Boundary: Ghost Town
Nature Features: Tumbleweed (Kali tragus / Salsola tragus)
Desert Senna (Senna covesii)
◆ Growth points ◆
You're looking for trouble.
Senna is an “insensitive pest” and “pain in the fucking arse” that haunts a ghost town somewhere within occupied Yavapai and Akimel O’odham lands, or what is currently central Arizona.
◆ Background ◆
Senna covesii is the lesser-known relative of the medicinal sennas, which are used to… clean you out, if you know what I mean.
Like her namesake, Senna is a bit of an acquired taste. She is insatiably curious, too smart for her own good, and completely secure in the knowledge that nothing in this life can hurt her in a way that matters. This fearlessness gets her into hot water just as often as it gets her out of it, but that never seems to bother Senna. Those around her, on the other hand, have their own opinions. Senna can be a lot to handle for even the most well-meaning esk.
And if you’re a troubled ghost? A cruel-hearted wraith with not-so-good intentions? Such beings are wise to steer clear of her. Senna loves nothing more than making herself the problem of ghosts who cause problems for others. Her own past is murky at best, but some part of her still cares deeply for this land. She will do everything in her power to stop them before they can hurt it.
And she has developed some funny ways of doing this. Senna gladly tests the boundaries of non-violence between esk, and often uses this to her advantage when dealing with particularly volatile ghosts. She is a little spitfire, slinging taunts and feints at an interloper until she becomes the target of their frustration. But to attack her is to play straight into her hand. Unlike her surroundings, Senna is shielded from harm by the spirit of pacifism that all esk share. Being tossed around like a little tumbleweed is just a normal Friday night for her.
This is Senna at her most benign, believe it or not. She wasn’t always this way. Urban legends tell of a darting shadow that haunted the local ghost town, wreaking havoc for tourists, daytrippers, and ghosthunters alike…
◆ Past Life ◆
She's not worried about it.
◆ Nature Features ◆
Though Senna doesn't know what she was in her previous life, she's pretty sure it had something to do with plants.
Once a natural botanist, Senna lost much of this knowledge when she was transformed. On some level, she still knows the plants of the Sonoran Desert—she retains many of the names and relationships between them—but some wires seem to have been crossed when it comes to properly identifying them.
Hejel 'e'esadam (O'odham) ◆ Chamizo volador (Spanish) ◆ Tumbleweed (English) ◆ Kali tragus (Syn. Salsola tragus) is the icon of the Wild West, at least as it exists in pop culture. The bitter irony is that tumbleweed is a noxious weed in the Americas. Thought to be introduced 100 years ago via a contaminated flax shipment, tumbleweed has since raked its hand over the Southwest, scattering widely and displacing native plants in disturbed areas.
The tumbleweed that most are familiar with is actually the diaspore of the plant, or the form it takes to disperse seeds. Tumbleweeds can travel an incredible distance in this form—one individual was found traveling 2.5 miles over the course of 6 weeks. In the process, they can drop as many as 100,000 seeds.
The tumbleweed around Senna’s neck was once a source of intense shame. It was the only plant she retained from her past life, and so she thought that all ghosts were like her: Weedy, dangerous, and incapable of managing the collateral of their existence.
Something changed when she met a kind-hearted trespasser. With his help, she gained a new perspective on her weedy yoke. She’d soon learn that through careful study, patience, and no small amount of labor, she can renew her bond with other plants, too.
Ko'owĭ Ta:tam (O'odham) ◆ Ejotillo (Spanish) ◆ Desert Senna (English) ◆ Senna covesii is a low-growing legume and pollinator favorite. It's a very distinct plant, between its silvery leaves, dainty yellow flowers, and V-shaped seed pods. City transportation departments often use it for road-side restoration projects.
Desert senna was the first plant to recognize Senna’s efforts. Searching for a way to counter the weediness of her tumbleweed, Senna realized what ecologists and natural resource managers have found to be true of her haunt: Tumbleweed is often succeeded by native plants, when a disturbed area is restored. It simply can’t compete with a healthy desert in the long run.
In regaining this knowledge, Senna also regained the companionship of a friend. In the boughs of her tumbleweed sprouted silver leaves, yellow flowers, pronged seedpods—desert senna.
Senna took the plant’s name in honor of this first remembering. She now commits much of her free time to studying plants, in hopes of remembering them the same way desert senna remembered her.
More to come, soon…
◆ Relationships ◆
Somewhere between his adoptive daughter and a source of premature grey hairs, Senna is a regular thorn in Heath’s side. He wouldn’t have it any other way.
The two make an unlikely duo. Senna is all adrenaline and raw impetus to Heath's quiet, somber manner. But his gentle spirit is what called to Senna, when they first met. It doesn't hurt that the gardener has done so much to help recover her botanical memories, as well.
