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Somedays on the Highway of Life, You Gotta Get out of the Car and Talk to a Cactus

Brontosaurus Head Cactus
Brontosaurus Head Cactus by cogdogblog
posted 1 Feb ’09, 11.06pm MST PST on flickr

By almost a reflex, this post first urged an emergence as one in the vein of “sorry this is the reason why I’ve not been blogging”. It strikes me when I read such posts (some of them mine) that the only one acutely aware of their absence is… the blog author (and maybe their Mom.. hi Mom!).

In thinking about this, I find it curious that we find ourselves imaginatively tuned to the needs of some nebulous audience we never see. We apologize, like leaving them stood up for a date at the theater.

So silly.

I ended up today driving a second day in a row round trip to take my old high school friend Kevin back to Tempe where he has a meeting this week; I was thankful he tacked on an extra day to visit, and it was well worth back and forth trips 105 miles each way. Time not pecking on the laptop or furiously reloading twitter on the iPhone.

This was great timing, because I’ve been floating through one of the periodic lulls where all of the online “stuff” just is… well, too much. I let the feeds slip by unread, I don’t poke around links to stumble onto serendipity finds, I cant summon the energy to comment, I get bored with the river of tweets going by, all of which I find are signs to not necessarily unplug, but let go of that firehose and let it spray around on its own a bit. I have much less trouble ducking out than I used to.

And this feeling is like the one of driving open highways at 80… er, 75… er… 65 miles per hour, officer, and just letting the natural landscape fly by through artificial glass and forgetting what its like :out there/”

I end up with this disconnect of the world out my car window.

Cholla View of Four Peaks

So today on the last trip “up the hill” I just stopped, hopped a fence, and got out to do what is refreshing- walk in the desert, and take pictures of funny looking cacti. Talk to ’em/ Say “howdy, Mr teddy Bear Cholla, but I ain;t hugging you.”

Four Peaks Over My Bicep

The saguaro cactus is the postcard icon of the Arizona desert, yet they are way more varied than the cartoon icons on the t-shirts and coffee mugs. Out in the messy, thorny desert, they are mis-shapen, shot up, droopy, twisted… into fantastic shaped forms.

Lost My Arm in the War

And being the physically dominant cacti with a somewhat anthropomorphizing shape, it is easy to think of them as posturing, or gesturing like humans, which is rather silly, since they seem to have more sense:

Four Peaks Seen Through Cactus Goal Posts

This was not a major hike, just a jaunt right off a highway. I also find it fascinating to walk on, next to, sometimes even run across a highway. Tucked away in our metal boxes, “hunched over like bent frogs” as Edward Abbey snickered, ipod music blaring, slurping Red Bull, we are separated by more than rubber from the road.

The noise along a highway can be deafening. Imagine what that is like on some hapless rabbit or slow moving tortoise. The edges of the road are littered with our remnants, cups, cans, cardboard boxes, lost socks, drink cans, tissues, old parking tickets, underwear, unpaired shoes, fast food wrappers, etc.

Even with just this single, 20 minute jaunt off the main drag, 100 yards into just the very periphery of the magical exotic land that enchanted me and drew me into it with every free moment 22 years ago– I feel energized. The desert is subtle in its pureness, its perfection of design to survival, its harsh edges and its subtle beauty (a spring walk after a winter with rain reveals more precious colors in tiny flowers than you can imagine)– and it never fails to give back to me.

But I do not live in the desert, I just pass through it, these days mostly by it, and I get back in my metal capsule, and de-connect from one world back into the other.

Yet… I am revived even with that brief taste of what is so real, just from looking through some desert residents.

Four Peaks Behind Ocotillo

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. Thanks for this post. It is good to know that even the well respected “pros” of online community sometimes gt sick of it and revert back into themselves. I often myself in this recoiled state of self-reflection.

    Then eventually uncoil myself and get back into the swing of things. Great post!

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  2. Amen. When I lived in Fountain Hills, AZ my husband and I loved hiking. I certainly miss it now that we’re back in California, so your post brought back some great memories.

    And it’s reassuring and almost disturbing at the same time how easy it can be to disconnect from our online world and just let it slide. As if it never existed in the first place. Makes you wonder at the futility of blogging, eh?

    Thanks for a nostalgic jaunt,


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