When I moved from Colorado to Arizona seven years ago, I was despondent about leaving the mountains I loved so dearly. If you have spent any time in the Rocky Mountains, you know it is a magical place. I’m sure news reports of forest fires and floods have many envisioning Colorado as some sort of apocalyptic anti-wonderland, but whenever I return, the magic is still alive. My eyes gaze on the majestic rock landscapes, my lungs fill with the scent of pine and I am home.
My first impression of Arizona left something to be desired. If a place could physically manifest what death would look like, that is how Arizona appeared to me. It was brown upon brown with hints of brown. Even the small bits of green looked brown. In an attempt to get to know the area, I hit the hiking trails. They were littered with rocks and without shade. I never thought I would learn to love this place.
I spent last summer in a suburb of Portland, Oregon. Summer is the precise time you want to visit Oregon- but only if you plan to fall in love. It is lush in a way you never imagined a place could be so green. Trails there are impeccable, designed to be a feast for the senses- flowers of every color, wild berries to eat, trees the size of skyscrapers. I was truly filled with wonder- until the rain kicked in. Then I found myself longing for the desert.
One of my good friends is from Portland. She has been living in Phoenix for a couple of years, and HATES it. Despises the heat. Misses the rain. Hasn’t figured out all the insider tips that make a city your home. Knowing that the blistering summer temperatures are around the corner, she confided in me “I need to fall in love with this town. Just a little bit. I need to get to know some places here that make me happy.”
I seemed like the ideal candidate for this mission. I too hated Phoenix. Now, I have a hard time imagining living in another climate (unless I somehow figure out a way to make my home in Hawaii). So I began thinking, what DO I really love about this place?
My first entry in this series isn’t going to be of much help to her. She’s not a very outdoorsy girl. But over the weekend, I went hiking in South Mountain with my sons. I noticed a saguaro with a cluster of blooms on the end of a limb- it looked like a hand holding a bouquet. I showed the picture to my mother, who remarked “I am fascinated by saguaro.”
It reminded me a conversation we had before I left Colorado. My mother asked me to paint the desert landscape for her because she had never seen it. I haven’t painted in quite some time, and I wasn’t that great when I did. I opted to take my camera to South Mountain Park near my home, and photograph the desert instead
I thought about the contrast between Portland and Phoenix. Portland is overt in its beauty- at least when it’s not raining. Everywhere you look is some explosion of color and life. Phoenix too has color, but it is hidden. You must tread cautiously and look carefully, but when you find it, it feels like discovering a secret. Here is a look at the hidden world by my house.
Bird sitting on eggs near the trail head. We have been checking frequently to see if she is still there, if her eggs have hatched yet.
This is a spot I call the Lake of Glass. It is a shame that so much broken glass is strewn across the desert, but it does look beautiful when the sun hits it.
I call this rock the Eye of Jupiter.
Bursts of color among the brown.
Tiny wonders to inspire big dreams