Irish rockers U2 stopped in Chicago this past weekend sharing with us their Joshua Tree 2017 world tour, commemorating the 30th anniversary of the release of The Joshua Tree Album.  Recycling albums might  be the new movement in Rock and Roll. A few years ago, we saw Yes perform a few album sides, and it was wonderful. Recycled album tours, re-purposed for a new generation.

Me and Juju Bean pretending to be Rock Stars!

My best friend Judy Bean gifted me a ticket for my 50th birthday and together ( both of us U2 virgins) rocked the night away. A nostalgic show, memories of a past era got under my skin and still haven’t left.

Amazing show!

Opening the show from the middle of the arena floor, the band came up from the floor playing Sunday Bloody Sunday, followed by New Year’s Day, Bad and Pride. From there they made their way to the front main stage and blew us away with The Joshua Tree, beginning to end. The Finale ended with Beautiful Day, Elevation, Miss Sarajevo, Ultra Violet, One and I Will Follow.

Yep, thirty years after it’s release I got to see this. Like a great story didn’t want it to end.

In 1988 I owned three cassette tapes; U2: The Joshua Tree, Peter Gabriel’s So and The Talking Head’s Stop Making Sense. With the help of a Walkman I could listen to music anywhere; on the 62 Archer bus, in my room at Benton House or my Grandma’s living room.  Every song on these three album’s moved me, literally. I was on my way to becoming a dancer, and my solo warm ups, work outs and cool down, accompanied these soundtracks daily.

The Joshua Tree grows in one place and one place only, the Mohave Desert in the United States.

The first time I experienced the desert was early summer of 1989, six months into the Gunther Gable Williams Farewell Tour. I was 22 years old and a dancer with The Greatest Show on Earth. I traveled through many cities across these United States and nothing moved me more than my first glimpse of the desert.

Circus Train somewhere in the desert 1989.

My introduction to the desert took place on the vestibule of the RBBB circus train(the outside area between train cars), two hours east of Tuscon, somewhere in the Sonoran Desert. Keeping me company was my clown friend Ron Hoffman.  My senses were on over load. Soaking in the  landscape of beige sand, dry crumbly rocks and sparse vegetation it felt so wild and inhabited. Not a deciduous tree or building for miles insight. The smell of a new climate fell upon us quick, as the train made its way across this desolate empty land. The sun slowly lowered itself down in the direction we were headed west, blasting the sky with the crazy hues of pink and orange. I was humbled by God’s creation and was looking forward to exploring what lay ahead.

I remember asking Ron if we would see a Joshua tree? He quickly explained there were a few different deserts in the U.S. He thought Joshua National Park was north of where we were.

Ron Hoffman was correct.

According to DesertUSA.com there are four main deserts found North America. Three of the four deserts, The Chihuahuan,  Sonoran and Mojave, are considered hot deserts because of the high temperatures during the summer and its sub tropical plant life.The fourth, Great Big Basin is known as a cold desert. It’s generally cooler and plant life is not subtropical. Today, most scientist cannot agree on a common classification system for North American deserts, so there are plenty of subdivisions throughout.

Deserts are found only in western portions of the United States and are defined to be areas that receive less than 10″ of precipitation a year, rain and snow. Our deserts are unique and hold many precious flora and fauna found only in these regions.

According to the National Park Service,

1. Great Big Basin, the largest desert in the U.S. Located between the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Rocky Mountains, in parts of California, Idaho, Utah and Oregon. Common to this desert, sagebrush and shadscale. Bristlecone pine isalso found in this region. According to Live Science,somewhere in the White Mountains of California inthis Great Big Basin region reigns the oldest living organism in the world, a Pinus longavea. It’s estimated to be 5062 years old.

2.The Chihuahuan Desert is located primarily on the border between Mexico and the United States, well into Mexico. In the United States, it covers extreme south west Texas, southern New Mexico and south east Arizona. Creosote bush,yuccas, agave and prickly-pear cactus are dominant plants. As well as various grasses.

3. The Sonoran Desert is located in southern California, Arizona and Mexico. This is where the giant saguaro cactus can grow to a height of 60 feet, another slow grower, its arms remind me of arms. Other common native plants: Cholla cactus, beavertail cactus, creosote bush, indigo bush and Mormon tea bush.

4. The Mojave Desert which is  located between the Sonoran Desert to the south and Great Big Basin Desert to the north. This is where Joshua Tree National Park is located. It’s the only place in the world where the Joshua Tree grows.

The Joshua Tree, known as Yucca brevifolia in the plant world, is the largest of the Yucca family. It can grow anywhere between 15-40 feet tall and 1-3 feet in width. Growing 2-3 inches a year, it could take 50-60 years to mature. Living up to 150 years.

Pronumba Moth

Joshua Trees and most yuccas rely on the female Pronumba moth (Teteticula) for pollination.No other animal visiting the blooms transfer the pollen from one flower to another. The female yucca moth has evolved special organs to collect and distribute the pollen onto the surface of the flower. She lays her eggs in the flower’s ovaries and when the larvae hatch, they feed on yucca seeds. They do this work under the desert night sky.

Many desert adventures were had that summer of 1989 traveling with the circus. From Arizona, to Southern California, to Northern California and into Oregon. Turning east in Idaho, south to Utah, then across the mid west where we closed the year long tour in Chicago, my home.

Although I didn’t see a true Joshua Tree on that tour. It wasn’t until I returned to the southwest with my hubby in 1994, when we ventured into Joshua Tree National Park looking for the unique tree called the Joshua. Oral history states it was named by the Mormons, after Joshua from the Old Testament, who open his arms to the promised land.I suppose the outstretched branches represent Joshua’s arms.

I married My husband Brian in 1991 and together we joined a town.  Here we raised our family, going back to the southwest yearly, for Cactus League Chicago White Sox action and the wonderful natural history that the desert has to share. Many memories were made through the years in the desert with the Gembara family and for this I am forever grateful.

If you have an opportunity to revisit U2: The Joshua Tree 2017 tour, I highly recommend it. These talented musicians from Ireland know how to put on a big show. I’ve added it to my list of best concerts ever. Bono, Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr., still have the groove. Even when my body reminded me it was almost bedtime, I kept dancing and felt every bass line.

And if you make your way to the south west, head up to Joshua Tree National Park and check out what all the fuss is about. Don’t forget your copy of U2’s Joshua Tree. If you have it on cassette tape it may bring you back to  1987 for a little while.

Prickly Pear Cacti growing in my Chicagoland backyard.