Conversation with a Saguaro


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.


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.


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.


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.