The Desert Spring Whispers

May 1st, 2014 · No Comments

by Jane St. Clair

If I could offer you just one word to describe the way spring comes to the Sonoran desert, the word would be “soft.” Spring walks into the desert on soft feet so quietly that you cannot hear her footsteps approaching. Sometimes she touches you as a soft warmth that brushes against your face like the memory of a lover’s caress. Desert spring enters soft here the Sonora, as soft as clouds scudding by in a nonthreatening sky.


1 Desert Spring Jane St Clair

When you’re in the desert spring, you don’t hear robins, and you don’t see flowered cherry trees and tall purple lilacs like you do back East. In the Sonoran desert you will not see a dramatic transformation of black stick trees thick with ice turning into the green pliable new growth of spring.

The song of desert spring is much softer, much subtler than that – it is about the pale yellow and brownness of winter 2 Yellow and brown desert winter Jane ST Clairslowly becoming a million shades of pastel green – subtle shades, April shades.

Pastel Desert Jane St. Clair

Spring gently asks winter to make his departure, and then her drama accelerates. Palo Verdes burst into bright yellow lighting against a turquoise sky every bit as electric as a Van Gogh. 4 Palo Verde tree in spring

Snow and ice that live on top of the Catalinas in winter melt and trickle down the mountain sides, filling the dry streams and thirsty empty river beds. Running Wash in Catalina Mountains, Arizona Suddenly wild flowers are in bloom, and they always surprise you when you make a sudden turn on a trail or arrive at a peak where you can see them, like Wordsworth coming upon his host of golden daffodils dancing and fluttering in the wind.

6 Desert Spring flowers Catalina Mountains

Bouvardia carry fire red blossoms up and down their thorny arms, and ocotillo 7 Ocotillo Bloom in Spring Desertcarry theirs like candlesticks lit in flame.


Cactus produce their tough waxy flowers8 Sahuaro Cactus Flower that rest absurdly on their tops like Easter bonnets. A mama quail and her chicks parade and strut their chic feathers like 5th Avenue society types. 9 Quail Tucson Arizona Desert Baby snakes and bunnies who have not learned to hide now hide in plain sight. Spring is its own time like no other season, and with it come these flowers and animals, unlike any other time. As Chuang Tzu wrote, “An insect of summer cannot talk about ice.”

Spring is the only soft time on the Sonora and all too soon the sun becomes a cruel torch in the sky that burns down the subtlety of the season, and turns the desert into the brown dormant ashes of her summer inferno.

Tucson Arizona Sunset Jane St. Clair

Yet within her gentleness, spring is stronger and more steadfast. And she leaves you a promise, like a promise from a trusted friend, that she will return again same place, same time, next year.
11 Single Desert Wildflower

Tags: Arizona · Arizona photography · Jane St. Clair · nature essay · Oro Valley · Tucson · Tucson Sonoran Desert · Tucson Tourism