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Anza Borrego Desert State Park, revisited in a poem

May 18, 2012

I blogged a bit about our annual family trip to Anza Borrego Desert State Park a few months ago in an earlier post; since then I’ve written a poem about this latest trip to a beautiful place where we’ve camped as a family since 1962.

Family and friends, camping at Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Palm Canyon Campground, mid-1960s. I’m right of center, in the navy blue top and green shorts. I can’t see my feet in the photo; I wonder if I’m barefoot?

Back in February, when I had mentioned to Sarah Jayne, newsletter editor (and long-time active member) of the Orange County chapter of the California Native Plant Society OC-CNPS), that I was headed for Anza Borrego, she suggested I write a poem about it for the newsletter. With that kind of inspirational encouragement, I had to do it; here’s the result (which Sarah kindly published in the May/June OC-CNPS newsletter–in a really cool format that was her idea:  the poem “meanders” through the newsletter).

Thanks, Sarah, for your interest in my work!

(Note: here’s a photo of the cholla cactus stuck in my foot mentioned in stanza VI; I did put shoes on for the rest of the hike on that part of the Hellhole Canyon trail, following my barefoot hiking/trail-running motto: if it’s not fun, put some shoes on.)

Anza Borrego meanderings

March 2012


. . . up the bajada

up a mountain wrinkle

full of palm promise—

I’m back-flat on

an old stone slab.

What is your story cycle:

winter deluge, oven summer,

rifle-crack quakes

that flick boulders

off varnished dark cliffs?

In this ruin of repose

if I lie here long enough

what else will change?


Scant rain. Wildflowers

paint only my memory

with ghosts of

pink-twinkled dunes:

sand verbena,

desert five-spot . . .

and sweet sister lilies.


This palm oasis

is lit with evil

flitting feathergrass

on a graceful, grim

march upcanyon.


What cities lack:


the smallest rustle

of a lizard


Now away,

my feet ache

for getting naked

in the wash:

happy sand,

rock cobbles,

wavery green

oasis flow of

reflected everything

that a sidewalk lacks.

V. What is not growing

in a manufactured

landscape near you?

Toe-high monkeyflower*,

pink with a modest

yellow revelation

for those willing to stoop.


Cholla siblings,

cactus cousins—

all blond-haloed,

almost glamorous

in the low light.

Then fluffy

gets clingy—

my shoeless

instep needs



Desert oriole:

such a shock of

golden notes

should earn you more

than comparisons

to meadowlark—

you’re here; he’s not.

Canyon wren:

your hidden spring

of waterfall song

breaks the dry silence

and my heart.

* Mimulus bigelovii

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Dan permalink
    August 2, 2012 5:18 pm

    Sweet! nice word images Thea, Enjoyable trip up the mountain wrinkle.


  1. RBG 63 Naturalist Thea Gavin » Run Barefoot Girl

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