Harbingers of spring

Punxsutawney Phil (1) may have seen his shadow, but here in San Diego we see harbingers of spring.  Even before we departed for the Ghost Mountain area in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, our lemon tree in our front yard was laden with lemons, which we shared with writer and photographer, Bert Gildart, who was out in Anza-Borrego photographing nesting hummingbirds.


Just before leaving for the desert we spotted a mother hummingbird sitting in her nest in our lemon tree.


Yesterday, I took these photos of our two baby hummingbirds:


 Marshal South also recorded harbingers of spring and wrote in his Desert Diary 3, April 1940 issue of Desert Magazine, “March at Yaquitepec”:

    Our personal Herald of spring has already made his call at Yaquitepec. No, not the traditional lion who is supposed to usher in the month of gales. Our March announcer is a Western Robin. He comes every year. We like to think that it is the same bird – and probably it is, for we have never seen more than the one each year. Oddly he seems out of place here in the desert among the frowning rocks and the cholla. But he has all the friendliness of the robin family.(2)

Marshal South and family created a home on Ghost Mountain and lived out an experiment in primitive living for about 17 years.  Poet, author, and artist Marshal South named his house and home Yaquitepec which comes from “Yaqui“, the freedom-loving Indians of Sonora, Mexico, and “tepec“, the classical Nahuatl (Aztec) word, meaning “on a hill; on a mountain”.  Yaqui sacred tradition centers around nature as a living university where spirits are acknowledged with love and respect as the living beings that they are.

All 102 articles and poems written by Marshal South for Desert Magazine from 1939 to 1948 can be read in Marshal South and the Ghost Mountain Chronicles: An Experiment in Primitive Living, 2005, Edited and with a Foreword by Diana Lindsay and Introduction by Rider and Lucile South, Sunbelt Publications, San Diego, CA.  In the Forward, Diana Lindsay wrote:

  South wrote with a lyric quality, painting word pictures as only a poet or artist could. He wrote with passion about the desert – its silence, beauty, and natural history; its healthful qualities; its early inhabitants and their lifestyle.(2)

 Diana Lindsay has been a desert naturalist for over 25 years. The Anza-Borrego Desert became the subject of her master’s thesis from San Diego State University, which was subsequently published as Our Historic Desert by Copley Books in 1973. Diana has also written and edited several additional books including: Anza-Borrego A to Z: People, Places, and Things; Marshal South and the Ghost Mountain Chronicles; and The Anza-Borrego Desert Region (which comes with a separate folded map). I have and treasure all four books and find them to be very informative and useful. Diana has served over 18 years on the board of the Anza-Borrego Foundation and Institute and owns Sunbelt Publications. Diana has given me permission to insert brief quotations from her book, Marshal South and the Ghost Mountain Chronicles, in my ongoing articles here, which will help me to illustrate how one can fall in love with the desert, its beauty and natural history. For example, in Marshal South’s own words (after the title page of the above book):

  The Desert!  Either you will love it or you will hate it.  If you hate it you will fly from it and never wish to see its face again.  If you love it, it will hold you and draw you as will no other land on earth.(2)

  Diana wishes you to know that there is a new website currently under construction, which will be hopefully open in a few weeks: www.marshalsouth.com where she will be offering published and unpublished works by Marshal and Tanya South in addition to many unpublished photos of the family and Marshal’s artwork. Diana will also have a blog to carry on conversations about the Souths.

Meanwhile, back at our homestead in San Diego, more harbingers of spring are appearing such as the Cattleya:


 Just before our last trip to the desert, we planted a bare root Saturn Peach.  The peach is native to China.


 This week it bloomed:


 We toast to our 38th Anniversary… and to the harbingers of spring:


 Some of the symbolic images on the table include two (Chinese lucky number) whole fish (abundance, prosperity, long life), two flying seagulls and the red dragon.


1. Punxsutawny Phil is a groundhog resident of Punxsutawny, Pennsylvania.

2. Marshal South and the Ghost Mountain Chronicles: An Experiment in Primitive Living, 2005, Edited and with a Foreword by Diana Lindsay and Introduction by Rider and Lucile South, Sunbelt Publications, San Diego, CA.


  1. says

    Lemons, you say?!?!? How lucky are you?? I hope you guys have a wonderful time in Anza Borrego. I wish I could have joined you this year, but maybe next year? Big hugs to everyone!!