Sonoran Desert Experience!2018-05-10T08:39:06+00:00

Sonoran Desert Experience…thru “lens & pen!”

Hi … I’m Cyndy Warnier, the Program & Development Director here at Spirit in the Desert. I am the shutter-bug of the photos you see on our website. I am also a lover of the desert, and along with my husband, Al who also works here and is an arborist, study the desert through my lens as well as through forums to learn about its unique flora and fauna. So, from my “lens & pen”–welcome to a “Sonoran Desert Experience!” Each month I will post an article, with pictures-of course,  about life in this beautiful and diverse desert. Birds, mammals, reptiles…even an arachnid or two, plus a variety of plants whose botany is specific to Arizona’s portion of the Sonoran Desert–and all whose existence are endangered.   Our registration lobby features many of my photos in a variety of matted sizes, as well as on 5×7 photo cards, complete with blank insides or nice mix of all-occasion prose. You can always “take away a bit of the desert” in my pictures to remind you of your stay at Spirit in the Desert Retreat Center.

Yes, Virginia, there is Christmas in the Desert!

Many  folks wonder what the Sonoran Desert is like in the winter, especially for Christmas. My family back in Wisconsin asks me how I can possibly celebrate Christmas without snow. It’s very easy, I get to put up my lights without freezing my fingers (an other body parts) off!  Truthfully, though, it does take some adjusting if you’re not a ‘native Zoni.’ We counteract the lack of cold and snow by putting up LOTS of lights. We sit outside at night in a heavy sweater and enjoy our chiminea fire places–with a margarita! The desert has so much to offer this time of year-plants are actually blooming. And YES–we do get snow! One year the Phoenix Open had to wait for 3” of snow to melt from the golf course before play could even start! Our mountains get crowned with white, and we all relish the moisture. Enjoy the Sonoran Desert Fun Stuff below!

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Decorated Saguaros: yep, we brave the thorns instead of the cold, and wrap them up in twinkling lights! It’s not as hard as you would think, but it is a 2-person job for sure. In fact, some places keep their lights on desert trees and saguaros all year long, especially outside restaurant seating. This is a shot I took outside of the Desert Botanical Gardens, they truly “dress up” for Christmas there.

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Christmas Cactus: it can bloom anytime it prefers, but December is its favorite time. The Christmas Cactus is cultivated from Phoenix to the Mexican border and a beloved plant and gift. This shot is from a large nursery outside of Wilcox, AZ.

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Poinsettias: beloved by our neighbors to the south, you will find thousands of them crossing the border without needing a visa! Growers in southern Arizona fill their greenhouses with them, too, and you most likely have one in your home from somewhere in the Southwest as it graces the nation with its beauty. This is Marana Growers Farm.

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Sleigh Rides: we have them, just on wheels and often pulled by burros or horses! Downtown Phoenix has carriage rides all year but at Christmas, the white carriages are decorated for the season as you ride in “high-step” with horses trotting down the streets. This pic is one of our fuzzy burros! Miners left them behind years ago and they flourished on their own, and have become an Arizona treasure!

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Nightly visitors: Arizona doesn’t go on daylight savings plan, so owls, coyotes, coatimundi, ocelots, and javelina are seen more often than in summer heat. Where I live, wild burros come at dusk and scratch their heads on our cattle gates! This is a Western Screech Owl night shot. You’ll only see this loud but little owl at night! (courtesy of AZ Game & Fish)

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Music: it fills the air! From our symphonies to live performances at Desert Botanical Gardens, the songs of the season are rich, and celebrated. This picture is at the Gardens. You get greeted by a  Mariachi Band, and as you walk, guided by luminaria, you’ll hear many different styles of music and culture. Phoenix Ballet’s Nutcracker, is considered one of the finest in the country–and it is accompanied by the Phoenix Symphony! No canned music for this event.

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Christmas Trees: we get the traditional ones from the Northwest and Wisconsin. We also have our own Eldarica Pines for living Christmas trees. It’s fun, decorate it then, when the season is over, plant it in your yard.

Of course, many folks get the pretty-but-dead-in-a-box kind and admittedly, it’s easier to put up/take down, but you gotta store it! That’s why we have so many storage units out here.

The city of Chandler really pushes the “tree-envelope” with their annual Tumbleweed Christmas tree! Not sure who collects the tumbleweed for this, but it’s always in abundance in the desert. However, should some strong winter winds whip up, and they do, this tree is gone with the wind!

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Snow: did I mention it above, oh right, the golf thing, and it has happened more than once!

But really, we do get snow. Here at the retreat center we’ve had some beautiful snowfall on the Tonto Mountain peaks that surround us, as well as Black Mountain which most of our balconies on our lodging rooms face. You can about imagine the reaction of our “winter visitors” who come seeking our sunshine. We joyfully smile and tell them by tomorrow it will be gone and you might even be able to put on your shorts and flip-flops!

I had to add some pictures to prove we actually get snow-but just now and then and we like it that way!

To sum it up, no matter where you live and no matter the climate, you adapt, keeping your traditions and making new ones, but most importantly, you never stop finding the JOY in it all.

May you and yours have a blessed Christmas and a New Year with health and happiness!

Sonoran Desert Photography with Music

by Cyndy Warnier with music by Curtis Stephan, Sarah Hart, OCP Music. CCLI  11456271

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