Recently in Arizona Category

Wireless and Still Unwired

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I haven't posted recently because I've been traveling.... I arrived at Sky Harbor Airport (PHX, in case you care about airport codes) a few days ago so I can hang out in Arizona for the Thanksgiving holiday. What is there to say about air travel except that it sucks in just about every possible way, but is nonetheless quicker than driving or taking a train (which unfortunately is not really an option for certain kinds of travel in the US anyway)?

But I arrived. And the weather is beautiful, in that "it's way too warm for November, but that's what global warming gives us" kind of way. Seriously, when I was a little girl, beginning in November and lasting until February we had something I wasn't embarrassed to call winter: you had to wear a coat, and the temperature would drop below freezing regularly, and sometimes there would be snow. But now if you live in southern Arizona you don't every really have to own a coat.

Anyway, things are going OK on this trip, except that something about the way my wireless whatever is configured on my laptop means that I can't access the wireless service where I'm staying, so if I want to blog or do email, I have to do it on the shared computer, and as there are four children 13 and under who all want to check email and edit anime videos, I have to queue up. Right now everyone but me and one sick niece are at church, so I have the computer to myself.

If I get the wireless thing sussed out, there will be more from me, but if I don't, both entries on my blog on comments on yours might be sparse for the next week.

I Am Suddenly So Freakin' Homesick


Woke up this morning well before 5 a.m., not particularly rested, all freaked out about mortality again.... I haven't written much about, because I lately haven't much inhabited, the spells of profound despair I'm sometimes subject to.... Sometimes I just worry. I bolt awake in the middle of the night, heart heavy and fast, tears already in my eyes, because the ice caps are melting and all the polar bears are going to die. Read a couple of days ago that all these new species, including the hippopotamus, have been added to the list of endangered species, and it pretty much bummed me out. "Entropy," I thought. "This is fuckin' entropy: everything reduced to the lowest common denominator, as boring and uniform as human beings can make it before they die out too."

And I also think about the fact that I'm 42 and probably about half way through my life. I sorta believe in reincarnation, and I wonder what I'll come back as.... I'm not announcing suicidal tendencies or anything--no need to worry about me--but there are times when I think, "Yeah, it wouldn't be so very bad to start all over again...."

And then I read something like this or this from Chris Clarke, which tears my heart in ways I can't fathom or describe. I realize that those of us who love the desert romanticize it terribly, and it's not because we don't know there are other places that are really beautiful. It's because, hell, I don't know.... In some ways the best thing I ever heard anyone say about the desert was T. E. Lawrence's response (at least, Peter O'Toole said it, in the movie version of T. E. Lawrence's life) when asked why he likes its so: "It's clean."

It's clean. You get dirty there, but the desert itself is somehow clean.

I spent most of my Christmas break in east Tucson at the home my parents recently purchased two doors down from my brother and his family, and one of the things I did while I was there was go for walks and look at the Catalinas, the strange mountain range to the North. The Catalinas are amazing: they're so weirdly bumpy and irregular, and they are perfectly situated to capture shadows created by the sun as it travels across the sky: the Catalinas change more than any other mountain range I've ever seen.

Like I said, there's something about all this I can't fathom or describe. The air seems clean (not that it really is these days) and clear and I just have this sense of... the sublime? Intimations of mortality? I'm just so aware of how the landscape I grew up in shaped my sense of... life as something bright and harsh. Of the world as something that doesn't much give a shit whether we manage to live in it or not, but is incredibly beautiful--and somehow knows that--whether we notice it or not. I've never not felt this sort of awe and despair and gratitude and certainty inspired by this deep visceral language-less knowledge the desert communicated to me the first time I look around and said, "Huh. So this is home."

I doubt this is making sense. Plenty of things I feel I can describe adequately. My love for my home and the reasons why the desert moves me--that I can't describe.

Happy Valentine's Day


My three favorite dates are December 16 (my birthday), December 25 (although I'm one of those evil pagans who prefers wishing friends and strangers "Happy Holidays" to "Merry Christmas," I still dig the whole giving-and-getting-gifts part of the gig), and February 14.

I like February 14 for two reasons: One, it's Arizona Statehood Day. That's right, Arizona became the 48th state in the Union on February 14, 1912. Because it was so fashionably late to the AWESOME party thrown by the Federal Government, I am able to say that none of my grandparents were born in the United States: three were born in Arizona before it became a state; the fourth, like a good many Mormons, was born in Mexico (which is where the polygamists went to stay polygamists, until Pancho Villa came along and told them to get the hell out).

Of course, the other reason I like February 14 is that it's Valentine's Day.

