You move someplace new. How do you make yourself feel at home? What does it take to get used to a location that is different in many ways to the home you left behind? If you work, you meet new people right away, and they will point out their favorites stores, theaters, restaurants, activities. You work with new people, you adjust.
You’ll notice the differences first. The things that are the same don’t stand out, but the differences do. So when I landed in a place 2,500 miles from my starting location, I had the same experience, but through the eyes of an artist. One of the first things I did was buy a handful of different colored pencils–I had plenty of greens from the East Coast landscape, but I needed purples, grays, tans, and yellows for the desert.
Looking around, I noticed that the trees were different. A lot different. Most of them didn’t have big leaves, there was one that had a green trunk and no leaves. I discovered it was the Palo Verde, a tree that sheds its leaves in summer to protect itself from the heat. The green trunk does the work of photosynthesis.
What fascinated me was the seed pods. Trees in a searing climate protect their seeds in hard-cased pods that twist open in the rain, or look delicious to birds, who carry the seeds away and plant them with a dollop of fertilizer. I’d gather up seed pods during walks, put them on the drawing table, only to discover that the next morning, they had twisted open enough to shoot seeds across the room. Some of them have thorns to hitch a ride. I discovered those as I walked barefoot across the carpet. Others have sails on them to carry them on the wind.
The desert is an amazing place of great beauty and amazing variety. If you visit it, bring a camera. It changes every day, and everything is worth photographing.
–Images: color pencil on 100-lb Bristol board by Quinn McDonald
–Quinn McDonald is an artist who is endlessly fascinated at how plants, animals and people adjust to their environments. She is a certified creativity coach and a life coach specializing in transitions. See more at QuinnCreative.com