Yes, yes, yes, yes! Oh, how I love the ocotillo cactus! Long ago, I lived for a while in El Paso, Texas. There was a little niche, a canyon-ette, carved out of the east side of the Franklin Mountains that was thoroughly covered with ocotillo. There were also some wonderful hiking trails there and every year I would go hiking there while the ocotillo were blooming.
Once, I stood for at least half an hour just staring at the blooming ocotillo while listening to the very audible buzz of hundreds of hummingbirds — as well as countless insects — hovering around the ocotillo blossoms. The desert can be a quiet place but that day it presented me with a glorious symphony of sound. I will never forget that.
And speaking of rattlesnakes, it truly amazes me how I have managed to never be bitten by one considering the many years I’ve spent walking and communing in the desert. I’ve come so close so many times. In my recent article, Can Picnics Save the World, I shared a story of how I spent an entire summer working in the brutal heat of the desert in Northern New Mexico. I came so very close to stepping on rattlesnakes that summer many times but every time I was saved by a wonderful, fantastic dog. This dog had absolutely no fear of rattlers and I can’t believe she was never bitten.
What I neglected to tell in that story was that the property where I was working (building flagstone walkways and nature-viewing spots) had around seven or eight cacti of a very rare specie. I can’t remember the name of this cactus but it is very small; about the size of a baseball.
All of these cacti were blooming when I started the job so I immediately knew where they were. They have flaming red blossoms. It was as if they were all holding up flags, proclaiming, “Don’t bulldoze me! Don’t bulldoze me!”
Of course, I never bulldoze. Knowing where these rare cacti were, I planned my walkway around them. I could have just dug them up and moved them out of my way but I just could not bring myself to do that. (I later found out that it is actually illegal to dig them up because they are an endangered specie. They exist only in a small area only on the west side of White Rock Canyon.) So I worked around them. It meant a little extra work but I didn’t mind. My deep love and respect for cacti made it a joy to not only work around them but to plan my work in a way that the walkway turned out featuring and highlighting the cacti. It was a true labor of love.
Thank you, Mary for your heartfelt response. It is great to know that I’m not the only cactus weirdo in this beautiful world.