Last night the cat tried to bring me a present. It was something wiggling around on the doormat and when I took a closer look I realized it was a lizard’s tail. I knew that lizards could lose their tails so they could get away from predators, but I hadn’t realized until just then that the tail keeps on wiggling long after the lizard has left it behind. “What a useful evolutionary response!” I thought. “It keeps the cat’s attention while the lizard gets away! I never would have known that if we hadn’t moved to Arizona.”
This morning I learned another great lesson, or maybe group of lessons. As I walked across the living room I stepped on something moist. When I pulled it off my foot, I found the rest of last night’s lizard. Ewww! I guess I should have trusted my cat when she tried to tell me that the lizard was still out there, and I probably should have checked her mouth when she came in. I’ve watched her catch lizards since we’ve gotten here, and they are just the right size to fit in her mouth with the tail hanging out. Since this one had no tail….well, it fit perfectly!
The lizards are just one of hundreds of interesting creatures and plants that have evolved to survive and thrive in the sandy soil and arid climate here. While my neighbors have told me that I’ll need to import soil or heavily amend it to grow common vegetables, the giant saguaros have adapted to take their time and use what they’ve got to grow to as much as 25 feet tall in about 100 years. The night blooming cactus in my backyard and the bats support each other, one providing food and the other pollination, and the barrel cactuses store up the monsoon rains to grow big and round.
This place might never be a garden of Eden in the way we imagine that place. The soil and the climate just don’t offer that potential. But evidence of irrigation and agriculture by prehistoric people and Native Americans, and even the ranchers who have learned to live with what the landscape has to offer, all show that when we adapt to a place’s potential, we can be successful.
Every place is its own garden of Eden if you understand its potential….and adapt.