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…

329. Relax, loosen again

The blue horizon just sits there, level. Dividing a pale blue sky from its dark ocean self. Is the sky half empty or half full, or half full of emptiness?  Sixteen floors above the beach that horizon is the halfway mark of the sliding glass balcony doors I am gazing through this late October afternoon. Little white caps appear like silverfish  and then are gone as the waves roll into Myrtle Beach. Our last day of deep relaxation and peace. No phones, no schedules, no pressure, no worries. My little brain is plumping up again — a reconstituted prune– due to the week’s luscious inactivity. I feel like I am finally recovering from screamotherapy, also known as office work. Blogging is the only thing approaching work that I have done since last Saturday. Ahhhhhh. I know from experience, though, that this blissful pause will not last beyond Tuesday coming. Like a massage. And maybe that’s how it should be. If only we could reload more frequently with such bliss instead of wandering like desert bound camels far away from living water. “Mike, Mike, Mike, what day is it?…. HUMP DAAAAAAY.” Only galley slaves celebrate Wednesdays, my Bloggumps.

Before leaving home, people asked what I planned to do at the beach. DO? Nothing. No plangenda. Eat, rest, breathe, laugh, drink beer for lunch, sing silly songs, nap, shop with my wife, go to a show, and sleep. “Don’t worry about me. I will survive without achieving a thing.” I don’t want to jet ski or golf, parasail or fish, drive go karts or buy a time share. Those things require thought and ambition, not to mention money. I just want to watch the tide go out and come back in, like Otis Redding sang. And I’ve been successful all this glorious week in walking slowly up the beach and back, picking up broken shells and parts of sand dollars, as if these broken things were gold nuggets and rough diamonds, marveling at the whimsical genius in each shard. I’ve thrilled at the creativity of it all, at God’s hand in the tiniest of places. Ghost crabs and herons, sharks and ospreys, conch and scallop shells, children and old folks. It’s all good if you just let it be.

“How silly!” you might be tempted to say. “I can buy perfect shells at the craft store.” And you certainly can. Please do so. But I suspect if you are reading my eccentric meanderings, then you are not a perfectionist, unless you are doing a research project on sociopathic media.  As for me, I like brokenness, imperfection, flaws, nicks, dings, and apparent defects. You see: you can’t break it if it’s already broken, right? So there goes all that perfect pressure if you start with dents and rust. I find this especially true in the folks I call friends. They are eccentric, naturally, if they can tolerate me. Heck, they have lowered their standards to hang out with me, so it’s the least I can do to likewise lower mine.

Being a word nerd I like etymology, word origins. Relax comes from re+laxare, which means “to loosen again”.  Which makes me wonder aloud, ‘When were we laxare to begin with?’ Another way to ask this is ‘When did we get so uptight and rigid, so constipated?’ I suspect it happened during the industrialized socialization process known as high school. Most of us were herded into large warehouses and homogenized into teams or levels or some such commodification. Suddenly everything mattered or else we would not graduate, and therefore be unemployable, and therefore be homeless and wind up dead in jail for vagrancy. All because we did not pass ninth grade geography that no longer resembles today’s maps. Okay? Where did Rhodesia go? And the Soviet Union? And when did you last use Algebra II/Trig?”I once made a wooden Christmas drum for my mother-in-law and needed to figure out pi r squared. But that’s about it for me and higher math. The drum looked nice.

In high school I was taught that the Great Lakes were biologically dead. The Cold War would never thaw out. The sun would never set on the British Empire. And I could not succeed if I did not go to a good college. Now, the Great Lakes look great. The Cold War is lukewarm history. And the British Empire has shrunken down like a wool sweater in the dryer. All this is forgivable because we can just shake it all off as a snake would shed its old skin. But the tense sphincter factor of getting uptight about succeeding in life is not. Just being a regular guy in a relaxed manner became tantamount to being a loser. You had to grab on tight and never let go of the success train to achievement. Get busy, get educated… advanced degree, get a job, get rich, get married, get pregnant, get ahead, get a good retirement, get cremated. I must admit, this never appealed to me very much.

Listening to music, hanging out with my friends, reading good books– all trumped being super focused on my GPA or my gross annual income. I found it exhausting to care about others’ opinions of me. I like to say to my clients, “It’s hard enough to fly your own helicopter; trying to fly your neighbor’s helicopter at the same time will kill both of you.” Translated this means, “Work on your own life. Don’t bother with others’ views of your life.” Relax. Breathe. Just be.

A lot of what was presented as indisputable facts in the early 1970s turned out to be wrong, mere opinion, or just partly true. And I’m fine with that. Hey, there were no personal computers around then, no Google, just for a starter point. They didn’t know any better. I never learned how to write a research paper or do a chemistry experiment or solve a quadratic equation. Still, I’ve had a nice life, a great wife, three great daughters, my own business, and yes, laxare. I’ve been told a thousand times about how life could, would and should collapse on my Chicken Little neck. To date it has not. Like my broken shells I have found beauty in the tiniest places… and breathe joy deeply and loosely. It feels good, my Blogstaceans. Real good.

