Featured On the Go — 08 March 2017

Srajan and Pravina explore the meaning of Dardedel and travel through the Saguaro National Park in Arizona to find saguaro cacti.

WHEN the long desired trip to India fell through due to passport and visa complications, WHAT to do now became the question. WHERE would life take us next? WHY we chose the American Southwest was determined by a visit to an estate sale one icy, bitter cold day in January. HOW it all happened is this story.

Dardedel book coverWhilst at the estate sale we eventually purchased three handmade rugs over the weekend. There I noticed an unusual looking book. A dark blue jacket cover with the outline of a rug covered the page with a flowered border. At the top border were four yellow taxi-cabs and at the bottom a portrait of a fully bearded turbaned man. The title read Dardedel, Rumi, Hafez, and Love in New York, by Manoucher Parvin.

After purchasing the book, we hurried home to look inside and then learned that the story was of a Professor Perooz from New York, who, feeling lost to the world, goes to the Saguaro National Park in Arizona for inspiration. There he comes upon two stately saguaro cacti who just happen to be the incarnations of poets Rumi and Hafez, standing side by side. And there begins a riotous adventure and a long Dardedel.

On the first page I was to learn the meaning of ‘Dardedel’:

“In English we would call it a heart-to heart talk, yet a dardedel is so much more than that, so much more than talk. Darde means ache. Del means heart. But put together they mean one and another sharing the most private, sincere, and important things. Dardedel unchains us from the burdens of our isolation and loneliness. By uniting our soul with another soul, our deepest thoughts and feeling are set free, without shame of judgment or the fear of betrayal. It is this absolute trust that makes dardedel so special and so sacred.”

After our own dardedel it was clear that we would, like the good Dr. Perooz, follow this message, “Take me to the desert they call the Sonora, to that endless world where the saguaros grow.”

Map Arizona
Saguaro Entrance

And here we are in Tucson humbled among these most amazing ‘creatures’ called saguaros.

Awestruck we were soon to learn many things about saguaros here at the National Park.

A saguaro must start life under a tree or shrub to protect it from drying and from predators. It will often outlive it’s ‘nurse’ plants. Saguaros grow slowly and can reach a height of 50 feet. It commonly takes 47-67 years for a plant to reach 6 feet.

Saguaro tissue is 85% water and a large one can weigh 8 tons (16,000 pounds or 7,272 kilos!).

One quickly sees that no two saguaros are exactly the same. In the vast fields thousands upon thousands abound in the most remarkable and sometimes amusing shapes. Saguaros eventually grow arms. More arms mean more places to grow flowers and thus more opportunity to produce seeds. And produce seeds they do. In a 150 to 200-year life cycle, a saguaro might produce 40 million seeds. Dispersal, rainfall, and other factors result in about one of these seeds living to maturity to replace the parent plant!

Saguaros don’t begin to grow arms or branches until they are between the ages of 55 and 85 years old and they always grow upwards. Occasionally, frost or snow will freeze the tissue at the base of the branch and damage it, and the weight of the branch pulls it downward. If the branch survives, the growing tip will turn upward again.

Saguaro flowers open at night and are pollinated by Mexican long-tongued bats and lesser long-nosed bats that are attracted by the sweet nectar. Each flower stays open until the following afternoon, when bees and birds such as white-winged doves also have an opportunity to pollinate the blossoms. Birds also help the seed dispersal when the regurgitated fruit fed to the young fall to the ground beneath the nesting trees.

Saguaros are bountiful for both birds and humans. Gila woodpeckers and gilded flickers make nest holes in the stems of the cactus. The cactus then quickly produces material to heal and dry the wound. After the woodpeckers abandon the nests, cactus wrens, elf owls, mice, snakes, and spiders may find sanctuary in the water-cooled cavities left behind.

Humans have utilized the saguaro fruits for thousands of years. The native Toohono O’odam (Desert People) collected the fruit for jams, jellies, candy and ceremonial wine used in rituals to bring the summer rains. The entire process of harvest and preparation is vividly shown in displays at the national park visitors center.

Nearby the Visitors Center in the remarkable Desert Museum. The name doesn’t best describe this amazing place. The ‘raptor’s show’ where you can see owls, hawks, ravens, and the birds in flight and close-up is thrilling to see. Amongst the extensive gardens are habitats for bobcats, ocelots, foxes, wolves, bears, and mountain lions. We learned a lot about gila monsters and rattlesnakes in an up-close presentation at one of the auditoriums. Truly enlightening!

There is such reverence for saguaros here in Arizona that they are strongly protected and it is against the law to cut, damage or remove one. It is not uncommon to see homes built around the cacti or to have them incorporated into the home design within a garden or patio space. Thereby even the humblest of homes can have a splendid saguaro highlighting the property.

Now, 2500 miles along in our journey, we have had many dardedels with ourselves and with those we have met. Not everyone is open to exploring their greatest longings but those moments can occur and the dardedels can be extraordinary. Found right outside the balcony to our BNB is a 20’ saguaro with six arms. Birds call us from the cavities, an elf owl hoots at night under a star-filled sky, as the cactus carries on a dardedel with the desert. Upon awakening the smell of the desert – clean, grass-like, and cooled by night – fills our nostrils as the soft light begins the opening of another warm day.

We’ve nick-named this saguaro “Parvin” in honor of the author who inspired us to visit here. Here’s Parvin’s poem in his introduction to Dardedel:


My Love Songs of Love Songs

I kiss the blossoms of spring – it is you.
I kiss the magic of autumn – it is you.
I splash into the womb of summer – it is you.
I swim across the ice of winter.
To find you.
To hug you.
To love you.
All things lovable are you.

I love the song of Hafez – it is you.
I understand the wisdom of Rumi – it is you.
I practise the Zen of Buddha – it is you.
I admire the science of Einstein – it is you.
I dance to the music of Mozart – it is you.
I breath in the blue of Picasso,
When remembering you, when missing you,
You, lovable you.

You are the perfect mother, and the perfect father.
You are the perfect lover, the perfect ascended soul,
The supreme good humankind should be,
That men and women, once perfected, will be.
I long for you, keep vigil for you,
Forever, until I am no longer.

Manoucher Parvin

SrajanSrajan is a regular contributor

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