Pickin’ Saguaro Buds

2012-06-10

In the following, is an article that I wrote for “N” magazine’s Spring 2016 issue. The published article picks up after the following experiences, while lying in an outdoor bed.

Blooms Become Buds

Blooms Become Buds

It started as a Lazy Saturday:

What a great weekend. Saturday, with help from DF, I made a bed for sleeping outdoors, which is something that I had been promising her for a couple of years. She was disappointed not to get a picture of the naked carpenters. The evenings are wonderful to compensate for the hot daytime temperatures. They sit around 70 to eighty degrees dry, before a 4:30 or 5:00 sunrise. Because of the desert critter considerations, I built this bed which has a bottom at 18” and the top of the air mattress for occupants is at 32”. There are 10 inch buckets under each leg, which we fill with water to drown any would be bed fellows. Mosquitoes are nil in the real desert, so the only possibility would be the occasional kissing bug. For now, the evenings are cool enough to have a light cover, and protection, of at least a sheet. I created it under my porch in the shade. We then carried the bed out onto the patio to see the stars, while lying in it.

New Outdoor Bed

New Outdoor Bed

We got home from a party about 1:00 am and crawled under a sleeping bag gone blanket, laid out on our backs and looked up at the sky. The moon was out, coming over the mountain ridge. Milky Way stars, real air and a refreshing breeze carried the occasional sound through the night’s quiet. It gave me such a sense of being blessed in a blessed universe.

The sunrise brought the heat, so we got out and carried the bed back to the shady porch area. We then crawled back in and back to a wonderful peaceful sleep. We naturally pealed the covers off as temperatures climbed. In naked bodies and a light breeze, we awoke from the most wonderful extended state of unconscious sleep, just before noon. We were hungry and genuinely surprised at how late it was. It was so comfortable there naked. DF laid and read, as I took care of a few chores, serving her a blue berry/banana smoothie in a tall frosted soda fountain glass. There was such comfort, as the temperatures rose toward 100 F. I couldn’t help but think about the native Hohokam on these hot days, having the intelligence to be nude and create shade. I felt much more acclimated having spent my time outside as temperatures rose during the Spring. Usually, if I go from being  indoors during the Spring, outside heat greets me with a jolt. Maybe it is kind of like putting a lobster in a pot and slowly turning up the heat, until it is too late and it starts to boil. Here, it is dry like an oven heat, so no boil.

The bed is to go out to my energized vortex circle, where my shed blocks the view from the neighbors. We might occasionally put it up on the flat roof above my bedroom, so I put a high post to attach a sheet, to make a shield from my neighbors view. Up on the roof it is very exposed, but the view of the distant city’s twinkling lights is most pleasant.

Now, with this revelation of the sensual comfort on the shady porch, I’m thinking plans to build a portable hanging bed to hang from those rafters. Sleeping outside is living.

Pickin’ Saguaro Buds!

Saguaro are the iconic giant cacti that decorate Arizona commemoratives and those new quarters. They slowly grow for two hundred years or more, not sprouting arms until their sixtieth or seventieth year. In the heat of May and June they produce bouquets of flowers, which soon turn into ripe buds. Every being on the desert visits and distributes seed. For millennia, people have been harvesting the saguaro’s fruit.

So there we lay peaceful and naked in shaded comfort under the ramada, looking out to the desert. It suddenly occurs to us that the saguaro buds are ripe.

No textiled people go out into the desert when it is afternoon and over 100F. They stay inside, thinking that it’s unbearably hot. Kids, around here, generally play indoors all summer. Because of this, the desert is ours completely.  There is no need for cover-ups to hide in, no worries, just don’t pass by another’s windows.

As naturists, we are adjusted to heat. We have a good strong dark tan. We have found that our nude bodies keep cool much better naked than covered. Even minimal clothing makes a difference in the natural adjustment. So, like the ancient Hohokam, we head out freely into the desert naked (except gloves, fivefinger shoes and a hat).  We moderns are using plastic buckets and a long trimming pole instead of crossed ribs from the skeleton of the dead saguaro.

Carrying water is a must.

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Saguaros are large beings and have a presence about them. The name means people. As we stand under the massive arms, collecting buds, we hear the saguaros talk as the breeze blows through their thousands of needles, accordion-like valleys and the woodpecker holes that have become nests. We talk back to them, sending our heartfelt intentions as thanks, hellos and respect. Like kids getting a pinata, we feel bounty. As tradition requires, we take the juice from the first gift, the first bud and rub it on our bare chests. Like blood stains the rich scarlet juice drips on our bodies and we thank them. We are getting into the spirit of it all.

We explore each giant along the trail.

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Saguaros usually grow out of the shelter of a mother plant. These can have many stickers. The jumping cholla, a bundle of needles, may have dropped masses of barbs at the base. The rattlesnake may decide to rest in the shade. We take great care with each step, looking down, as well as up. Our bare vulnerable skin seems to be on alert. We move and bend just so, ever cognizant of the scratch that might await us. This precarious situation doesn’t bring fear. It brings more awareness, more at one with our world.

Before long, my partner has gotten pretty good at catching the fruit in the buckets.  I pop them off from the tips of the saguaro arms, choosing those that are just the right ripe colors. The wildlife has already poked their way into many of the best fruit. I have noticed that they get out earlier in the day. That is okay by us. They depend on this.

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So, Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a bucket full of buds to process and experiment with. Buds will be around for a couple of more weeks, so we’ll be back out.

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So far, we have tried coconut/saguaro smoothies. I’m going to try out some other preparations tonight. The tongs help, but it is lots of work cleaning out the seeds and pulp.

Luscious Blob

Luscious Blob

We have now learned a ripe bud from a not ready one. We know, as the ancients did, how to take the dried flower tips and cut like a razorblade across the bud’s skin to access the scarlet treasure inside.

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We know which sides of the plant are edible first and how to find prospects that are not in a pricker patch. Quickly, through error, we have learned not to catch buds with the sun in our eyes. We have gotten to know our fellows in our desert better. Each saguaro that we interact with is a friend.

What do they taste like?

Our observations are still inconclusive, but so far it depends on maturity. The pulp and juice seem sweeter as they redden and explode, which is when the wildlife seems to go for it. As the juice matures or sits, it ferments. How much heating is done on the stove is a factor. Fresh, it has an often strawberry/dark cherry taste, which would be a closest description. Also, there is a woody taste in there from the seeds. So, I can definitely say that it tastes like saguaro fruit, unique and rare.

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It ferments in 4 to 7 days. After sitting around, it may be savored as fine liquor, sipping from shot glasses or snifters. I have enjoyed it best that way. I think that we may like pouring it over vanilla ice cream, tonight.

I’m always learning new things about this naked desert livin’. The ancients had it down, and modern man continues to be pretty much stupid and clumsy.

I recommend: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YjsvGg5kAgM

To explain and a prickery tale:

This one will also show you how a jumping cholla works.

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