The desert is an amazing place. We often think of it as barren, but it is filled with highly adaptable life. Every time I enter one I am struck by the perseverance and ingenuity of these plants. Yet despite their ability to alter themselves to survive with less and less water, they are still threatened by climate change. Each degree rise in temperature change affects them too. The earth becomes more and more parched and sands blow. As I was leaving Tucson, after this beautiful hike, I encountered my first dust storm and I fear there will be more and more of these.
As I walked along behind my party, so I could linger and notice details in the landscape, I was stopped in my tracks by this clump of fairy duster. The background was still dim, since it was before the sun rose over the mountain, but the purple and white flowers seemed electric in the early morning light. As Thich Nhat Hanh said, "The entire universe can be seen in a flower. If we look deeply into a flower, we can see the sun, the soil, the rain, and the gardener." Though here of course, nature was the only gardener. The image below was taken at the Desert Museum, so the efforts of human gardeners are also present.
Nothing fills me with the desire to preserve nature more than connecting with life one-on-one does. Looking through my lens at these miracles of nature I become one with what I am witnessing. I fall in love every time, and as Thich Nhat Hahn also says in Love Letter to the Earth, "When we are in love with someone or something, there is no separation between ourselves and the person or thing we love, We do whatever we can for them and this brings us great joy and nourishment...That is the relationship each of us must have with the Earth if the Earth is to survive, and if we are to survive as well."
Though some plants are way more adaptable than we are, such as trees in the rainforest than can produce a different type of leaf from one year to the next to adapt to less moisture from higher temperatures, or cacti with multiple spines to protect themselves and to store water, human beings have altered the balance of nature too much. Thich Nhat Hanh rightly surmises that the earth needs our help now if it and we are to survive, and to heal the earth we must heal ourselves. He says, "Now we are putting so much strain on the Earth by polluting the atmosphere, warming the planet, and poisoning the oceans that she can't heal on her own."
Seeing the lilacs blooming at the Desert Museum made me realize just how adaptable plants can be and this gives me hope. (Two forms of lilacs bloom and thrive in the desert, the Persian and Australian varieties.) As we continue to alter the landscape, certain species die off to be replaced by others. This has happened naturally since the beginning of life on earth, but we are accelerating the pace and the irreparable harm we are causing is going to cause the extinction of many creatures and not just ourselves. Thich Nhat Hanh points out that the fate of creatures we share our planet with is tied to our own fate. We must care for nature from a place of shared commonality, as we all take refuge on the earth together, and not as some superior being that wants to use and use up nature for our own benefit.
There are so many delicate beings on this earth that posses an innate desire to live and cherish life. My prayer is that we, as a collective, learn to reconnect with them, the earth, and our own desire to preserve and cherish each moment of life we are given on this fragile planet. Read Love Letter to the Earth to find practices you can adopt to change your way of being in the world. The time for a revolution arising from love and not fear or greed is now. There are still so many wondrous encounters left for us to experience if we commit to helping the earth. That is what the hummingbird told me as it flew within inches of my head and hovered there looking into my eyes and soul.