Given how often I've blogged about how much I love Tucson, I knew I'd have to post something eventually about the horrible shootings there, but I absolutely don't know what to say. This clip covers some of what I'd like to say, so I'm using it now.
Recently in Arizona Category
I'm in Tucson for Christmas, and guess what? It's beautiful.
It's all different kinds of beautiful. Today is supposed to be 71F, with skies completely clear and calm. I don't know why I'm always surprised to rediscover how brilliant and vivid the sky is here.... I'm sure there are other places on earth with a sky this amazing, but so far I haven't been to any of them.
Earlier in the month I talked to someone I hadn't seen in a good long while. He mentioned that in the intervening time he'd made his first trip to Arizona, and was shocked to discover that it's really quite beautiful.
"What do you mean, you were shocked?" I asked.
"You know--you think it's just desert. But so much of the landscape is really amazing."
"You mean, it's desert, which is WHY the landscape is really amazing?" I replied.
He grinned sheepishly.
"What did you think it was like?" I asked. "After all, it's just south of Utah, which you already know has some pretty amazing desert landscape. Monument Valley straddles the Arizona-Utah border. And the Grand Canyon, one of the great wonders of the world, is in Arizona. So what did you think was down there?"
Having written less than a week ago about the glory that is Tucson, I am pleased to find this article from the NY Times' travel section backing me up. If you have never been to Tucson or considered its charms, seriously, read the article. It has cool stuff--not just the geographic and botanical beauty I mentioned in my post a week ago, but an airplane graveyard (which you can drive right through, as a major street runs down the middle of it) and one of the largest photography museums and archives in the world.
Autochthony is a terrific word I learned as an undergrad and have to few opportunities to use. It means "the state of being autochthonous," which is a fancy word for indigenous. It is, rather obviously, made up of the prefix "auto" or self, stuck onto the word chthonic, a Greek word meaning "of or relating to the gods and spirits of the underground."
I wrote yesterday about reading The Sacred and the Profane by Mircea Eliade, and how I didn't like it all that much, except for his discussion of sacred places. Eliade uses the term autochthony to refer to a religious feeling of "belonging to a place, and it is a cosmically structured feeling that goes far beyond family or ancestral solidarity" (140).
I like this because it describes how I feel about the Sonoran desert, an area running through south central Arizona and extending slightly into Sonora, Mexico. It is a particular ecosystem with some of the coolest vegetation in the world--the saguaro cactus, for instance, a plant so iconic and interesting that it has come to symbolize the entire southwest, though it is indigenous only to the Sonoran desert.
Thatcher, the town I grew up in, is not in the Sonoran desert. But Tucson, where my mom was born, where my grandparents lived til they died and where I went to college, is. I was in Tucson last week, and while it's not accurate to say that I ever forget that I love it and think it's beautiful, still, going home and encountering it again always has the force of a revelation.
I have so much to report--I spent most of last week at Sunstone, and it was FABULOUS! I will write more about it, when I've had a chance to recover.... In the meantime, please take a moment to appreciate the splendor that is my new blog design, courtesy, as always, of my friend Jim.
This update was long overdue. One reason I had gotten fairly lax about posting is that I had grown to HATE the old design--the color scheme, the artwork, EVERYTHING. Also there were weird problems with comment submission, and my category archives had somehow disappeared when we updated the software. This new and improved design takes care of some of those nasty problems, though I still don't have a blog roll.... I am going to work on that.
The photo in the banner is of my beloved Mount Graham, taken by me on Reay Lane just south of the Gila River in November 2007. It's not quite to scale--it had to be stretched a little to fit the space. But you get the idea of what it really looks like: this big cool lumpy mountain rising off the floor of the desert, overlooking cotton fields and a few small towns. it makes me happy to look at the photo--I hope you like it too.
OK, I am COMPLETELY recovered from my previous skepticism of Facebook and now embrace it wholeheartedly, and here's why: a discussion of tractors, gila monsters and criminals.
In a discussion of hair in high school yearbook photos, one of my friends gloated over the truly huge hair sported at his high school, adding, "Go Tractors!"
Tractors? Did I read that right, I wondered? Tractors? I had to make sure. "Your mascot was the tractor?" I asked.
