the better part of her career in the corporate world in office management and business communications before transitioning to a life of service to others. A Reiki Master and massage therapist, Kathy’s studies focused on Native American healing traditions. From these pursuits, her true passion for writing emerged. Through her writing Kathy not only found her voice, but also manifested a life of grace, purpose and fulfillment.
Since the publication of Breathing Blue, Kathy has moved to Gold Canyon, Arizona and currently lives with her husband, their three dogs, and Miss Kitty, at the base of the Superstition Mountains. She continues to expand her knowledge of healing traditions. A second book is in progress, and she now facilitates nature inspired writing groups both out of her home, and at other venues. Kathy’s blog is www.breathofblue.com.
Editor: April Dawn Ricchuito
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