Quite a few years ago, I went to a reading given by the poet, Gary Snyder. In his commentary, he discussed the importance of knowing the flora and fauna of a place. Without this knowledge, how could we ever develop a broad view of home?
Last week, the Dear Daughter and I visited Saguaro National Park outside Tucson. This land is held in trust, not only for Americans, but for all people, and for the plants and animals that depend upon it. Visitors from many countries were discovering the unusual habitat of saguaro and other cactus, along with seldom-seen wildlife.
We spotted a Phainopepla sitting on a mesquite shrub, striking in its dark plumage and spiky crest. Truthfully, it's a common-enough bird in southern Arizona, but it was the first either of us had ever seen. Seeing it was like finding a long-hidden piece of a jigsaw puzzle - it helped complete the picture of this place called "home."
Phainopepla means "shining robe" and the bird was indeed glistening in the winter sun. It's in the silky-flycatcher family and has an affinity for mistletoe, on which it feeds. Mistletoe is common in the Chihuahuan and Sonoran deserts around Bisbee, feeding on mesquite. Just like a jigsaw puzzle, everything has its place, everything fits together to make a whole.