Desert Blessing

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Desert Hymns ©2016 Bo Mackison

cactus wrens hide their nests in spiky cholla
blessed be the cactus wrens preparing for new life

thrashers sing copycat trills from the highest branches
blessed be the thrashers chipping their stolen hymns

cottonwoods sprout miniature leaves, tiny bits of foliage
blessed be the cottonwoods that ribbon the desert green

the grasses greening the mesquite dotted foothills
blessed be the winter rains that soaked life into the seedlings

crested blackbirds swarm the palo verde
blessed be the desert mistletoe whose berries feed the birds

wrens and cholla
thrashers and cottonwoods
blackbirds and berries

bounty in the desert
blessings in the desert

bounty and blessings

i prepare for life uncertain
singing stolen hymns to lift my spirits
a ribbon of hope threads through the dry and harsh lands
spring rains, i ask
quench my thirst, quench my thirst

warmth to hold me
rains to bless me
sunlight to nourish me

desert blessing
desert healing

Conversation with a Saguaro

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I will be waiting here
for your silence to break
for your soul to shake
for your love to wake.
~ Rumi

A Conversation with a Saguaro

Hello Bo, you’ve been talking to me now for several years.

Not sure how you chose me to be your confidante when you set up your make-shift office in the ramada near Brown Mountain, but I’ve watched you working in the shelter, taking breaks from writing or sketching. Wandering over to me, standing in my shadow now for — what? — maybe 4 years? Or 5? Doesn’t matter.

I am here for you. I welcome your visits, whether you come by for a daily chat or a weekly sermons or an annual sojourn for a long conversation. All are good, Bo.

We’ve had some heart to heart conversations, haven’t we?

You surely did not hear words echo from my spines, nor did my prickly arms sweep you from the gravelly ground and hold you in a compassionate embrace. But you may as well have heard such, felt such, for the same is true.

I do hear you and I do speak to you. I do hold you in a caring embrace. When you are happy, I celebrate your joys. When you are pensive, I listen to your thoughts. When you are sad, I offer you companionship.

I am a good companion, Bo. I will not be going anywhere soon, unless the fates intervene. Unlikely though. Saguaros in this part of the Sonoran Desert live a good 150-200 years. I’ve got years left to stand here on this blessed earth.

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I see you, Bo. You are troubled. I see your tears. I watch as you stand in the desert valley, still and somber.  Go ahead, if you wish. Wail in your loneliness and fear and, yes, even in anger. Yes. You have permission. Cry out as loudly as you need to, as long as you desire.  Shout in frustration and anger.

I see you holding everything inside, bearing excruciating pain deep within, convincing yourself you are not too hurt nor too unhappy. I hear as you attempt to dismiss your feelings. No need, Bo. No need. You have permission to express your feelings. ALL of your feelings.

Stand in my shadow. Let the healing light of the desert sun stream all about you, warm you, but stand in my shadow. I will protect you from the harshest of glare.

I hear the conversation you speak within. You hold on to the deepest of disappointments, believing you have not carried your weight, you have not shown up fully in life. You have experienced vast betrayal, yet you inscribe your shortcomings deep within. You hold onto that litany of failures like a sacred mantle; you take on the burden of shame.

What if I tell you this? “You are not to blame, Bo. You are worthy of nurturing. You are worthy of love. You are worthy of kindness. You are worthy of respect. You are worthy, Bo. Period.”

I know of your concerns and worries, Bo. I feel your grief.

I, too, have felt grief, standing in this very spot for over a century. Let’s think about that, Bo.

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I am a miracle, as are you.

Imagine a time so many years ago.

Not far from here, a tall saguaro blooms in the middle of a hot May. Pure white blossoms the size of saucers adorn her head. She is an elder saguaro and has been witness to much; her lower-half is pock-marked with holes and her lower flesh is wrinkled, worn, discolored from once desert green to a mottled brown-black.

And still, she blossoms on a hot night in late spring.

The white-winged dove, the Mexican long-nosed bat, and hundreds of species of bees and butterflies sip her nectar by the light of the full moon and pollinate her flowers. Each white blossom lasts only a day, then shrivels and falls to the desert earth. And in the flower’s place a large fruit grows, queenly and regal, bejeweled, the deepest of deep reds. The fruit is sweet and juice-filled, beloved, sustenance for coyote, javelina, the curve billed thrasher, cactus wren, birds of great variety.

Perhaps a bird sits on a branch of a potential nurse tree and drops a single seed into the receptive earth. The seed finds adequate protection and is blessed with enough rain to germinate and enough sun to help it grow and just enough luck to escape detection by birds and pack rats and desert mice who would gladly eat it for a tasty meal. A miracle indeed. I begin as a tiny seed and I grow into a cactus fifty feet tall.