This is the 43rd Valentine's Day I've spent on this planet. For, oh, 39 of those 43, I've not had a Valentine to call my own (I even had two long-term relationships where I managed to be on the outs with my sig/ot during the month of February), but the fact that any flowers I received on such days were from my mother (she never neglects me or my sisters on Valentine's Day: she sent bouquets to all four of us on Monday) and any chocolate I got, I bought myself, hasn't dampened my enthusiasm for the day.

I just like it, you know? I like construction paper and scissors and glue. I like doilies. I like crayons and markers. I like red a lot, and pink is OK. I like chocolate. I like flowers. I like hearts. I like sending big envelopes through the US mail and I like telling the people I love that I love them, even if they don't offer to take me to dinner, call me sweetheart and kiss me passionately on the 14th day of February. (I'm not saying I'm opposed to the idea, I'm just saying it doesn't have to happen. I accept other gestures of affection and regard. One of my all-time favorite Valentine's Day presents is a garlic press my sister bought me in 1990 when we shared an apartment--I use it still.)

There have been years when I've made fudge for the dozen or so people closest to me. There have been years when I've baked heart-shaped cakes. There have been years when I've sent dozens of Valentines, to pretty much everyone in my address book. I'd rather do that than send Christmas cards--I mean, it's just so commonplace to send red envelopes in December to people you ignore the rest of the year, but who does it in February?

If I'd had my shit together this year, I would have fashioned a huge, elaborate heart of pink and red paper, a sincere token of my affection for all my friends and readers. I would have taken a photo of said creation, and uploaded it here. Unfortunately, however, that did not happen.

So you'll just have to accept this blog entry as my Valentine to you. If I know you well enough to love you, then believe me, I love you! And if we're still in the early stages of our friendship, then I like you every bit as much as I can without seeming pathetic, threatening and weird.

And if you like or love me too, please leave a comment and tell me so.

Greetings from the Valley

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Greetings from "the valley," short for "the valley of the sun," the local name for Phoenix and its environs (aka "Maricopa County.") I admit this is not my favorite part of Arizona. I prefer Tucson, which has fewer people, less pollution, a better skyline, my wonderful alma mater, and a longer history. But this is where my sister lives, and yesterday I drove up here from Tucson so I can hang out with her, her husband, her four children, and her really cute dog.

It's also where Wayne's parents live, and since arriving in Mesa, I'm also hanging out with Wayne. Yesterday we went to a bookstore, walked around a mall, drank coffee, tried to find a Mexican restaurant we were willing to eat at (which shouldn't be that difficult in this part of the country, but we had a hard time) and talked about how very weird Mesa is.

Curbside Delivery

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I'll soon be flying back to Arizona so I can hang out with my family for Christmas. I'm excited about it, for several reasons: 1) I have all these really cute nieces and nephews that I haven't seen since last Christmas; 2) I'll get to see Wayne, who will also be visiting his family in Arizona; 3) the highs in Tucson are supposed to be around 75 degrees (that's 24 Celsius, for those of you lucky enough to live someplace that doesn't use Fahrenheit, the stupidest of all non-metric measurements), which is a hell of a lot better than 25 F (-4 C).

What I'm not so excited about is the getting there part. I'm not the least bit afraid of being 31,000 feet above the earth in a big metal tube, but I don't like sitting around at the gate, waiting to get on and off that metal tube. I don't like being cramped for several hours in a seat next to a person who as often as not hogs the armrest. I don't like entrusting a suitcase full of my stuff to people I don't know. I don't getting to and from the airport.

I had a hell of a time finding a decent flight this trip--actually, I FAILED to find a decent flight this trip. My plane leaves at 6 a.m., which means I need to be to the airport around 5 a.m. The shuttle service I used to use is in the process of going out of business, and only delivers you to the airport if you want to get there during "convenient" times. 5 a.m. ain't convenient.

So I begged a ride from my friend Tom, who not only said he'd do me this favor, but didn't even seem to think I was being unreasonable in asking it in the first place.

Last night I was thinking about how great it is that he's willing to do this for me, and how I should do something to make it up to him. But that reminded me of an incident long about 1994, when someone I'll call Arianna asked me to give her a ride to and from the airport in Iowa, promising me that in return she'd find some truly fabulous gift to bestow upon me in recognition of my generosity.

China Crisis

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OK, so I didn't come up with that title myself: It's the title of an article in today's Independent UK, about China's environmental problems. (And for those of you who don't remember or don't care to remember, China Crisis is also the name of an 80s British pop band who achieved modest success with a single called "Arizona Sky," which, now that I read the lyrics, is kind of lame, but I always liked the lines praising the vast, brilliant blue sky of Arizona.)

