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Great Writers Series: Mary Hunter Austin

The enchanting beauty and rich cultural history of the Southwest, where some of our properties are located, serves as a constant source of inspiration. As part of our new “Great Writers” series, we take immense joy in celebrating individuals whose contributions have cast a lasting glow on the Southwest, mirroring its radiant sunsets. Today, our spotlight is on Mary Hunter Austin, a writer whose connection to the land weaves through her work, reflecting the soul of the Southwest.

Monument Valley West. Photo: 45SURF Hero's Odyssey Mythology Photography
Monument Valley West. Photo: 45SURF Hero’s Odyssey Mythology Photography

Mary Hunter Austin, born in 1868, spent her life deeply immersed in the exploration and interpretation of the American Southwest’s landscapes. Her passion resonates strongly with us at Optima®, as we see our residents similarly captivated by the extraordinary vistas and cultural richness inherent to Optima Sonoran Village® and Optima Kierland Apartments® properties.

Sonoran Desert Landscape
Sonoran Desert Landscape. Photo: Bureau of Land Management Arizona

Austin’s acclaimed work, “The Land of Little Rain,” transcends conventional narratives, encapsulating the raw and compelling beauty of the Mojave Desert. In this collection of essays, Austin captured the intricacies of desert life — the flora, the fauna, and the Native American cultures — with a poet’s eye and a naturalist’s precision.

Optima Sonoran Village
Optima Sonoran Village
The Land of Little Rain
The Land of Little Rain

In addition to her descriptions of nature, Austin’s work reflected her strong sense of social justice, particularly related to Native American culture, women’s rights, and environmental conservation. In her writing, we see the Southwest not just as a backdrop, but as an active participant in the lives of the people who inhabit it. It is this vibrant, interconnected community that Austin so cherished, and that we are privileged to be a part of.

Delving deeper into Mary’s writings, we find a profound understanding and respect for the forces that shape the Southwest. Her observations were not passive; they formed the groundwork for a vibrant dialogue between humanity and the environment. Austin didn’t merely write about the Southwest — she engaged with it, championed it, and ultimately became one of its most influential advocates.

The Land of Journey's Ending
The Land of Journey’s Ending

At Optima®, we are inspired by Austin’s deep connection to the Southwest. Her detailed and vibrant narratives serve as a testament to the beauty of the region, reminding us of the power of truly getting to know a land and the importance of fostering a harmonious relationship with it. Through this shared love of these lands we find ourselves forever inspired, and captivated, deeply aware that we are not just creating buildings, but crafting experiences that resonate with the vibrant spirit of the American Southwest — a spirit so eloquently portrayed in Austin’s works.

Unearthing the Desert’s Splendor at the Desert Botanical Garden

At Optima®, we’re always excited to spotlight spaces that celebrate the captivating beauty of nature while enriching our communities. Today, we venture to the sun-drenched landscapes of Phoenix, home to the remarkable Desert Botanical Garden. This natural wonder encapsulates the magic of the desert, bursting with over 50,000 desert plants across its sprawling 140-acre expanse.

Founded in 1939, the Desert Botanical Garden has curated an outdoor gallery that beautifully showcases desert plants’ resilience and diversity. From towering saguaro cacti to delicate desert wildflowers, each exhibit is a testament to the rich biodiversity that thrives in the seemingly harsh conditions of the desert.

The garden is more than just a collection of desert flora; it’s a living, breathing embodiment of the Sonoran Desert’s essence. It presents a series of trails such as the Desert Discovery Loop Trail and the Sonoran Desert Nature Loop Trail, each unfolding a unique story of desert life. As you walk these trails, you’ll find yourself immersed in an incredible mosaic of desert beauty.

Sonoran Desert Nature Walk Trails in Phoenix. Photo: Desert Botanical Garden

But the marvel doesn’t end with its spectacular plant life. The Desert Botanical Garden is also an active hub for research and conservation. It is deeply committed to protecting the desert’s natural splendor, ensuring that future generations will be able to marvel at these landscapes just as we do today.

Beyond the exploration of desert life, the garden hosts an array of vibrant events and exhibitions. From awe-inspiring art installations to engaging educational programs for adults and children, the Desert Botanical Garden pulses with an energy that extends beyond its plant life. There’s always something to delight in, learn from, and explore.

Ottosen Entry Garden. Photo: Bill Timmerman and Adam Rodriguez

Visitors are also greeted by the striking Ottosen Entry Garden. This architectural delight, inspired by desert patterns and interspersed with bold plant colors, sets the tone for an immersive desert exploration. It’s a testament to how architecture can meld seamlessly with nature, creating a grand entry into the desert’s heart.

As we at Optima® celebrate the places that elevate our appreciation for the natural world, the Desert Botanical Garden stands as a magnificent testament to the desert’s allure. It challenges the perception of deserts as lifeless terrains, instead revealing an ecosystem brimming with life, beauty, and countless stories waiting to be discovered. The garden invites us all to step into the desert landscape, uncovering the rich, abundant life that flourishes under the Arizona sun.

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