from- Swimming with Swans: vignettes of our three year journey between homes
November 2011 (Fountain Hills, AZ)
During my daily walks along local paths in town and in the surrounding desert area, I’ve noticed Saguaro Cacti with large dark brown “bite” patches along their base up to and including places way high above my head. At first I thought perhaps they were indeed, bites from local fauna that somehow didn’t get hurt eating the spiky spines along with the juicy flesh. Think: deer bites on Aspen tree trunks. But it didn’t seem to fit with the height limit of most animals. So, I got to thinking maybe it was some sort of naturally occurring disease that helps to maintain eco-balance such as the Pine Beetles in the Colorado forests.
I did a bit of Google research and discovered that these dark brown “bite” patches are a result of a variety of causes: freezing, sun-scald, stress and mistreatment in transplanting into urban landscapes from the wild, and last but not least:
I found myself repeating the term:
Bacterial Necrosis – Bacterial Necrosis – Bacterial Necrosis
A sort of mantra while walking in and among those Saguaros.
A disease specific to the Saguaro Cactus starting at age 30 or so; soft spots in flesh get stinky, insects invade….
A disease that usually plagues urban Saguaro Cacti due to too much moisture; needs help from the “cactus doctor” to enable its own self-healing process.
In the wild, Saguaro Cacti rarely if ever contract this disease, much less die from it.
In short, the disfigurement and scarring of these plants are a natural part of their life cycle whatever the cause. They continue to grow graceful arms and gain majestic heights to the ripe old age of 200 years, scars and all.
They are the Redwoods of the Desert.
I found myself continuing my walks with this mantra in my mind. It wouldn’t let go of me.
There was more for me in this than the biology of the phrase.
More than likely, the scarring I’ve seen on any individual Saguaro Cactus during my walks is the natural result of temperature extremes: freezing then sun-scald, freezing then sun-scald; all part of seasonal cycles within the Sonoran Desert. A forest of Saguaro Cacti with significant disfigurement and scarring due to whatever cause looks like it could be battling some life threatening infestation. In reality it is a magnificent testament to the beauty that can be found while in the midst of affliction.
We all know afflictions are a natural part of our lives. The “stinky” parts of life aren’t forever, though they are often easily seen and judged by others. But then again, the “stinky” parts aren’t usually life threatening. All will heal in time, drawing character lines across physical, emotional and spiritual dimensions.
Thanks to the Saguaro Cacti I walk among most mornings, I can see the truth spoken to me:
“In His time. In His time. He makes all things beautiful in His time.”
…and ‘bacterial necrosis’ makes for a better sounding mantra than ‘freezing sun-scald.’ Wouldn’t you agree?