409. Sonoran October

Image result for sonoran desert picturesSonoran, not, snorin’.

(May be related to sonorous, “capable of giving out a deep resonant sound”, but what do I know? Wikipedia claims it comes from the early Spanish explorers who dedicated the area to Senora, Our Lady. Sort of like Maryland was named for Queen Mary. Not Maryland Monroe, knuckleheads!!  Our Lady’s Desert just doesn’t sound right, though, anymore than the Swamp of the Sacred Heart does. Again, what do I know? I’m just a little lost blogger with a bald spot.)

The desert spreads across part of California, a lot of Arizona, and parts of northwest Mexico. There are no leaves to change in the Sonoran Desert, just cactuses of all types plumping with August monsoon rain under the still intense autumn sun. 90 degrees each day of the past week that we spent basking in Tucson’s glorious light, visiting the grandkids and their mom and dad, as well as the sweetest dog ever, Kermit. Yes, there was pool time too. Fret not, blogaddios, rest and recreation were sampled while I painted their rambling house and drank Mexican beer at night. What might sound drudgerous was actually more of an extended meditation with me applying rich brown paint like eyeliner onto the overabundance of a ranch house’s butter cream face. Focus in on that for a moment.

“Define the relationship”, I told my daughter. “The butter cream face just blobs all over without definition. I’ll define it with this Ultra grade Native Soil exterior satin acrylic paint from Home Depot.” And so I did, cutting the edges of door and window trim, boxing, fascia and gutters. Finally the tapioca hippo house pudding magically jelled into a caramelized camel crème brulee.

The first night at my daughter’s house we went to bed at 7 or 8 p.m., which was 10 or 11 p.m. east coast time, where we had started our day. Inevitably we awoke at 5 a.m. on Sunday, rested and interested in the half moon and full complement of stars above. I sat by their pool in the dark and leaned my head back to watch the interstellar show above. Two shooting stars flared inside of five minutes. The longer I focused, the more stars and swirls of stars I witnessed. Down the hillside wash toward the city of Tucson I thought I heard an ambulance siren, and then realized it was a coyote when six or eight other coyotes joined in on the siren song. “Aiyeeeeeeeeeoooooooooooo”. Palm trees swayed ever so slightly as the air moved in Indian ghost whispers. Sara brought coffee out in the moonlight. I breathed in as much of that spirit as I could, hoping it would stain my heart forever, leaving Night’s footprints in a wiggly trail, as if a lizard had skittered over fresh wet mud.Image result for arizona night sky

“Oh, man!  This is just a taste of all the beauty in this world, the grandeur of God’s plans, the bliss of being still. Cosmic sparkling wine and delightful appetizers. The visual equivalent of  grilled shrimp wrapped in bacon. How awesome must the main course be!”

Even as I sat inside their brick-walled front yard with the wrought iron fence, I knew packs of near sighted javelinas and sharp eyed coyotes were out beyond, scavenging for their next meal. Bobcats and mountain lions too. Rattle snakes and owls I’d never see or hear were on the predatory prowl as well, gliding noiselessly through sand and sky. The potential danger was salt on my senses, making them more acute. As the eastern sky paled, the Catalinas stood up; the fan palm trees and feathery mesquites appeared against the phosphorous background that was forming. In the dark there had been little depth or shape perception; but as the light increased, all the fine details of the landscape emerged.Image result for sonoran desert wash in morning light

Each moment brought a deep breath of satisfaction from my contented abdomen. Weather I love; location I love; the people I love, all together. “My my, hey hey. The burrito man is here to stay. It’s better to burn out than to fade away….” Rust Never Sleeps was a classic Neil Young album out of which those lyrics trickled. And yet, here in the desert rust does seem to sleep or at least nap. Without water, the oxidization of iron slows down. Just one more reason to love this place. My personal body rust is slowed also by the constant divine light that suffuses this holy land. My joints push back against gravity’s grinding grip of six decades. “My, my, hey, hey, the burrito man is here to stay…”

What is this lovely attachment I suffer for this desert scape? Something like a loom in my mind where memories are woven horizontally through vertical heartstrings into a supernatural tapestry. Words and images fail, however, to capture the palpable spirit hovering all through it, but the spirit loom racks it all together into a tight weave. A Persian rug could not be a more perfect reflection of this dream.

