Last week, when I posted on Facebook that I’d wrestled a massive tumbleweed to get in my van, Gae had me promise I’d write a tumbleweed post — complete with pictures — on my blog.
For people who’ve never been to the Southwest, tumbleweeds are mysterious, weird dried things that roll around in old Coyote and Roadrunner cartoons.
In college my sister, fascinated by tumbleweeds, took one back to school as her carry-on item. Years later, I found it in her guest room closet.
Last Thursday, I brought my phone along on my run and tried to see the trail with outsider’s eyes.
Those weeds took on a beauty of their own, resting up against the dusky greens of the chamisa, the dried branches of other desert shrubs,
skipping down steps, crushed against fences, gathered on the slope of a dry arroyo.
Natalie Aguirre says
They are oddly beautiful. It’s weird how different parts of the country can be so different. So funny that your sister took one in her carry on luggage.
Anne Gallagher says
I was totally fascinated when I saw my first one swirling across the road. (northern NV also high desert) I couldn’t figure out where they came from, until we went out to the mountains.
And to think that was all seaweed a billion years ago.
Thanks for the memories.
THank you for the photos to go with the story! I for one, have never seen a real live tumbleweed. what a marvelously diverse world.
gae polisner says
omg, this is FABULOUS!
I want a tumbleweed to call my own. I would put a cap on it, and give it googley eyes and call it Roscoe.
Thanks, Caroline. I truly LOVE this. Great to see tumbleweeds in their natural habitat. I now have tumbleweed envy. 🙂
Megan Bostic says
They are oddly beautiful and a bit of a mystery to me. Do bushes just shrivel up, die, get uprooted and started tumbling down the road?
I live in Arizona and have always been fascinated with the vagabond vegetation. They don’t seem to have a care in the world, don’t mind what they look like, don’t care what people think of them, refuse to stay put in one place for long, and get to see more of the world than any other plant and more than most people.
I’ve seen some folks take 3 of them, of varying size, stack them and wire them together, then spray them with white Christmas tree flocking to create a desert version of a snowman. Which is rather pretty in an absurdist sort of way, but I wonder how they feel about having their traveling days ended to wind up spiked down in someone’s front yard next to an inflatable Santa and a plastic Jesus.
Deb and Barbara says
I love these!! So compelling. No wonder your sister still has hers.
Heidi Willis says
Holy cow that’s a lot of HUGE tumbleweeds!! I lived in Texas quite a while, but more central and south, where there weren’t many of this type of vegetation. 🙂
Those photos are gorgeous!
If RObb doesn’t use that tumbleweed/snowman/proximity to a plastic Jesus detail in a piece of writing, I’m going to. and that, is the best thing about tumbleweeds. the artistic possibilities. and as to Gae–I know no-one who can provoke more comments about the most obscure & wide range of subjects. Caroline–what age is your book May B for? it’s a GREAT title…..(and I wonder if you’re in NV or New Mexico–my second home…….
Solvang Sherrie says
You’re totally making me miss the Southwest! Beautiful photos.
Caroline Starr Rose says
What a fun conversation today!
Natalie, if I remember correctly, we were on a trip when my sister saw “her” tumbleweed crossing a road. She insisted my dad stop the truck so she could catch it and take it home.
Anne, I sometimes forget how different the Rockies are from your side of the country. Fun to share.
Terry, I am continually in awe of the different landscapes, flora, and fauna around the world (or around the neighborhood, for that matter).
Gae, thanks for suggesting the post! If I were still going to BEA, I’d bring you one.
Megan, I always assumed they had shallow roots that easily pulled free in the dry, windy spring. Now that Gae’s had me study the things, I’ve noticed no roots at all. They must just dry up, break off, and roll.
Robb, you had me at “vagabond vegetation.” The carefree tumbleweed attitude you’ve described sounds like most SW folks I know. And I’ll never look at those tumbleweed snowmen the same again — poor captured weeds forced to serve as decorations!
Deb and Barbara, aren’t they fun? Not so much, though, when wedged between two vehicles. I did a lot of yanking and kicking to get into my car.
Heidi, further proof you must come visit: TX and NM tumbleweed comparisons.
Lori, Gae is one to get interesting discussions going, isn’t she? I’m in NM. We’ve just returned to our hometown after 13 years away. If possible, I’m more in love with the desert and mountains than I was growing up. MAY B. is for 9-13 year olds (though I’m hoping others will like it, too).
Sherrie, come on down. The sopapillas are waiting!
Kiki Hamilton says
Love your pictures Caroline! I love the southwest! My sister lived in Phoenix for 30 years so I visited at least once a year every year, and lived there briefly after college. It has a beauty all its own.
Valerie Geary says
Rollin’ rollin’ rollin’ keep those doggies rollin’…. I love me some tumbleweeds. But also, I was thinking how lonely these pictures were. Kind of made me want to work on my novel. Maybe I should add them to my “photo inspiration” file. Hmmm…
gae polisner says
I so very much love the dialogue that tumbled in after the tumbleweeds. Sorry I didnt return sooner to join back in. So love Robb’s imagery too, and the mysterious lightness, yet tangled toughness of these creatures. Yes, they seem anthropomorphic to me.
@Lori – I dunno, I might have to save that one. I have a short story coming out next month that is set in the Sonoran desert, and I could have used it then. But if I don’t use it in the next 6 months, I’ll loan it to ya. 😉
Lori – my short story just published, and I called it a nomadic shrub, so you can have vagabond vegetation.
A.L. Sonnichsen says
We have tumbleweeds here, too. They really do act like people … strolling along, conversing casually, and then they just take off. I took one out on the road today. Road kill? 🙂
Caroline Starr Rose says
Amy, I love it! I noticed today those tumbleweeds against the fence have migrated. Some are now stuck on the top — captured while trying to escape?
Carin S. says
A couple of years ago I heard a story on NPR of a guy who was taking a class to learn how to set up an ecommerce site online for his wife. During the class, he had to set up a site that was live, but didn’t sell anything exactly so he set it up to sell tumbleweeds, figuring there would be no buyers and therefore perfect for his class. Much to his and his wife’s surprise, people started buying tumbleweeds like crazy! They shipped them out, and started making a ton of money, by accident! It’s amazing what people will buy.
Caroline Starr Rose says
Carin, I love it! Must tell Gae, so she can have one of her very own.