Anyway, this article makes some truly dire predictions, which I have no problem believing are very, very likely. For instance:

deforestation is only one of the threats to the planet posed by an economy of 1.3 billion people that has now overtaken the United States as the world's leading consumer of four out of the five basic food, energy and industrial commodities - grain, meat, oil, coal and steel. China now lags behind the US only in consumption of oil - and it is rapidly catching up.

Because of their increasing reliance on coal-fired power stations to provide their energy, the Chinese are firmly on course to overtake the Americans as the world's biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, and thus become the biggest contributors to global warming and the destabilisation of the climate. If they remain uncontrolled, the growth of China's carbon dioxide emissions over the next 20 years will dwarf any cuts in CO2 that the rest of the world can make.

The article then discusses population growth in China and other parts of Asia, and quotes an expert who offers this opinion:

The bottom line of this analysis is that we're going to have to develop a new economic model. Instead of a fossil-fuel based, automobile-centred, throw-away economy we will have to have a renewable-energy based, diversified transport system, and comprehensive reuse and recycle economies. If we want civilisation to survive, we will have to have that. Otherwise civilisation will collapse.

I lived in Shanghai for several months in 1991. It was the most polluted place I had ever been, though Kaohsiung, a filthy port city in southern Taiwan, ran a close second. I can only imagine how much worse it it is now, with more cars and more people and even more people who can actually afford to heat their homes in the winter. (It was also very poor.) And supposedly Shanghai isn't nearly as bad as Beijing, which becomes particularly polluted each winter.

Self-Portrait as Recluse


A piece salvaged from old files, this was written in August 2001, when I first moved back to Arizona.

"People look better back-lit," my photographer friend told me. It's also true of mountains. This evening I rode my bike down to the Gila River a mile north of town, which involved passing the old sewer pond and the new wastewater treatment facility, both of which smelled especially bad, perhaps because it has been so long since it rained. The clouds were orange for a long time and then they were gray. The mountains had contours for a long time and then they were just a stark, dark outline before a diminishing brightness. I had never noticed before how the Pinalenos and the Santa Teresas look like a felled dinosaur, the head pointing southeast and the massive tail jutting northwest.

These two ranges, connected by a long, low ridge, look like they could be one mountain range, but they're geologically different, I'm told. The Pinalenos, which are taller and thicker and longer, have nothing in them worth mining. The Santa Teresas contain gold, silver, copper, etc, and if anyone wanted those minerals badly enough, they could get them out.

I haven't done anything exciting in the past eight years except: get a PhD, fall in love and get my heart broken, write a book. Each of these activities has hampered the rest of my life in certain ways. Getting a PhD involved being in graduate school in the Midwest for eight years. I hated many things about being in a PhD program, course work being at the top of the list, poverty running a close second. Once I finished course work and could just sit at home and read the books I needed to read for teaching or for research, graduate school became a lot less vile. I had lots of time but not a lot of money. I started to knit and quilt again. I took up yoga. I began to garden. All of that was enjoyable but it doesn't exactly rank high on anyone's list of huge thrills.

The Deep Green Door

As I mentioned, a few weeks ago a friend and I visited Kirtland, Ohio, an important site in Mormon history. I've been sitting here preparing to write the sentence, "Church history doesn't really interest me," but something stopped me, because it isn't quite true: I've always found the story of the Saints Crossing the Plains thoroughly compelling, but I think that's partly because it involves the vast, expansive landscapes of the West. I guess it's more accurate to say that "Church history in Ohio never really interested me;" all that stuff about how Joseph Smith and his hardy band of trusting converts moved hither and yon after Joseph exhausted his credit or a bank failed or whatever always struck me as feeble preamble: after all, they were moving distances of a hundred miles or so, from one small- to medium-sized eastern state with trees and stores and ROADS, to another. That is an enterprise much less romantic than carving a thousand-mile-long path across a wind-scoured landscape where you encounter more wolves and buffalo than people, and where, if you want something like grains or vegetables, you either have to bring them with your or camp for several months while you plant, grow and harvest them.

Can you tell I'm a little homesick right now? We had a string of glorious fall days, but autumn has well and truly arrived now, not as the culmination of summer but as the harbinger of winter, with vicious cold rain flung from a sullen sky. I can't help checking the weather report for Tucson.... Anyway, this was not supposed to be a post about why I still prefer the parts of this country west of the Mississippi to the parts east of it; it's supposed to be an opportunity to post a picture of myself, so I'll get back on topic.


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