Revisiting Desert

Diana and Sally have blogged the excitement we three feel about being accepted to the Tucson Book Festival. It’s a little surreal. When I lived in Tucson for twelve years, it was one of my favorite events. I learned a great deal from the authors who presented lectures on their books and was fascinated with their stories on creating them. I also have to say, I enjoyed filling my book bag with the many books I purchased at the event.

I have returned to visit Tucson nearly every year we have lived in Colorado. How can one not miss the desert with its large and hairy-bodied tarantula climbing your screen door, or a scorpion stinging the bottom of one’s foot the first day of your move to the desert (It really did happen to my husband in our living room. Our son and I immediately charged out of the room, forgetting he might need us to call the poison center—he lived). It was a new world keeping an eye out for rattlesnakes lazing in our yard, doorstep, or a walking trail. I can’t say I miss that, but I do miss the call of the cactus wren, the speed of the road runner and the nut-sized babies of a gambel’s quail scooting along behind their mother. Then there’s the washes, either as dry as a skeleton bone or rushing full after a heavy rain and the spring flowers in all their glory.

The desert is as beautiful as the mountain range I wake up to every morning and this March I will visit it once more. However, the best part will be joining my long-time friends and co-authors to attend a writing event, only this time, we will be part of it. I can’t wait!

Where I Am From

In this hurly-burly of year-end and holidays, it is nice to take a breath and reflect. Who am I now? With each year and the myriad of experiences it brings, it is good to assess the changes that may have been of consequence. Births, deaths, marriages, jobs, illness can all impact our sense of self. What is at your core and how was it created?

As Sally posted on Wednesday, I also admire Amanda Le Rougetel’s blog What’s My Story from her blogsite, I did not rise to Amanda’s challenge to make my story in sixty-five words or less. However, it is a great way to describe yourself by encapsulating your experiences in a short poem. In light of Sally’s post “Who Am I”, I was reminded of a prompt Beth Alvarado gave us in a 2013 writing group.  Write a poem that describes where you are from. (I know, I know – don’t end a sentence with a preposition – cardinal error). In 1998 George Ella Lyon, a Kentucky poet, wrote a book titled Where I Am From that was used as a model in teaching memoir writing. Clues to who you are come directly from your roots and experiences. Those memories are touchstones that reconnect me deeply back to myself in chaotic times, physical or emotional. Each stanza describes places that formed my view of the world, places where I was at home or where I lived tenuously until I could move on, ending in Tucson where I belong. I was born in Kansas, spent summers over many years with grandparents in Colorado, lived forty years in Western Washington, and finally settled in the Southwest that combines the sunshine of Kansas, the mountains of Colorado, and the extraordinary high desert skies. These short phrases packed with images, smells, and sounds tell my story.

Where I Am From

I am from the traveling wind, wide blue skies, and waving wheat

Great-grandma’s raw onions by the supper plate

Great-grandpa’s coffee can spittoon beside his rocker

Refrigerator on the back porch and dirt fruit cellar

Fireflies on summer nights

I am from the deep dark earth, mountain highs

Fishing at Estes Park

Honeysuckle, snapdragons, and putting up the beans

A ringer on the washing machine

Cold fried chicken and white bread with butter and sugar

I am from endless gray skies,

Armies of black-green sentinel firs reaching to the clouds

City of a thousand cultures mingled like succulent odors of stew

The drizzle of cold, the smell of mold

Wind in the sails, islands in the fog

I am from the knife-edged mountain peaks with hidden crevices

That rise from the desert floor

Coyotes howling, javelina prowling

The soul-filling smell of the creosote bush after summer monsoons

The endless blue of sky and translucent flower of prickly pear

This is one of the poems published in our book, Telling Tales and Sharing Secrets; Chapter 4, page 285. I sincerely hope you are creating happy memories with family and friends during this holiday season.