Last night Craig and I witnessed a 360 -degree sunset. "Only in the West", I thought to myself. Really, there is nothing like a western sky--morning or night, there is no comparison.
I don't remember the skies in Pasadena, but that was where I was born. I remember taking our bikes out to the mesa that ran along the arroyo in New Mexico, we would be racing rabbits under clear skies and suddenly it wasn't rabbits anymore, but cats and dogs coming down in sheets. We raced home barely changing into dry shirts and the clouds had parted revealing the most crisp bright sky. The Sunset saves her most glorious performances for the places that have left the landscape lean and bare--open, to spotlight her glory.
Utah boasts more trees in some parts, but is a desert in her own right. Craving peace one need only saunter down Coyote Gulch and sleep a night under Jacob Hamblin Arch in Escalante. Do only western girls feel the immense comfort of rock overhead?
In high school, as I slipped another AP class under my belt and signed up for just one more extracurricular activity, I prepared myself for college abroad. Now, this "abroad" was nothing more than what I had heard called "back East". My aspirations were on the ancient campus of Bryn Mawr--where inductions, formal tea parties, and ceremonious ceremonies still existed. Yet, Money always pulls the reigns in somewhat and BYU instead was graced with my admission. A love affair began and lives on today for that gem of a school. Yet, still, something inside of me groaned for more green. So after a year at the "Y" I set sail for Ireland, the greenest of the green countries and truly "abroad". There, I soaked up the endless dewy fields where even the rocks were green.
Yet, it was in Spain, on that same trip, where I felt truly at home. It was Coin. On the top of the hill at El Campo we dipped in and out of the pool, coming up only to sample the Paella cooking over the fire under the care of Mama's fingers. Leaning, back in town that night, over the rail of the rooftop balcony, it was the dust that excited me, stirred up by a hundred hooves of racing bulls below.
Who am I?
After college, I still had a head full of Moss. Perhaps I will marry a New Englander who will whisk me off to Connecticut or Boston where they grow them green and there are infinite, moist, canopied walks to be taken. Trees!! They were calling my name.
So, this Western Gal married a Southern Gent-- for so many less shallow reasons than trees (a story for another topic and another day). As we drove and drove and drove weeks after marriage we arrived in--not Connecticut. This was the true land of trees--the Deep South. The love that grew in me here, for this unexpected residence, was slow coming. Perhaps life is a bit slower "down here" because you can't quite see where you're going or what is coming around the bend--for the trees! Yet, I finally had my green?
(Another) Yet, we sat a few nights ago making a list of 3 or four places. After 6, going on 7, years of marriage we are finally choosing a home, a place to settle. Where small talk with neighbors will suddenly seem an investment in a future. Where each random stream and child along the road could be the lifelong playplace or playmate for your child. It is giving me an ulcer.
Am I a Western Girl?
The thought never entered my mind until sitting on the couch with the Atlas a few nights ago.
I grew up with Mark Twain and Georgia O'Keefe. I made Kachina dolls in grade school. I was raised on salsa--spicy salsa, Frito pies and Mom's many chilies. I have first-day-of-school photographs of me wearing a silver coyote bolo tie. Stucco was the norm and I remember always being able to go outside. But, what about Maine? or Rhode Island? Craig, if not outwardly, surely inwardly rolls his eyes. I have this intense feeling that I will be missing out on something superbly tremendous if I nix those places. What is this syndrome?
"The Man" who wrote "The Book": Wallace Stegner, from his "Wilderness Letter":
For myself, I grew up on the empty plains of Saskatchewan and Montana and in the mountains of Utah, and I put a very high valuation on what those places gave me. And if I had not been able to periodically renew myself in the mountains and deserts of western America I would be very nearly bughouse. Even when I can't get to the back country, the thought of the colored deserts of southern Utah, or the reassurance that there are still stretches of prairies where the world can be instantaneously perceived as disk and bowl, and where the little but intensely important human being is exposed to the five directions of the thirty-six winds, is a positive consolation. The idea alone can sustain me.
The conversation, a few nights ago, ended abruptly as I, forgive my monthly drama Craig, could no longer discuss the impending decision. Yet, regardless of said drama all such conversations end with the familiar quip: home is where we are together not the point on the map. True true. But, I ask, isn't there something in the PLACE you choose?
Now, as I wind up this rant of a post, the rain outside the french doors has begun to pour. I've fallen in love with this face of Phoenix. The summer is washing away its last days in the many rains of our Monsoon. Simultaneous lightning and heartstopping thunder on my front stoop is pushing the membranes of my mind: hurry! decide! .