Well, except for humans. We like to move into an area and turn it into our own personal idea of paradise, regardless of how it conflicts with the reality of a place. It could be that we want our yards to look like they did back on the east coast with manicured lawns, rose bushes, and pest-free vegetable gardens. Maybe our motivation is our recreation, like golf courses. Humans seem to want what they want regardless of where they are, and so long as they can afford it, the reality of the environment in which they find themselves, fast disappearing resources and the needs of the native plants and animals fall off their radar.
|Worth the cost?|
Today we're saying goodbye to an old friend that I've spent a lot of time appreciating from my kitchen window and across my neighbor's fence. The arms are being amputated one by one. The body will be sectioned and removed in manageable hunks. It's probably older than my grandmother's great-grandmother's great-grandmother, and should have lived until my daughter was a much older woman than myself. In a few hours this stately saguaro, icon of the Sonoran desert, will be gone, apparent victim, in this climate, of the excessive amount of irrigation water required to keep the petunias at its base alive...petunias the appropriate color in the appropriate spot for feng shui garden in one of the most beautiful deserts on the planet. In a climate where the plants are so good at storing and managing their resources (a hydrated saguaro is about 90% water), too much of what we like to think of as a good thing will kill a plant that is much easier on, and infinitely more critical to, this environment than we humans are.
|Symbiotic relationship between the White-winged Dove and the saguaro...|
food and a nesting site for pollination services rendered
|Phyrrhuloxia at the feast|
And so much more than this huge multi-armed saguaro will be lost. There were probably close to 100 nest cavities in its flesh, providing wonderful safe temperature-regulated places for our desert birds to raise their young. Gila Woodpeckers and Gilded Flickers excavated every one of those holes, but they were eventually occupied by many different birds as well, from Screech Owls and Pygmy Owls, Purple Martins, Ash-throated Flycatchers and Brown-crested Flycatchers, House Sparrows, and American Kestrels. Many other birds, from doves to hawks, build nests in the crook of the saguaro's arms.
We felt so lucky to have such a magnificent "bird condo" so close to our yard and loved being part of the extended habitat (birds only care about fences for sitting on). It is doubtful that our yard will any longer be the flight training ground of the Gila Woodpeckers youngsters, being called between our two younger, and cavity-less, saguaros by their diligent parents. The screech owl that flew from that saguaro to our mesquite like clockwork every evening just minutes after the sun set behind the Tucson Mountains, coughing up a pellet of indigestibles from last night's hunt, pooping, and having a rouse to realign his feathers before silently flying off in the darkening evening to find dinner will be very missed. We used to say that he lived next door and we were the outhouse.
|Nectar beyond the pollen is the lure|
|A sad and premature end|
I am more aligned with the Native American notion that we don't really "own" land, but are simply temporary stewards of it. Unfortunately, I have little faith that we humans will recognize what we have before it is gone. I'll take a saguaro over petunias any day. And the senior saguaro next door will be greatly missed, though most importantly, perhaps least of all by me.
|Goodbye, Old Friend|