Into the desert

It’s not a metaphor. I’m in Arizona. Not quite the wandering-for-forty-years, Ben Hur, Bugs-Bunny-mirage-enducing, camel-train- type desert – more like urban sprawl, anti-immigrant sentiment enshrined in law, and forced lawns, green with better-used-elsewhere water, plunked in the middle of saguaro cactuses and mini-mountains that from a distance could easily be mistaken for large piles of dirt and rubble, waiting to be used for landscaping projects. It’s Scottsdale – more strip malls and private health care offerings jammed in a few square, easily accessible by car, miles than likely anywhere else. And tidy. So neat and orderly it cries out for garbage and street people.  

But it has desert light, most spectacular when all light is, in the early morning and at the end of the day, with the sun behind you. On our first afternoon my mom and I came out of Fry’s grocery and headed to Sprouts health food store catching that light for a few minutes. Daytime haze evaporated, the mountains, stark, clear and grayish-brown (I want to say colourless but that would be unfair to grayish-brown), present themselves as if to say, we’re still here despite the multiplying houses and condos, more Old Navys and Marshalls than any urban human might need. Just try fucking with us. And you can be sure that as soon as we need to we will. But for now we don’t.

Arrived Wednesday. By plane. I wish I liked to fly, that it didn’t feel like the big metal bird was mocking gravity, playing a game of chicken with the natural order of things. Like childbirth (which happens about 490,000 times a day) I still think, every time I hear about an infant’s successful arrival, or deplane in some other city, “Holy crap, it works.” So vacations, bookended with air travel, always have an undertone of anxiety for me. 

Our flight however, was smoother than our arrival at the condo. Sadly, the place my parents have rented for two months is dark, and backs onto a four-lane thoroughfare. Constant cars, day and night. My mother wanted to leave immediately. Why come to the desert to sit in the dark and listen to traffic? I concur.

Despite being pretty much the cutest mother on the planet (and that’s not just opinion, there’s a lot of solid qualitative research to back it), her job in life is to keep an eye on the glass half-empty side of things. Someone has to monitor it. Both my mother and I approach disappointment like a wild dog with a meaty bunny, why let go of perfectly good disappointment before it has been chewed to death.

We have mitigated the light situation with gin and the replacement of weak, curly, environmental lightbulbs, with good old-fashioned 100 watt bulbs. As for environmental lighting - the future looks dim. I will be going green elsewhere for as long as possible.

So the day I imagined, one of checking out the hot tub and settling down to a few good hours of writing, didn’t happen. But despite the imperfect conditions I’m so excited to be here with my mom. I think we’ll have a splendid time.



Watering the lawns? That water was not exactly "better" used elsewhere. Probably "already" used elsewhere. It's how they do it there.


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