Keep the party going.

 

 

269. Tucson

Don’t hate me yet. It’s 75 and the sapphire blue sky has just a sampling of wispy white powder doughnut clouds that serve as contrast behind the chiseled Catalina Mountains. It’s so still that I can hear the little finches fiddling in the palm tree behind me as I sunbathe/read in my daughter’s back yard. The little patch of grass is a hot tub without the water and I am loving it. Let me just say, sitting at this computer just steps away from the glorious sunshine is an act of supreme discipline, my bloggy wogs. It’s not easy being the Big Burrito, but someone has to do it. You may not realize it, but this post is truly an act of agape love. Bathe in it with me for a while.

Amazing what unpolluted sleep can do to one’s nervous system. Body parts I did not know I had have started talking to me again. Little neck and back muscles I’d lost touch with since the summer have resurfaced happily. Once the sleep tank is full, well, life becomes balanced again. Waking up with the sunrise is simply a joyous natural act not drudgery because I know the day ahead is a jewel waiting to be admired.

Image result for psychedelic pictures

And dreams!! The first night my dreams were so wildly funny that I was certain I had laughed all night long and kicked and danced. Something very deep in my being bubbled up to the edges of my consciousness like champagne. And it was good. Maybe hallucinogenic as well. I was wearing my Jimi Hendrix tee shirt after all.

On Sunday we went to the local zoo. My two year old granddaughter got  a camel ride for one of her birthday presents. Of course we chanted, “What day is it?  Mikemikemike.  Hump day.” These camels did not speak English, apparently. Still, it was a lovely day. Leah also fed the giraffes carrots and got to see the baby elephant. My favorites, the tortoises, were out in the sun eating squash and grass. Their slowski motions brought to my mind the old 16 rpm vinyl records, which made me feel like a walking anachronism in this high speed age. Revolutions per minute? You can’t be serious. Yes, my poor jacked up human babies, there were four speeds on turntables back in the day– 16, 33, 45 and 78 rpms. The little 45’s had a song on each side. The 33 rpm lp’s were long playing with 5 to 10 songs on each side. 78’s were before my time though I handled many of them. They zipped around on the turntable at more than twice the speed of 33’s. I realize that I sound like a skipping record as I drone on docent-like at the vinyl record museum of recorded sound, but just nod along and smile at the old geezer as he geezes.

Image result for giant tortoise pictures

Simple things seem delicious on vacation.  Grocery shopping at home is tedious at best; here it is a glorious ride through the local Sprouts store.  Service matters to these folks. They will walk you to the item you request without any editorializing or snarky attitudes along the way. Even though the rice I was looking for was right under the large sign that said “RICE”, my grocery lady guide simply smiled as she gave her parade wave to the rice section, as if I were a winner on a game show. “You’ve won a bag of long grain rice!”  I appreciate these little things once my mind slows down to notice them. The problem, of course, is that we mostly live our lives at superhighway speeds that require the obliteration of details and subtleties for the sake of speed. Slow down, Nation, like the kind Tucsonans who move at 33 rpms.  There is only one interstate highway here– Route 10 that runs East to West. It’s the only 78 rpm around. The rest of the traffic seems very manageable due to a simple grid road system. Though I cannot find a bag of rice at the grocery store, I know where I am geographically… behind a shopping cart at 16 rpms, digging the desert sun and the prehistoric vibes etched into the sun drunk landscape.

Yesterday we ventured out to the Tohono Chul Botanical Park. It was enchanting to wander along pea gravel paths among mesquite and saguaro and agave. A huge olive tree hung above the entrance to the gift shop, suspiciously void of low hanging olives. My wife wanted one of the ripe ones, but being a flat footed old guy, I had to pass on by. All sorts of birds chirped and tweeted and trilled. Water sounded holy in the desert brilliance. Several fountains and pools were incorporated along the meandering way. Many ramadas covered in saguaro ribs offered respite from the sun. Butterflies floated along magically. Each breath felt like God was in it.

Desert dwellers are spiritual people. They cannot help but think of God. As I read about the Tohono O’odham tribe, I was fascinated with their mobile culture, how they followed their meager food sources. The huge saguaro cactus fruit was a staple for them. They made wine out of the reddish/purple fruit. I don’t recall any bloodshed or weaponry, land disputes or raiding parties. Being subsistence gatherers, they had nothing to steal, only spirits. The temporary ramadas reminded me of the Jewish tradition of building a temporary structure outside during Passover, not because they are needed but to remember their own desert experience thousands of years ago.

Image result for saguaro ramada pictures

Maybe that is what I love most about the desert:  the absence of distractions. Life seems stripped down in front of you, no pretension or layers of status. Your clothes and cars don’t matter much in the blazing sun.  A good wide brimmed hat and practical shoes do matter. So does water. And sunscreen.

Okay, I can’t stand it any more, more. I must get back to the rays and gentle air that rolls down from the ridges beyond Tucson. I gave you a literate summer breeze to inhale and hold deeply. If you wake up laughing slowly, you’ll know it worked, Amigos. Now you can hate me.

Image result for tucson mountain ridges pictures