Image result for persian carpet images of desert designsNaturally a large part of my self longs to stay and plant lettuce and roses; to weld odd pieces of metal into defiant, eccentric desert art; and yet still blend into this desert scape like a thick-walled adobe casita. I’d like to have my cake and just nibble at the edges, consuming the annual interest while admiring the precious principal. My rational mind knows it is impossible, but my irrational mind tires of the merely possible. Magic and miracle and mystery await the curious mind that is tenuously hinged by bungee cords to “reality”. Open that  gate…

245. Jackie Wilson said…

I remember Van Morrison’s song “Jackie Wilson said…” from way back in my life. I think  I  was 17 and bought his very blue tinted “Saint Dominic’s Preview” album. Loved it then and now. The sub title, “I’m in heaven when you smile”, is so simple and sweet. There’s just not that much more to it, folks.  The rest of the song is rhythm and rhyme and energy that makes your whole body move. I love the line, “And when you walk across the room, you make my heart go boom, boom, boom.”  Ahh yeah, it’s basic and vital, written by a young man for young folks. Ebullient. There’s a word for you, blogniks, to boil over with enthusiasm, to bubble. Van had that magic then and the humility to give credit where it was due.

Van scholars claim the song was a tribute to Jackie Wilson’s “Reet Petite”. “Gotta love you baby, knock me off my feet.” Do you know it?  Go ahead and Google it… “sheee’s aaaaaalright.” Another simple song with interesting vocal tricks and horns thrown in. A great beat with lots of emotional tingle and pop. Simple, uncontroversial stuff. No sex or drugs or politics, just cleverly articulated infatuated young male passion. That’s what Jackie Wilson said. What’s that got to do with anything?

Well, I’m back in Tucson again, visiting a very verbal granddaughter of 20 months. I had to get the calculator out to figure that I am 703 months old now. It’s been a blurry few days with her at the center of the blender. She whirls around in the living room singing  broken bits of “London Bridge is falling down” and “Ring around the Rosey”. So simple and reet petite. And when little Leah walks across the room, she makes my heart go boom, boom, boom. Let it all hang out.  There is no wonder why I’m in heaven when she smiles. Why is it that the wondrous joys of childhood are drained off as we become homogenized adults? And where do those heavy cream days go, my blogworshippers?  Do we make ice cream out of them that is served to God? Do we ever get to eat of that ambrosia again?

As  my wife and I think more concretely about relocating to Arizona, I keep looking at the landscape and lifestyle with flaming match heads of lust in my heart. I want it… the dependable sun, the flat valley, the dinosaur spine ridges on the east and west. This landscape whispers to me like no other. I love the beach, but I also know that I tire of the relentless surf and the ever changing windy weather. I love the mountains and valleys, but they are high maintenance that I am not interested in pursuing.  Here it’s still as a basking lizard and just as wild.  The other day as I biked alongside the Rillito River wash I watched a pair of coyotes wandering about. I called to them and they regarded me very lightly and went back to their foraging. It was 11:00 a.m. No worries. Later a wild dog sprinted out from under a low hanging mesquite tree as the coyotes approached it. No collar or leash on these canines just a few hundred yards from busy neighborhoods. I find that live edge of undomesticated animals living just outside the concrete walls to be thrilling. This environment has not been and will not be tamed. It can’t be. Like cultivating the moon, son. It ain’t happening.

Over the western ridge of Tucson is the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum. What a jewel! The drive alone is worthy of filming as you meander across a 3,000 foot mountain gap called Gates Pass. We spent yesterday there under the brilliant October sun, which registered in the high 90’s. Still, it was glorious. Like the state flag that features red and yellow wedges of sunlight powering off a half sun, man, it just permeates you if you let it in. Walking around the various exhibits, I felt as if gravity were stronger somehow. Perhaps it’s the sun over-magnetizing you as you walk from javalinas to coyotes, from rattlesnakes to butterflies and hummingbirds. Maybe it’s that heavy cream re-surfacing from earliest childhood, wordlessly asserting itself, telling your old body to slow down and soak in this expiring moment.

The basic purity, the simplicity is hypnotic. This desert, early rock and roll, my toddler granddaughter. All good and unpolluted. I have seen the end of some lives already in my 58 years. I can see the end of mine, sort of. I know how much of it will turn out. And this awareness makes the moment sweeter, more poignant. Just for the heck of it I stopped and picked a prickle pear from a cactus this morning. Its invisible thorns were like thistles, but I could not see them with my sunglasses on in the bright sunlight. I could feel them in my fingers and thumb as I rubbed the fine hair defenses off the fruit. I tasted it for the simple reason that I wanted to know its flavor. Unspectacular but interesting. Maybe you can make wine out of such things. It was a childish thing to do and I reveled in it. Talking to a coyote is just as fanciful as tweeting with a hummingbird or grunting at a javalina. But it’s a natural reaction to raw beauty staring you eyeball to eyeball unblinking. Don’t miss this moment. Dance it out. Revel in the wonder of it all.

Jackie Wilson collapsed on stage while singing “Lonely Teardrops” in 1975. Trust me on this one. Don’t Wikipedia me behind my back, blogglers. He sang, “My heart is crying…” as his literal heart went into arrest mode. What a way to go. He lingered in a coma for nine more years, dying at age 49.  His time in the sun was long over. Mr. Excitement was dead. Sort of. Technically his wonderful voice lives on in his many recordings and we’ll all have to make do with that… what Jackie Wilson said.