My body is the type of body that needs rain. I ache for it. The days that I wake to dripping water from the eaves and an infinite dull grey sky, invigorates and energises me. I am inspired to create, to be calm and to be better on that day. Rain just makes me happier than any other element ever could. I think that is why I believe that Washington state and I would be very happy together. So, you can understand now why the desert just doesn't do it for me. Its drought ridden and barren face makes me feel an exotic discomfort that my rain driven body just wont marry. Plus, I like to touch things. And I have recently learnt that you can't touch things in the desert. Everything is designed to be grumpy and protective and grows bristles and prickles aplenty. There's no where to lie down or no place to run without shoes on.
Usually a visit to the 'desert' for me, means to the semi-arid area of Outback Queensland. Never had I really been to a real desert before. This time however, being in the USA and about to begin a road trip with my dear friend Sarah, I found myself in the Sonoran Desert starting in Tuscon Arizona and ending up in the eastern plains of southern California. Despite my whinging I didn't hate it. Actually, I was rather enthralled. I found my first desert experience in Tuscon to be rather comical - in a wonderful experience kind of way. I was introduced to the saguaro cactus, a plant that I previously assumed only grew in Looney Tunes cartoons. I didn't expect them to be everywhere, to be so huge and to have such beautiful life stories. I loved learning that they grow a new 'arm' every 100 years. I couldn't stop counting their age for the rest of our desert time... Then, just as I was getting used to the whole desert idea, we saw a road runner. And a coyote. I'm not lying. See, Looney Tunes.
Then there were the houses in Tuscon. Sarah and I were going out to dinner on my first night in town to a lovely little outdoor cafe, where we would listen to live music and eat salad by the tree and under the twinkle lights. The neighbourhood where the cafe was found, housed the most beautiful, colorful rendered concrete buildings with their wooden beam windows, brightly painted doors and sweetly presented cacti that grew along side. Again, all I could think about were those cartoons. I had never seen a house so bright. I knew we had to come back tomorrow. I knew I had to photograph the colour and attempt to capture the charm of these streets.
On the plane flight into Tuscon, I sat next to the loveliest lady. I wasn't really in the mood to talk. I had been talking non stop to another man, a pilot of all professions, on the previous flight. Although he was very kind, his constant and insistent chatter had made me tired, a little travel sick and very much ready to hermit myself on the final leg of the flight. However, when I found myself next to my new flight companion, a local Tuscon resident, I soon realised how much we had in common. So I ignored my introverted symptoms, shared some white wine (my new friend shouted, how sweet!?) and chatted about food and travel all the way to our final stop. It was during this chat that I learned about the section of the Sonoran Desert that runs through Tuscon and how it is in fact one of the most lush deserts around (maybe the world? I can't quite remember the details) and that in spring, the desert flowers are a must see. This seems to be the part of travel that makes me most addicted to its lure. It doesn't matter how much you read or plan or already know, there are always unforeseen lessons that pop up - things that you can only really learn and understand by actually traveling to a new place and seeing its beauty. Although I appreciated every part of our conversation and lessons learnt during flight, my ignorance to my travel symptoms didn't quite pay off - I spent a good ten minutes during landing with my face in the toilet bowl saying a final hurrah to the acidity of that previously tasty glass of white wine. A first on a flight for me. Anyway - I did have a much nicer end to the story - We were lucky enough to see the spring bounty of the lushness of this desert, in the form of beautiful cactus flowers. Cacti and desert flowers are stunning. I had no idea that so many varieties existed, let alone how colourful they could be. And all in a place that sees very little rain. Who knew?
Our last day in the desert was spent mostly in the car on our way to San Diego. I was excited to be near water again. I was looking forward to laying on the sand and walking without shoes - bristle and prickle free. I had decided that despite my love for wild flowers and brightly coloured houses, I was happy to be only a visitor to this part of the world. Deserts aren't for me. And then, on our way to Joshua Tree, like a beckoning to it's cheeky nature, the desert held up it's prickly middle finger - and it rained.