Desert Blooms, a Labyrinth, and a Little Dust-up

The last few weeks have got me discombobulated and now back in hectic New York, where workmen are hanging on a scaffold outside my office window and apparently in the process of drilling the building into kingdom come. So I’m calming myself–and you too, maybe–with a walk through the Sonoran desert in Arizona. Can it only have been last week?

The desert in spring is magnificent, and the morning we left I took a spin around the property’s 2-mile loop, which has a beautiful labyrinth. Good for contemplation.

Saguaro Cactus
The Saguaro cactus is found exclusively in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and western Sonora, Mexico. They can live up to 200 years. Some have lots of arms, and some have none. I don't know why. Brilliant yellow foliage in the background is a palo verde tree.
Saguaro Cactus
Saguaro cactus with arms

You may recall I had taken His Grace to a spa called Canyon Ranch for his birthday. Now a health spa, I don’t care how posh, was probably not on his list of top 10 anything’s. Or even top 20. It was his punishment for not letting me give him a party.

Blooming Desert
Wish I could identify all these plants. Please chime in if you know ...

His favorite exercise at the spa was Sit on the Sofa and Read, which he would occasionally change up with Lie Down and Take a Nap. These are what they call low-impact work-outs, designed to minimize stress on the joints and maximize stress on the sweetheart (aka me Miss BossypantsKnowItAll) whose expectations of His Grace’s activity may have differed slightly from His Grace’s own. And guess whose problem that is. Hint: Not His.

Blooming Desert
Along the path...

Of course I’m exaggerating. HG was a good sport, he did exercise, and he was totally appreciative of what the Ranch has to offer. I was perhaps overeager to share my enthusiasm for a place I’ve been coming to for 25 years and that has had such a positive impact on so many friends and family. Selfishly, I want HG to be healthy and to feel good forever.

Blooming desert

Well he is healthy, and he does feel good. How he chooses to stay that way is his responsibility, despite the fact that everyone is entitled to my opinion.

Prickley Pear Cactus
A prickly pear, irony intended...

Shame on me for sulking when he didn’t want to follow my infallible and virtuous advice; and good for him for calling me on it, which he did.

Prickley Pear Cactus - Red
A violet prickly pear

Good for both of us for hashing the whole thing out and being grown-ups–eventually. That’s the most important exercise there is when you love somebody, maybe in order to love somebody.

Labyrinth at Canyon Ranch
Labyrinth at Canyon Ranch

And in case you did not know…

Sign at Labyrinth entrance
Sign at Labyrinth entrance

Relationships are a labyrinth. They offer the opportunity to walk in a mess to that place where the rational merges with the inner-brat and the solution is reborn. Then you walk the heck out of the mess and carry on.

Frances in Labyrinth
Does this shadow make me look fat?
Blooming cholla cactus
Cholla cactus
Barrel Cactus
Barrel cactus
Desert Willow?
Desert Willow?
Palos Verdes tree
Palo verde tree and barrel cactus
Heart-shaped Cairn

Happy trails.

All photos by Frances Schultz for


  1. Your article on cactus was serendipitous
    For the last three days I have been picking the blooms off my Prickly Pear cactus and putting them in the top of a pretty ‘rice bowl’ as the sides are slanted. I added a little water and they closed at night and re-opened in the morning.
    It has been a pleasure to enjoy these little blooms as a little bouquet…and bring inside a little of the outside.
    I enjoyed your article!

  2. What fun, Frances! The HOTY and I loooove CR. We exercise from morning until night and love it. Haven’t been to Arizona, but now that we live on the west coast we may try it. Have you ever gone to the Ranch at Live Oak Malibu (read: MAJOR boot camp)? It’s great and I’m itching to go again…
    PS – You couldn’t look fat if you tried!!!

  3. Yes, good for both of you! Relationships really are labyrinths, aren’t they? Sometimes they feel like tangled yarns! You two untangled it and THAT is the important thing. Beautiful scenery!

  4. The “shadow” comment caused me to laugh out loud…thank you for that. Loved this whole piece, from the photos to your wise comments regarding those we love. Say hello to that noisy, but wonderful city for me!

  5. F- This was my favorite piece yet— laughed loud, then very moved. so well put.Your statement under the labyrinth sign photo is perfect.
    p.s Also was brought to tears by your graceful words about Robert Williamson , and the responses to your post.
    Also the post about your mom which i think of with a smile. Hap , moving very slowly but still quite alert, is coming today for M day weekend, and i realize how precious that is…. 2 lovely ladies..

  6. F. . .what a delight to see these beautiful cactus in bloom at what is surely the best time of year in the desert. My family live in Tucson and I’ve not been there for a couple of years and I miss them and this lovely landscape so much. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Well thank Jane, this is surely a compliment coming from a native ( or did your parents move there later?) in any case so glad to have you with us. 🙂

  7. I now live in Tucson by way of northern VA but miss NYC terribly. I never thought of picking the blosoms from the prickly pear and will have to try that like Paula mentioned. I never miss a day of NY Social With D.P.C. i do enjoy your site.

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