The ocotillo, spindly succulents like Buddha’s Hands, or the tentacles of an upside-down squid, are everywhere; now, in Baja Sur, they are still covered in tiny green leaves. Ocotillo. The name knocks and trills in my mouth; I like to think that they were named by the birds. Likewise, the unlikely white, conical trunk of the Cirio named perhaps for the sound of what exists between dry, hollow winds.
Slowly, I am learning the language of the desert. Slowly, I am beginning to understand its pull as we pass through the Sonora. I am at home here amongst the ranges of the Sierra Madre encircling it—amongst the unforgiving slabs of jagged, vertical desert as they seemed, when we first curled around them in the desert between Mexicali and Tecate; and from a distance, in the less-arid region of Bahía San Luís Gonzaga, where their slopes are softened by brush and the peculiar light of the region tumbling down their slopes.
On the road toward the town of San Felipe, on the afternoon of our crossing into Mexico and as the highway cleaved straight ahead between two mountains, the Sierra on either side of us seemed almost to float, a blade of blue-white sky flashing between them and the blonde, sandy earth. As we left San Felipe a few days ago, with the mountains to our right, I tried to memorize their colors—the muted, pewter-bronze of the ridgelines closest to us; the taller silhouette behind them a deeper, bluer casting of the first; and the silhouette behind it deeper still, very-nearly aubergine. Where we slept last night and will sleep tonight, coppery buttes ring the town of Nuevo Rosalito.
My mind reaches for descriptors and phrases like martian, and fierce, and antiqued by the settle of dust. To our left and right, always, broken glass and silver foil wrappers glint in the sun, and forests of tall Cardón cacti stand with their many grey-to-bilious green limbs, ribbed and blunt at the ends, and time-stripped of their needles. I think that, if given sound, they would be the brass in some hazy, acid-washed orchestra in The Emerald City. How magical. How easy to become un-human here.