I am a miracle, as are you.

A cactus produces 40 million seeds over a lifetime, and if lucky, one or two will germinate, grow, and survive long enough to become a saguaro capable of flowering and fruiting and continuing the legacy.

I am the one in 40 million, come alive from a single fallen seed from a long dead saguaro. As you, too, have been birthed from one in millions.

Blessed are we, yes? Truly. We are chosen.

Chosen. Blessed. Grateful.

And still, we both know sadness and longing and desire; we both know grief and fear and anger.

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Let’s talk about grief.

We both know much of grief, yes?

I grieve when humans attack me and damage me for no reason other than a mark of their power and proof of their superior ability to destroy. I’ve been spray painted by gang members who chose to prove their blind ability to follow orders. I’ve had initials carved into my flesh by lovers who thought nothing of desecrating my flesh in order to misguidedly honor their love. I’ve had bullets shot through me and a more than a few bullets remain lodged in my flesh, bullets shot by humans who once again used violence and power to maim me as an odd proof of their bravery.

And still, I stand.

Regal. Beloved. Worthy. As are you.

No matter if others have scarred you for life, have left their marks in your flesh and trampled your spirit; have attempted repeatedly to destroy you, to mark you as less-than. No matter.

You, Bo, are still worthy of love. You deserve all manner of kindness and respect. You matter. You, Bo, are whole, are holy. Yes, Bo. You.

Come stand next to me and rest. Take respite from the sun’s strong midday heat. Come rest in my shadow. I will listen. I will embrace you in kindness and love.

I offer you myriad blessings of the desert.

All shall be well.

Torch Cactus in Bloom – A Light in the Desert

Torch Cactus

Torch Cactus ©2014 Bo Mackison

One’s options in this world are as vast as the horizon, which is technically a circle and thus infinitely broad. Yet we must choose each step we take with utmost caution, for the footprints we leave behind are as important as the path we will follow. They’re part of the same journey — our story.” ~ Lori R. Lopez

Seeking Wisdom in the Desert

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Center © 2014 Bo Mackison

I lose my center. I feel dispersed, scattered, in pieces. I must have time alone in which to mull over any encounter, and to extract its juices, its essence, to understand what has really happened to me as a consequence of it. ~ May Sarton

When I hear the words “in the desert”:..

… I think it is time to make choices and live with the consequences; to accept who I am, and feel grateful for the opportunity to live in solitude; to follow a contemplative path; to focus on the positives while being aware of the negatives; to look up at the desert sky and connect with the stars.

What I most yearn for “in the desert”…

… a warmth that spreads from outside to inside; to develop tolerance and strength when dealing with stressors; to feel totally alive, embracing each moment.

What I fear while I’m “in the desert”…

…while I know I will make mistakes, may they be mistakes I can learn from; may they cause no harm to others; may the challenges prove fruitful.

Intention is the power of the experience. ~ Cynthia Gale

What I hope for “in the desert”…

…that I will develop courage to see me through my days, and through the long nights, too; that I will make choices that are true to myself; that I will choose life-enhancing while avoiding life-depleting practices.

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A journaling technique I sometimes use, asking and answering repetitive questions with just a change of one word. I considered my relationship with the desert and then incorporated the words hear, yearn, fear, and hope into questions. It provided just enough of a container to direct my thoughts and writing.

A Desert Portrait in Still Life – Poetry Revisited

Nature's Abstract

Nature’s Abstract © 2013 Bo Mackison

We have what we seek. It is there all the time, and if we give it time it will make itself known to us. ~ Thomas Merton

While searching my blog for information on my Desert Wisdom Cards, I came across a poem I wrote about a year ago. It was called A Still Life in the Desert. I read it and thought how differently I would write the same poem today. How little things have changed in my world, gradually adding up to bigger changes, to living life in a direction I could not have imagined a year ago.

Different focuses, different goals, even different ways of seeing the same thing. And so I did a re-write. Here is the second iteration of this desert poem.

A Desert Portrait in Still Life

I am…

intertwined cactus spines
complex protective patterns
mysterious yet beautiful.

I am…

a pulled back curtain
a crazy quilt, fantastically embroidered
an unlocked trunk.

I am…

a cloud of red dust
tumbleweed dancing
a desert basin, easy on the wanderer’s eye.

I am…

a beloved assemblage of photographs
a deck of desert wisdom cards
poetry scribbled on scraps of paper.

I am…

idea incubator
questions and work-arounds
prayers of gratitude.

I am…

pulp, photographs, a hawk milagro
inked letter press
the alphabet in my hand.