Desert Twilight

Sonoran Desert Twilight

Sonoran Desert Twilight

Seeing form with the whole body and mind.
Hearing sound with the whole body and mind.
One understands it intimately.
~ Eihen Dogen

When I am in the desert, I have two responsibilities — to listen, to see.

I watch as nature busies herself doing the quiet things not easily seen, sometimes only sensed. A lizard scooting from under a cooling rock. Cactus wrens darting from their nest holes in the saguaros to the top of the cactus, on alert, the look-out. Then swooping about, catching an insect or two, and a return to the nest inside the huge saguaro.

A pack of coyotes sing. A second pack joins, in harmony. Silence. Then the who-ooo of an owl. I hear it, I never see a twitch of movement.

I am content, also, to hear the sound of silence. Silence has a sound. I feel surrounded by the desert, as if she has a hold on me. The desert wakens all my senses — sacred senses.

Now is the time to remember that all you do is sacred. ~ Hafiz

I stayed in the desert overnight. There was no roughing it for me. My days of primitive camping ended decades ago. This time I had my car, a sleeping bag rated warm enough to keep me comfortable in the desert night. (The low reached 38˚F — not too cold.)Β  I had a backpacker stove and a French press coffee cup. I had coffee and soup in a box for dinner and granola and fruit for breakfast and lots of bottled water. I had a lantern. I had the necessities. I also had my iPad, a last minute addition to my camp gear. I was set. Luxury camping.

When I woke up at 4 AM and couldn’t fall back to sleep, I sat in the car and read The Turquoise Ledge by Leslie Marmon Silko on my iPad. Now that is really desert camping in luxury. I didn’t wait the first touch of daylight to make my coffee. The sun rises late in the desert — I don’t know why — and I got cold. I finally maneuvered in the dark and heated water and made my first cup of coffee by the yellowish-orange hazy lights of Tucson reflecting off the clouds.

By the time it was light enough to follow a trail and not walk into the desert plants, I was dressed in layers and had my hiking stick and coffee cup in hand. I followed a trail along an arroyo and was quite pleased to be out in the desert, alone, at dawn — until a pack of coyotes ran across the trail twenty feet from where I stood.

Once I got my heart out of my throat and back into my chest where it belonged, I turned around and hiked back to camp. All those sacred senses were on alert.

But it was a great explore.

My first overnight camping trip in the desert.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC.Β  She is exploring the Sonoran desert.

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. beautiful shot and a great adventure! ~jeju

  2. I’m so impressed!! What an adventure. Me too – I would have been terrified at the sound and sight of coyotes..but then – look at the stunning sunrise you captured. WOW..WOW..WOW!

    • Bo Mackison says:

      I wasn’t worried about the coyote howling. I seem to hear coyotes wherever I live — in Wisconsin, in Tucson, and of course in the mountains west of Tucson. But when I see them, up close and in living color, I am startled! They seem to not be as cautious around humans as I would have expected.

  3. What a wonderful sight in the morning. I can feel the daylight creeping into the desert landscape. Wonderful colors. How was the coffee? πŸ™‚

    • Bo Mackison says:

      The morning light did creep, a little too slowly for me. Twilight, after sunset, was a much more intense experience, color-wise. As for the coffee? The BEST!

  4. Joanna Paterson says:

    Wow. What an experience! I wish I was there. I feel I am there somehow through your words.

    • Bo Mackison says:

      Yes, Joanna, a sacred experience. I do not feel alone in the desert, but accompanied by many others in spirit. πŸ™‚

  5. Wow! Wow, wow! What a great adventure, Bo. Car camping sounds like my kind of gig. Especially rising before the sun, making coffee and heading out at first light to experience the desert waking up. The coyotes were probably just as surprised by your appearance as you were by theirs. So well written I was just there with you! You have such a gift.

    • Bo Mackison says:

      Debi, you are so right. “Wow! Wow! Wow!” That about sums the whole experience in three words. I keep thinking nothing can exceed this experience, but I have been wrong on all accounts. Getting better and better as I explore more deeply and with less fear.

  6. What an incredible sunset–it’s the only favor pollution does for it out here in Arizona–give us beautiful sunsets. Congratulations on your first solo camping adventure!

    • Bo Mackison says:

      I say I’ve never seen a sunset so red, and then a week later, I repeat myself! The sky show is amazing in Arizona – day and night!

  7. What a gorgeous photo! It reminds me of how much I miss the desert.

  8. What a story! Lovely to car camp in the desert. Beautiful picture!!! I would have done exactly what you did after seeing the coyotes.

    • Bo Mackison says:

      It was a lovely experience, Anita. One I plan on repeating weekly except when I have an art festival coming up.

  9. Joanne Keevers says:

    I admire your courage, Bo! And I agree, silence does have a sound. When your senses realise the sound, it is best to stop everything, to just listen.

    The photo today is magical. My son and two of his mates are off to the USA in April and will be travelling through Arizona. I’ve already instructed him to take LOTS of photos!

    • Bo Mackison says:

      No courage needed to sleep in a car. And the coyotes weren;t all that interested, thankfully, though I didn;t want to hang around and see if I could attract more attention!

      What an experience for your son and his friends. Where in Arizona are they going, do you know?

      • Joanne Keevers says:

        I don’t think Ben knows for sure himself exactly where they are travelling through. They fly into New York early April and have booked an apartment in Manhatton for eight nights. They have a camper van booked to drive across the country, heading down to New Orleans and back up to San Francisco. It should be a great experience for them. I’ll mention the coyotes to him!

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