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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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