Interpreting the Desert

When I first contacted Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument about volunteering, I was offered a ‘fee collector’ position.  This position requires a background check and submitting a set of fingerprints; my clearance hasn’t come through yet, even as I prepare to leave in another week.

S-o-o-o, I’ve been doing the things that I’ve been asked to do at the Visitor Center, which for the most part is connected to the Interpretation Section.  For the past two weeks, ending tomorrow, I’ve been in training for interpreting the park, its characteristics, environment, history, plants and wildlife, and just about any other area that visitors might ask about.  Those in the interpretive mode also get to speak to visitors at “patio talks”, presentations at the campground amphitheater, and van tours of the park.

A couple of days last week we were getting instruction on how to prepare a talk based on a theme of our choosing, and how to put together the tangible, intangible, emotional and universal aspects of our subject into a presentation to visitors.

When I think of interpretation, I think of learning a different language so that I can understand what is being said.  If we listen to the desert, or any other natural environment, we can perceive a language.

Ken Hires, a member of our group, wrote the following poem to express a thought about the saguaro cactus, related to interpretation.  He has given me permission to place his words here.  Thanks, Ken.

When the Desert Speaks, What Does It Say

Sonoran Dream

With upraised arms,

the saguaro beckons.

While at my feet

A teddy bear says

“Watch your step.”


All day long

The sun burns my skin

and makes me thirst.

Then the velvet night

settles in,

quiet envelopes me

and the silver stars

show where infinity waits.


Note:  As Ken wrote in all capital letters, I punctuated according to my understanding.  If there are errors, they are mine.



2 thoughts on “Interpreting the Desert”

  1. Oh, my! What a lovely poem and the line – “where infinity waits.” This is what goes through my mind as I stargaze. These last couple of nights I was out to see the lightshow and as I looked into the blackness I sailed into the adventure beyond…
    Oh, Su, what wonderful adventure you have had!

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