Bloomin’ Cactus

Hedgehog Cactus Bloom

Hedgehog Cactus Bloom © 2011 Bo Mackison

I saw this cactus covered with these most marvelous bright red blossoms as I pulled into the casita where I am staying in Tucson.

I’ve been anticipating the cactus bloom since I arrived; I was beginning to think I would miss out on the spring blossoms. So when I noticed these cactus plants in bloom this afternoon, it brought a smile to my face.

Now, I admit I haven’t spent much of today smiling. It’s been a rough day. My mom, who will be celebrating her 86th birthday next week, was rushed to the hospital yesterday evening with a mechanical defibrillator problem. Repair surgery was scheduled for today, and then postponed. It was decided the small city hospital she was in could not do the surgery, so a transfer to a larger hospital 100 miles away was initiated.

Today was a day filled with phone calls to and from my husband — he was trying to manage the medical issues from Wisconsin, to the nursing staff and cardiologists, and to family members. Due to some complications with travel, and the immediacy of the surgery, it was decided that I would remain in Arizona. Sherpa headed to my family’s hometown to manage the hospital routine.

Layers of Red

Layers of Red © 2011 Bo Mackison

Now surgery is scheduled for Monday morning, wehave figured out our schedules, and everyone is resting comfortably.

And I am in Arizona.

I thought I would be okay with the decision. After all, the surgery is a minor repair, and my mother plans to return to her home after a few days in the hospital. But by the fourteenth phone conversation of the day, I was worn out with worry, confused by the multiple changes in plans, and on the verge of a panic attack. I knew I had to calm myself.

I kept thinking of those cactus flowers just down the road. I had wanted to photograph them just before sunset. The sun was setting. I only had a few minutes to gather my camera gear and check out the flowers. But here I was, crying like a baby, gasping for my next breath.

But I was determined to photograph those flowers in the waning light. And I wanted to get myself back in control too. So I stuffed Kleenex in one pocket and a filter in my other pocket, and I grabbed my camera and tripod. I’d like to tell you that I wiped my eyes and then calmly took these  photos. Not true, though. No, I couldn’t quite quit crying and sniffing, but I finally managed to set up my camera and tripod.

For the first few shots, I couldn’t focus because of my tears. But I really wanted the chance to capture the beauty of these flowers more than I wanted to keep on crying and feeling panicky.

Bloomin' Cactus

Bloomin’ Cactus © 2011 Bo Mackison

I took some deep breaths. I wiped my eyes dry. I took more photos.

Then I noticed my surroundings. I watched the last of the sunlight cast light and shadows on the Santa Rita Mountains. I watched a cactus wren do some maintenance work on her nest. I watched two striking black and yellow butterflies dance around the ocotillo blooms. I took many more deep breaths and calmed down.

Later I made a more calls to check on things. My mom is stable and is good hands in the cardiac care unit. All is okay–both in the Midwest and here in Arizona.

In eleven days, Sherpa will fly out and we’ll pack the car, turn it a little east and a little north, and drive home. We’ll make a stop on the way to visit my mother.

I’m not too accustomed to handling family medical emergencies alone. I’m sure not used to being 1800 miles away, but today, even though it was a complicated decision, it seems to be the right decision. Right now we are all calmly waiting for the next step.

Today I learned more about living solo in Arizona than I’d bargained for, but all is going well.

About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. Bo, bless you! Goodness, how difficult for you while your mother had surgery. My thoughts are with you and with your mother. May your mother be hardy and mended when you visit and your visit be joyful. The cactus bloom captures are stunning.

    • Bo Mackison says:

      It’s a lesson to learn, Anna, accepting where you are and doing the best you can in that situation. My mother is doing okay, but we’ll all be relieved when she’s back home and the hospital stuff is behind her.

  2. Arts Web Show says:

    Wow, i often forget that some cacti can flower.
    Nicely captured, especially the close up

  3. You did well, Bo! You have a wonderful Sherpa and the cactus blossoms were something you needed. I always found peace in the desert too.

    • Bo Mackison says:

      Yes, there is peace in the desert, and all is well with my family back in the Midwest. I am very grateful.

  4. Joanne Keevers says:

    Sending you and Sherpa my love, Bo, and a great big hug too. I love how you describe the comfort you found in all of the beauty of nature surrounding you. And you have an amazing man in Sherpa too! Here’s hoping you mother is well on the way to recovery by the time you get to see her. 🙂

    • Bo Mackison says:

      Joanne, that was one of the amazing thins I was able to return too again and again–finding comfort in the simple ways of nature. I am very grateful to have that ability. And yes, Sherpa is a good man!

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