Natural Rain

There’s an odd thing that happens in the desert–the landscape reacts completely differently to natural rain than to hose watering. Hose watering keeps plants alive, not much more. Leaves curl on the trees, the fruit trees develop a yellow tinge.

Pencil cactus, showing new growth, which is orange.

Pencil cactus, showing new growth, which is orange.

But once the Monsoon starts, you can practically hear the plants sigh and relax. Maybe even grow.

The Ocotillo, bare since early May, suddenly leafs out again. Watering can’t make that happen. The fig leaves uncurl. The pencil cactus pulls itself upright and looks full.

It’s magical. Surprising. It’s not the amount of rain, a hose can provide that. I don’t know what it is–the different quality of rain water, the fact it falls from the sky–I don’t know.

Looking for metaphors, the rain reminds me that we all need our own kind of nurturing. What works for one person doesn’t for the other. The teacher who inspires one person, doesn’t work for another. The parents that help one child thrive, suffocate another’s spirit.

Walking rainstorm in the desert. Photo: Erin and Lance Willett Flickr/Creative Commons License

Walking rainstorm in the desert. Photo: Erin and Lance Willett Flickr/Creative Commons License

We all need to find our natural rain. We need to find the refreshing, nurturing environment that helps us thrive. Don’t be satisfied with the hose water that keeps you alive. Look for the rain that helps you thrive.

—Quinn McDonald didn’t thrive in the 46F-degree rain in Northern Wisconsin, but she loves it when the desert smells like rain.

Working With What You Have

Some trees can't stand the sun's intensity.

Some trees can’t stand the sun’s intensity.

July is the hottest month for most Northern Hemisphere areas, and we often have 30 days of more than 110 degrees in the Sonoran Desert. Most of those over-hot days happen in July and August. Each year, I buy plants that say “full sun” on their needs. Now, “full sun” may mean 6 to 8 hours of sunshine, but it doesn’t mean the intense heat we have here. And each year I struggle to keep those plants alive. That makes as much sense as trying to keep the leaves on the trees in October in Vermont. It’s just not going to happen.

This morning I quit watering the straw those plants turned into and decided to put my efforts into the ones that could survive without a lot of extra work.

And that’s exactly what happens with your creativity, too. Put it in a place where it can’t possibly survive, and the struggle is ugly and non-productive.

Whether that’s a bad relationship, bad conference you feel you should have loved, bad project you thought would be great, or bad book you are reading, there are some efforts that won’t be rewarded. Goethe, the German thinker and poet, said “Die Arbeit ist nicht immer mit Erfolg gekrönt,” —Your work is not always guaranteed success. (I know it’s not the literal translation, the interpretation was called for here.)

A plant that thrives in the desert.

A plant that thrives in the desert.

So why not eliminate all those dead creative places that aren’t worth saving?  Sometimes it’s far more worthwhile to be very honest, determine that you do not have the stamina, strength, materials, smarts or spirit to make this project succeed, or even move forward. The smart thing to do is to stop pouring your effort into a bottomless pit and spend more of your effort doing something that will give you a better result.

Yes, this is different from stopping because you are bored or tired, or walking away from your job because there is something more appealing to go after.  Spend the precious water you have in the Sonoran desert to nurture the plant that can adapt to the desert. Put your energy behind the projects that will work. You will be better off for it.

–Quinn McDonald lives in the desert and is happily thriving.

There is a reason

Roses do well here in Arizona. But not for long. They seem tragic, somehow, working so hard to put out leaves and blooms and then the sun scorches them to nothing. We have our share of people in the desert who want their roses. Want to say they grow roses in the scrub-brush land of purples, grays and browns.

The same people who say, “There is a reason for everything,” do not want to accept the reason that some plants don’t grow in the desert on their own.

They want to prove they can outsmart the weather, the climate, the plan that doesn’t suit them.

But in the end, the climate is part of our lives, part of the big circle of life that brings us birth and brings us death. And there is beauty in both, whether we want to see it or not. Because the desert climate believes in us, even if we do not believe in it.

-Quinn McDonald is a writer and journaler who is a life coach because she believes in putting down roots where you thrive.