Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Arizona Love

When I moved to Tucson Arizona at the age of 10, I hated it. Really hated it. I'd spent the last four years in a pine forest on the banks of a river at the edge of a wildlife preserve in Arkansas. My sister and I would while away the long afternoons berry picking on our bike rides, catching baby turtles, paddling down the river, and attempting to fish (We once fished from the dock every day for an entire summer and caught only one small fish. We sure were determined though.) So having come from such a  lovely environment, I simply couldn't believe that I was supposed to enjoy this new hot, arid home. I kept getting poked whenever I tried to play in our cactusy back yard. There was no soft grass to run around in, just dust and rocks. There were no tall trees, just what looked like scraggly (thorny) bushes to me. There were snakes and scorpions and a particularly huge and hairy tarantula that live in our house and would emerge from the vents at terrifying moments, such as while my sister was in the shower or right over my bed as I was trying to fall asleep at night. And it was hot. Over 100 degrees hot. When someone would try to point out a lovely sunset to me, I'd make bitter comments like "The sunsets in Arkansas were just as pretty, you just couldn't see them because of all the TREES."

But eventually, over time, Arizona won my heart like no other place ever has. I grew to love the "dry heat." I loved the warm, mild winters. I loved the mountains that surround Tucson on every side. I loved watching the spectacular cloud formations and sunsets. I loved dancing in the warm torrential downpour of a summer monsoon, or splashing through one of the temporary rivers it brought to our normally dry washes. I loved climbing on the roof and watching far off lightning storms. I loved how the mountains turned pink at sunset, and how I could see the milky way at night. I loved the visiting herds of javelina that would congregate on our porch. I loved spotting jack rabbits. I even grew to love the particular beauty of the spiny cacti, especially in the spring with their stunning blossoms. I appreciated the cleverness of all these plants that could survive in such a dry place. The way they stored water, grew small narrow leaves, warded off predators, and how some of them would live almost dormant for most of the year only to burst into green growth and bloom at the coming of rain. Yes, I love my desert. And now, living in cold rainy Portland, my heart often aches for it. Don't get me wrong, it's beautiful here too, but I miss the magical desert.

That's why, when I found out I had a month off between Americorps terms at Village Gardens, I knew I had to go back and visit. I recently spent 11 lovely days in Arizona, and I wanted to share a few pictures here.

The first night I was back in Tucson, I hiked Pusch Ridge with my friend Josh. Notice the prickly pear fruit on the right side there. They make delicious jelly if you can get past the dangerous harvest with tongs, and the burning off of tiny spines all over the fruit before you process!
We headed out shortly before sunset, because in the summer you can pretty much only hike at 5am, or at night.

I wish I were better at taking sunset photos, because it was absolutely gorgeous.

Another view of the ridge.

Next my good friend Karima and I went on an adventure to Southern AZ. First we checked out the quirky old mining town of Bisbee that's built into the hills. Then we went out to Cochise Stronghold for some camping and hiking.

This is from our drive down. Aren't those clouds and mountains fabulous?! And look at how GREEN everything is from the monsoons!

Here's a snapshot of a typical building in Bisbee - covered in funky art.

We were very excited to discover, while walking the hills of Bisbee, a fig tree growing on the street level below us.

Kari really liked those figs! hehe. We also foraged some pomegranates, fennel seeds and peaches. It was a very productive walk.
I have a lot of pictures, so I'll have to share some more from my trip later. Just loading these is making me a little homesick!

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