What Happens When a Vibrant Desert Garden Uplifts You

Have you ever felt the pressure of a conference? Board meetings. Committee Chair. Workshop Presenter. Agent Pitch Appointment.

Voices crawling up my skin, intruding my thoughts.

Members milling in tight spaces, causing dizziness.

Recirculated air scraping my throat.

I had to find peace and quiet.

After unloading an armful of books, folders, and board packets in my hotel room, I filled my water bottle with complimentary cucumber water and rushed out the door. I sucked in a lungful of fresh desert air.

A cactus-lined gravel path provided by the Lowes Ventana Canyon Resort led me up a hill. The beauty of the Saguaros and mesquite slowed my steps.

But it was a young skunk in the bushes that halted them completely. Once I figured out he wasn’t going to spray me, a smile blossomed on my face. I was used to driving by their dead carcasses and holding my breath close to my home in northeast Washington. But that day, I was blessed to watch the little fella innocently waddle about the brush, exploring.

Later it was the butterfly garden tucked away in rare patches of shade.

With each step, I began to take notice of the different varieties of cacti surrounding me: Towering Saguaros, some without arms and others with several; cacti that resembled Mickey Mouse ears; barrel, flower, and tree-shaped. I took the time to read the signs describing them.

Before I knew it, I was relaxed. A calm presence washed over me as the desert heat massaged my shoulders.

I stopped in front of a regal-looking Saguaro. It appeared soldier-like, guarding its territory. My Lyft driver shared on the ride to the hotel: It takes a Saguaro cactus 70 years to grow an arm. This one had several arms placing his age around 250 years old or more.

I felt honored to be in its presence.

I had to touch it!

I hadn’t been to the Arizona desert for about 40 years. And don’t remember every running a finger over a Saguaro spike. Unlike a porcupine quill, it was strong. Somehow commanding respect.

Then I moved to the Clock-face Prickly Pear with its thick, rubbery skin that reminded me of a seal hide.

I stretched a finger, ready to feel the spikes of the Teddy Bear Cholla, but recoiled. It frightened me––all the little spines sticking out like tiny village men holding up swords to protect their fortress.

Instead, I meandered uphill to the waterfall. Two ladies sat on the rock bench near the water. I didn’t stay long, wanting quiet time of my own, knowing I’d make time to come back and listen to the rush of water against aged stone.

The trail to a small platform reminded me of my earlier years when my family and I vacationed for 3 weeks in Arizona, visiting Bryce Canyon, the Grand Canyon, and Powell Lake. What a thrill it was to dive off tall rock cliffs into bath-like water.

But that afternoon I was not searching for a thrill.

Continuing on, I found the small platform seen from my hotel room balcony. I sat and soaked in the desert beauty and its warmth that overlooked the resort and historic town of Tucson.

In that moment I’d found my peace and quiet.

In that moment my energy was recharged and I was ready to enjoy the rest of the conference.

In that moment my spirit was renewed as I soaked in the beauty of the Creator’s hand.

In that moment…  

During life’s storms, in what moments were you able to find a sliver of peace?

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  1. I loved sitting beside you in Sabina Canyon, you with that camera: the roadrunner, cactus, the hotel, all was grand. I’m glad you got away for a bit and now share that relaxation with us. I’m ready to go back too. I told my husband that if they’d turn that resort into an assisted living facility, we’d move there tomorrow!

    1. Carmen Peone says:

      The tour was fun. I was in good company. And the roadrunner, what a treat. Great idea, Jane. I may have to join you!

  2. Carmen Peone says:

    Thank you, Melody. I wish I could have brought the desert garden home with me. Or at least the warm weather!

  3. Alice Trego says:

    Nice post, Carmen. I think I saw you that day, filling your water bottle with cucumber water. I saw you purposefully push open the door and purposefully begin your walk on the trail that was dotted with all the glories of the Sonoran Desert. I envied you then as I also feel content when I commune with nature, but then I remembered I had captured a moment or two earlier on by taking a few moments on my balcony to enjoy the desert surroundings and wonder in awe at the nature that surrounded me. I’m going to have to walk among nature more often like you do!

    1. Carmen Peone says:

      Thank you, Alice. Even at home, my release is riding horses. Nature has a way of deflecting all busy stress. It was glorious! I think I could have all of our conferences in the southwest. That region lifts me up and energizes my mind. Boy, that garden was something! So was the balcony view. I keep looking at my pictures. Cactus grows down there like pine tree up here. I love it!

  4. Melody Biehl says:

    As I was reading your blog I too just felt peace right along with you as you shared vividly the landscape the life of a butterfly and a skunk the waterfall.

  5. Great blog, Carmen. It was a great conference, wasn’t it? I enjoyed my time with you, too, Madam President!

    1. Carmen Peone says:

      It was a fabulous conference, Mary! It’s always fun to spend time with you! I can’t wait to dig into Maureen.