Have you ever had the happy accident of liking something and then miraculously without you knowing about it, it became cool? I felt this about growing up in the southwest. As a child, I remember the pink adobe and teal accents, culturally appropriated Kokopelli statues, and coyote decals truly used to get under my skin. They felt so cliche and ugly to me, nothing special.
Just dry and hot.
Around 2011 something magical began to happen, on the internet. Pinterest and Instagram rose on the great tide of bloggers and influencers, and with it, mint green, succulents, and cacti. It was slow in the making, but I watched as my childhood motif became, of all things, popular.
It took me years to love the desert and its nuance. What the blogs and tidy potted cacti don’t represent is the vivacity that the southwest has. Typically it’s represented as two extremes, a dry, dead wasteland, or a neatly packaged $4 cutesy-cacti from Home Depot. What brought me to love it, however, was the tenacity of life found there. The plants evolved to collect and retain water, and protect themselves with thorns and poisons. The animals evolved alongside those, to live in those thorny places, to raise their babies and thrive in the coolness of night. The humans who live there have dug canals for water, or traversed miles and miles in the hot sun to provide for their families.
The other night I met a woman from the midwest who was wearing cactus earrings.
“Those are some very ‘zony earrings you’ve got on,” I commented. She told me she was planning to move to the desert.
My reply was, “It’s hot.”
What I meant was, “It’s devastating, it’s miserable, it’s glorious, dusty, mystical, and terrible all at once.”