asked my brother as we scaled Pinnacle Peak in the late afternoon, among throngs of pleasure-hikers and trail-runners who didn’t seem to have a care about possibly spraining their ankles in the grit.
He didn’t mean the cactus, which had an interesting appearance.
Some of the saguaros appeared charred, girdled, as if they had been torched by lightning.
Peter was referring to our visit to the Valley of the Sun, to sit by our father’s hospice bed as he faded in and out, in and out. He had always been a rock, along with our mother.
Well, no, I said, I’ve mostly thought of my mortality when I’ve struggled with my writing and wondered how many books the future would be generous enough to offer me. We climbed among the ocotillos and the globe mallows, the wolfberry and the bedstraw, wondering where the sun-basking chuckwallas went in winter.
Jojoba had berries.
We saw no flowers beside from the penstemon. It’s winter, a cold snap.
You’ve got to think about how much they’ve given you over the years, Peter said, referencing our parents. How much they’ve stood by you.
Pinnacle Peak Park can be a nurturing place.
We saw a metal guard snugged around a young crucifiction plant to coax it to maturity. Even so young it was all slim green spines, but the higher ups had decided that that level of protection wasn’t enough.
A cactus wren had built her nest on a palo verde branch, and we admired her handiwork as we made our way down.
By the water fountains, a dish of water to help thirsty bees along.
Wayne opened the window at the visitor center to answer my question about the blackened saguaros.
He didn’t know the name of the disease they had had. Only that it had started a long time ago and that it was a normal part of the life cycle. When they get old, he said, it’s natural to die. Other ones grow in their place.
Or maybe I’m putting my own words in his mouth.