Strange Stillness of a Teacher/Forest … Saguaro National Monument

February 28th, 2017 · No Comments

by Jane St. Clair

I like to go out to the Saguaro National Monument because it is a lonely place. Because it changes in different lights and in different seasons so that it never is the same. Because it is a forest unlike any other forest. Because there is nothing else like it.

The Saguaro National Monument is called a forest but it is nothing like your idea of one, a forest with a green canopy of leaves over your head and soft mulch under your feet. Green forest is much noisier than the Monument –your walking makes noise, you hear birds singing and the rustle of animals moving about – furry big-eyed animals with faces like humans. The smell of green forest is lush and green, especially after a rain, when you smell the sensuality of wet earth.

No, the Monument forest is nothing like that. It is more open. It is more still. It is more wilderness. It is just as much about the spaces between the cactus trees as the trees themselves. The spaces enable you to see the shape of each cactus –its arms, its vertical ways. The spaces make this forest quiet.

The Saguaro National Monument is also about the light that makes the saguaros change color. In sunset the whole forest turns red. In twilight the cacti can look golden. In winter when it snows, the saguaros turn gray.

I love the way saguaros just stand in stoic silence, even in broiling desert sun. You can learn from their silence. As Eckhart Tolle writes in his book, Stillness Speaks, “We have forgotten what rocks, plants, and animals know. We have forgotten how to be. We have forgotten how to be still, to be ourselves, to be where life is: here and now.”

“Stillness is the only thing in this world that has no form,” Tolle writes, “but then, it is not really a thing, and it is not of this world.”

The saguaro already knows these things and can teach you them.

We go into wilderness silence to find ourselves, and instead we find something greater than ourselves when silence speaks. We realize only that we are part of something bigger than our individual selves.

John Steinbeck described the still wilderness experience something like this … One time he went out in the wilderness to find his own soul, and he found he just has a little piece of a great big soul. A wilderness is not any good because a little piece of a soul is not any good unless it is whole, unless it is with the rest of the great big soul …


For more information about how to visit the Saguaro National Monument, see Tucson national park information.

Jane St. Clair’s coming-of-age story, “Touched By Copenhagen,” is published in the annual 2017 edition of poemmemoirstory.

Tags: Jane St. Clair · National Parks · nature essay