Tag Archives: America the Beautiful

One Hike; Two Insights

Echinocereus is a genus of cacti widely distributed across the American Southwest, but this bright scarlet Arizona variety is on the federal list of endangered species. The name Echinocereus is a compound of “Hedgehog” and “Candle.”

Echinocereus cacti are widely distributed across the American Southwest, but this bright scarlet Arizona variety is on the federal endangered-species list. “Echinocereus” is a compound of “Hedgehog” and “Candle.”

ROUNDING the bend along a trail, a small hedgehog cactus in full bloom stopped me in my tracks. A petaled constellation of blossoms, concentric circles of crimson, orange and lemony yellow orbited a center of pink and green.

In a flash of wonder, it hit me: five decades and then some old, and I had never seen such an unfolding. Until now. I watched the sun glimmer through and over the fleshy cups of color, snapped a few photos, and then headed down the trail. It’s not every day we round the bend and come upon cacti in full bloom. Not every day that we can be struck with first-time wonder. So what do we do when there are no blossoming cacti awaiting us around the bend, when there are no new sightings along our path? Insight number one arrived with piercing clarity: Strive to see everyday sights with new eyes.

On the way back, the cactus flowers still glowing in memory, I looked down and saw what I thought was a small egg-shaped piece of quartz. Or maybe it was a jellybean? Its surface had that opaque sugary glimmer, and Easter had been just a day or two before. I picked it up and rolled it in my palm. Too light for quartz. I pressed a thumbnail into its shell, fully expecting the surface to yield in a thin crescent. Instead, it exploded in my hand in a yellow gooey mess. Duh. Small white egg-shaped object? If only I had realized, I might have added this perfect specimen to my collection of half-shell findings. Insight number two: Take care and recognize the simple treasures you hold in the palm of your hand, lest you crush them into oblivion.

Palm of Debra Darvick Hand

For Patriot Skies


This week, following the attacks of September 11, has been designated Patriot Week. So far, the State of Michigan is one of ten in the nation to have passed resolutions (now permanent here in the Great Lake State) recognizing these days as such.I don’t know about you but I am pretty wrung out. And I don’t even have the right to say that, having lost only my innocence and nothing, or no one, dearer.

In synagogue last week, our rabbi read what I thought was a beautiful essay by Rabbi Michael Strassfeld. If the name rings a bell to certain Jews who came of age in the 70’s, he was a co-author of  The First Jewish Catalog. As my contribution to Patriot Week, I share Rabbi Strassfeld’s essay.  I hope it moves you as much as it moves me and that you will read it and perhaps share it with others this week.