Our First Spring in the Desert
Looking for signs
Spring in the desert remains quiet. Though it is still quite early here in the high altitudes of the mountain west, I know my tulips are already blooming at my old house in town. I search the desert for blossoms and find very little so far. Perhaps I have not yet developed the keen eye necessary for desert spring.
Birds appear to be the surest sign of spring so far in my high desert yard. I have watched pairs of ravens as if in a dance. And the other day on my walk along the gorge, I spotted a pair of black hawks and their synchronized lethargic wing flaps soaring toward me and I nearly cried, so moved by the sight of them. Primarily, we have a nest of sage sparrows just outside our fence. They fly up onto our roof to sing a little song and return swiftly to their nest in the sagebrush. I feel honored they chose to be so near to our home, guarded by a lazy old dog who never wants to come inside.
Of course, the main sign of spring on our mesa top is the wind. We had an early mud season and now we have an early wind season. It's windy everywhere in Taos County, but here it is next level windy. Though we are guarded by the hill to the southeast of us known as Three Peaks, the wind can be fierce. On an average day, winds are reportedly about 25 mph, which might not sound that bad but if there is nothing but open mesa all around you, it feels like a gale force at times. I still go for my daily hikes in the wind, keeping the brim of my hat low to keep the dirt that the wind picks up and blows about out of my face.
I am anxious to start planting. I want spring to be more fruitful next year. I want blossoms to open on my yet to be planted trees and bushes. I was planning to start only two garden beds this year, to start slow, but the building tension of early spring may culminate in a burst of inspired gardening. I vow to plant bulbs in the fall. For now, I see the green in my potted irises, strawberries and chives. My indoor plants are flowering.
Archetypically, the desert is very much about the desolate. A place where nothing seems to be happening on the surface. A land where people are lost and wandering without resources. But the great lesson of the desert is that there is so much more than can be seen. There is an invisible energy rising up that, if harnessed, allows for great creativity and spiritual depth. After their exodus from Egypt, the Jews wandered the desert for 40 years we recalled in our most recent seder ceremony last month. The kabbalists believe the desert symbolizes great nothingness, empty of attachments, releasing ego and creating space for spiritual enlightenment or freedom. Out of this time in the desert, a necessary time filled with questioning and loneliness, the Jews found the greatest blessing, the holy land.
I'm using that story to keep me uplifted as the desert takes its time transitioning into summer. I hold onto the small signs--warmer longer days, the bunny that visits us each morning, the singing sparrows, the upcoming weeds between my stepping stones and most recently, a single desert Indian paintbrush pushing up from beneath a rock. I'm ready to explode into summer like a child forced to sit at their school desk on a sunny day, but spring reminds me to contain my energy, cherish this time to dream and imagine and plan for what's next.