Although Heath spends a lot of his time worrying about Senna’s well-being, the two have their share of disagreements. Senna’s devil-may-care attitude stresses out Heath, and as she pushes to find her own way as an esk, they don’t always see eye-to-eye on things.
Heath thinks that her methods of dealing with malcontent trespassers are too extreme and dangerous. But in Senna’s eyes, she’s just doing the work that Heath is too scared to. He fails to realize that a gentle word just won’t do it for some ghosts—particularly the ones who are so deep in their pain that they can’t see beyond themselves. She should know. She was one of them, once.
Heath isn’t so sure. His patience is what allowed him to get through to Senna, after all. If he had raised his voice against her, he doesn’t think they would have the relationship they do today.
Jun is like a grandmother to Senna. The two are kindred spirits; Senna’s quick wit, taste for trickery, and wildfire heart remind old Jun of her younger self. They delight in exploring the desert and making harmless mischief together.
Jun is also one of the few who can see past Senna’s rough edges and appreciate the woman for what she is: A young ghost, struggling to find her place in a changing world. Jun remembers those days, though she never thought she’d live to reminisce over them as an old woman.
She shares Heath’s views that what Senna is doing is dangerous, but she also realizes that there are forces in this world that she and Heath simply aren’t equipped to handle. If Senna is brave enough to face them, who are they to stop her?
Senna and Ora met under less-than-ideal circumstances. Senna found the esk thundering through a coulee, bucking and throwing herself against its walls in terrible grief. Mistaking the woman for a violent spirit, Senna immediately set to work baiting Ora into wrestling with her. But what Senna didn’t realize was that Ora’s frustration was only ever directed towards herself—She didn’t need someone else to call her names and point out her faults.
Senna’s mistake was a swift and painful lesson in the consequences of her work. Perhaps her next lesson will be in apology…
Against the advice of everyone around her, Senna is determined to find Dia. And when she finds her, she will catch these hands.*
Senna’s mentor, Heath, takes no pains to hide his resentment of the Wanderers. To him, they are responsible for causing him 100 years of grief and pain.
Ever the contrarian, this has only made them objects of curiosity in Senna’s eyes.
The first Wanderer Senna met was a whirlwind of emotion, to say the least.
Senna’s huge heart is laid bare whenever the subject of Seventh comes up. Her only encounter with them was short and turbulent, but it left a profound impression on her. She disagrees with the idea that Seventh is a malicious or callous entity; she swears it’s pain that causes them to act the way they do. Senna feels a strange sense of kinship with their inability to articulate themself, and often wishes she could offer them some form of companionship.
Senna is something of a mixed bag. She can be moody and aloof, blunt and forthcoming, or mischievous and scathingly funny—It really depends on how she’s feeling and who her present company is. Senna has a strong force of personality and a somewhat theatrical sense of self-confidence, but those close to her know it belies insecurity.
If she gets it in her head that you’re interesting, say your prayers. She will make herself your problem until her curiosity is satisfied (or until she realizes she’s trying to draw blood from a stone, whichever comes first.) To her, all the world’s mysteries are there for us to chase—even the seemingly inconsequential ones.
While Senna is an enemy of those who hurt others, she is strangely awkward when interacting with other well-meaning trespassers. They can often see right through her, sensing grief in her resonance or in the braggadocious persona she projects. She is uncomfortable with this, but finds her truest friends among those who have known this grief first-hand.
Note: This list is incomplete! If you have used Senna as a character in your stories, just let me know and I can add a little blurb.
◆ Stories ◆
◆ Notes ◆
- Senna’s resonance is subtle, like the rattling of tumbleweed or the sound of wind combing through leaves.
- Senna always manifests with her tumbleweed, but it is usually accompanied by other plants to mitigate its weediness. Occasionally, when Senna is in a bad mood, she will manifest with only the tumbleweed.
- Though Senna spends most of her time wandering the Sonoran Desert and its neighboring communities, she's not adverse to traveling abroad. She sometimes visits the Conservatory, where she likes to take a peek at what others are doing.
- Her speaking voice is strong, but a bit reedy.
◆ Use ◆
Feel free to reach out if you would like to feature Senna in your works. In general, she is a trickster, contrarian, and enemy of those who wield power over others. Other esk will have their own opinions of her, good and bad, but rarely does she leave without leaving an impression.
Senna can be used as a creator esk, depending on the story. Although she is inexperienced in this area, transformations are one of the few things that Senna takes seriously. She never wants to pass on the grief of her own transformation to others. For this reason, she is more likely to create travelers than trespassers—but mistakes can happen.
She would take special pride in giving re-transformations to kind-hearted trespassers seeking to realign their origin or biome. Senna may also transform certain plants. She has a tender heart for long-lived trees and shrubs that are in peril due to natural disaster, human intervention, and so on.
Well, you howl and you roar
but I am not afraid of you anymore.
Agua Fria National Monument. Photo by BLM AZ