To tell a story set in the Sonoran Desert, which occurs in only one region of the world, we must include the iconic species of plants and animals who are its defining features. Their presence maintains the balance of life and contributes to the great beauty of this desert landscape. The saguaro cactus is its signature plant life, who some believe evolved from a tree in the tropical rainforest that dried to a savannah and then to a desert over thousands of years.
Saguaro in Tucson Arizona after a rainstorm. Its long shallow roots absorb water efficiently after a heavy monsoon rain.
Threshold tells the stories of many desert plants, trees, insects, invertebrates, and mammals. One strategy for conserving water is to be active at dusk and dawn. These animals are said to be crepuscular (as contrasted with nocturnal). The jaguar is thus, and also nocturnal. Panthera onca is the third largest of the cat family with a bite more powerful than the tiger or lion.
I named the jaguar character in Threshold. Duma. With the risk of personifying a wild animal by human standards, I tried to stay strictly to the known biology, behavior, and observed lifeways of jaguars in the Sonoran Desert. In my story Duma obtains his name from first graders in Phoenix. You’ll have to read the book to learn how that came about. Below you see another feature of this remarkable character: he is an albino, a White Cat, causing local observers to refer to him as the “ghost cat” as he moves about the fields and pastures of farms and ranches, terrifying livestock and infuriating their caretakers.
Duma is my writer’s device to represent wild nature and the impact of a changing climate and human activity on his lifeways. His story also allowed me to describe the labyrinth of environmental and conservation laws on both sides of the border and how Duma becomes, literally, emmeshed in them. He crosses the U.S. -Mexico border while roaming his natural range which stretches from Sonora in Mexico north to Phoenix in Arizona. Duma is caught up in the social and political turmoil.
It is important to me to consider the lives of other species who share our habitats in what is a human centric world.
4 thoughts on “Why Is a Jaguar a Character in Threshold?”
Every year the book Threshold and its characters become more significant. I enjoyed reading this piece on how the author uses her writing craft to send an important message.
Dear Diane, It was fun selling books at the Tucson Festival of Books and distribute a few to teachers and community leaders. I got tremendous feedback on The Last Farm on Lover’s Lane and have a plan to go home to strengthen it. That was my goal.
Thanks for supporting my books. You have contributed expertise to both!
Loved this book! These posts are inspiring me to re-read!
Thank you so much. Spread the word. I am particularly looking for teachers and church groups to read as a possible resources for discussions about community solutions to climate change.
LikeLiked by 1 person