Pure Planets | the desert southwest
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the desert southwest

the desert southwest

A certain medicine dwells within and grows out of the ancient sandy soil we call the Desert.    One need only step out of their air conditioned car and they are inundated with the difference between this landscape and any other.  The sky above, a vivid cerulean blue by day transforms into a deep sea of violet black illuminated only by dots of starlight. The sense of one’s vastness and smallness are well and alive here.  Despite how sharp the terrain is in a literal sense, the scattered cactus teach us of boundaries and within this sharp protection, the spirit is held.  It is within the essence of the desert, the stillness, the silence, the expanse that we are given the space to simply exist in whatever state we may find ourselves.  We can listen and wonder as to the wisdom of exactly how we are. There is no need to fight what is.  As vast and mysterious as the surrounding landscape, we discover and learn to accept new parts of ourselves. The wisdom and growth brought forth from this terrain never ceases to amaze, inspire and leave one contently in awe.

One of the ubiquitous plants of the Mojave, Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts is Larrea tridentata commonly known as Creosote, Chaparral or Greasewood.  With little research one can discover that this plant is one of the oldest living organisms on Earth.  Chaparral is the subject of many Native American tribal legends including the Pima and Tohono O’odham. This wise, adaptable and powerful medicinal plant is humbling to behold.  Its smell is the unmistakable marker that you are approaching desert territory. There is nothing more refreshing than the scent of it after a rain.  The desert breathes and comes fully alive with even a hint of rain.

As we explored the springtime landscape, we found the Chaparral in full bud and bloom, the center hub of much insect activity.  Her sticky leaves are covered with a strong medicinal resin that has anti-microbial and bacterial properties. A salve made from these leaves can be used topically to help heal wounds, repel insects and combat fungus and bacterial infections on the skin.  Internally, a tea can be made from the leaves and is a potent medicine that can help aid with a variety of issues including oral problems, sore throats, bronchial disorders, stomach ailments and rheumatism.

Her bright yellow flowers welcome the spring time and her potent leathery leaves give us the quintessential smell of the desert.  Chaparral is a drought tolerant gift from this arid landscape and reminds of the power of adaptability both within ourselves and within our landscape.  We can take heed to the wisdom of this plant, ancient in nature, it has much to teach us.

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