Sonoran Spring, Desert April – Tucson, Arizona

by Jane St. Clair

A cowboy/artist named Maynard Dixon once said, “The American West is the real deal. It is a spiritual space.” I would add, especially the Sonoran spring.

Others have felt that way too. Georgia O’Keeffe, D.H. Lawrence, John Steinbeck, Theodore Roosevelt – each fell under the spell of magic cathedral mountains, endless skyscapes, fiery sunsets, and the black starry nights that touch you in your deepest soul places here out West.

But you have to be open to it.

When I first came here, I didn’t see these things. It was so hot that the water in my eyes dried up. The air smelled like old musky dust, and all the plants were dry and withering up. Everything needed a good rain, I thought. And I thought these people here could use some good wide shade trees like the ones back home in Illinois. Everything was dead-looking — it depressed me.

It took me years to understand the subtlety of my new desert home. That she really does have seasons but her seasons are very subtle. Spring does not come, like Shakespeare wrote, “with daisies pied and violets blue,” but rather spring here comes subtly in sugary pastels. All the dead plants were not dead after all. With almost imperceptible subtle slowness, they come back to life in spring.

I also did not know that a place with no spongy earth or carpets of forest moss, with no smells of wet loam and no warm spring rains could be full of new growth and germinating greenness. I did not know that the dry still deadness of the desert could suddenly surprise you with a host of poppies, and that the quiet pastels of cactus and creosote could suddenly give way to a field of dreams.

Palo Verde trees make yellow April flowers that beam against the turquoise sky, in a perfectly wild contrast, and then they drip delicate yellow blossoms on the ground. They stand so gracefully and beautifully! like a Tchaikovsky ballerina in a yellow tutu swirling and dissolving into his music.

Walt Whitman said of spring in the Midwest, “Oh wonderful, wonderful, and then again most wonderful!” He could become tipsy at the sight of it. He should have seen that in the Sonora, in April, warm soft winds come, bringing spring. I am finally able to see it everywhere.

Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote, “It is not enough that yearly, down this hill, April comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.”

But then again, she did not live in Arizona.