Turns out my friend went to Fordson High School in Dearborn, Michigan. FHS was started with a generous gift from Fordson Tractor Company--hence the name. But apparently the unique, interesting mascot has been a source of embarrassment rather than pride. I couldn't find an image of the mascot on my own, though someone was good enough to provide a link to this picture.
I'm a fan of funky mascots. Everyone knows about the UC Santa Cruz Banana Slug, and yeah, that's cool, but there are even BETTER mascots out there.
Sorry I haven't blogged for a while.... Stuff has happened. I was sorta sick and felt crappy for a while. Then my blog got sorta sick and felt crappy for a while: some of you might have noticed that a few days ago there was an entry entitled "Testing" that consisted of the word "testing." That was because things weren't working properly and had to be tested.... But everything seems to be healthy now. (Thanks, Jim.)
Then there was this point where I wasn't really interested in my blog; I was more interested in other people's. So I did a lot of catching up and reading and a little commenting. (If I haven't gotten around to yours yet, well, give me time. I was lazy for a good, long while, and I have plenty of catching up to do.) I think plenty of us feel like that from time to time, which is good, or most of us wouldn't get many comments.
And then there was this other thing that happened, which is that I was fairly happy and busy enjoying my life and appreciating weather that was fabulous in the concrete, but sort of freaked me out in the abstract, because it belonged to another time and place, and is a fairly good indication that global warming ain't going away--and will probably be worse than previously predicted.
In other words, I was totally loving Salt Lake City because its fall weather was almost identical to the weather of my childhood in southern Arizona, 1,000 miles away and 40 years ago. And I was experiencing that weather in more than one visceral way, because the building I live in now is about the same age (80-90 years old) as the building I went to first grade in, and has the same heating system: those old steam radiators that can't be set to a specific temperature, merely turned on and off. They put out LOTS of heat. And in the process, they give off a faint but noticeable and neither pleasant nor unpleasant smell, one that reminds me of being five years old and going to first grade (yes, I went to first grade a year early) and of how much I actually liked first grade, back when I first experienced it in 1969.
It's not often that I get to read about my home in the NY Times, but here's a story and a video (scroll down and look on the left side of the screen) discussing the current state of the copper industry in southeastern Arizona, which, along with Chile, "continues to rank as one of the two richest copper provinces in the world."
The article refers several times to the "Safford valley" in Graham County, but there's no such place: The name of the place is the GILA Valley; Safford is merely the county seat and largest town. (Thatcher, the town I grew up in, is the next largest--and still quite small--and now right next to Safford, though they used to be miles apart. Historically, Safford was the business center; Thatcher the intellectual and religious center, the place where the college and the church headquarters were.) There's a mention of the recently opened pit mine there, which just about everyone I knew was in favor of: sure, it was going to be UGLY, and extremely visible, given that it was just across the Gila River (hence the name of the valley) to the north of town, but hey, it would bring prosperity.
The article mentions that Safford's Main Street, which was "once full of empty storefronts with boarded-up windows, is nearing 95 percent occupancy." And I guess that's a good thing: I worked in a couple of businesses on Main Street, and it was indeed depressing to walk past these abandoned businesses. Though the tone of the article suggests that lay-offs and boarded-up storefronts are imminent. We'll see.
(by the way, in case you didn't recognize it, the title of this entry is taken from "Moonstruck," and occurs in a line delivered by the plumber dad about the virtues of copper pipe.)
My distaste for Arizona politics increases daily.
This is long, but you MUST watch it.
Before I came home, I emailed a friend to say I was coming into town and ask if she was busy this past weekend. She emailed back to say, "Yes, I am busy, and now you're busy too." She took me to a couple of really cool events, one of which I plan to write about more. At both events, there were plenty of people I didn't know, and she was very gracious about introducing me to her friends and colleagues, but she kept saying, "This is my friend Holly, from Pennsylvania." And I would have to say, "No, I'm not FROM Pennsylvania; I just live there right now. I'm FROM Arizona--Thatcher, Arizona, to be exact."
I realize this isn't a big deal to everyone, but it's a big deal to me. In a way that is deeply important, I really truly am FROM and OF the Southwest. I was born in Arizona and raised Mormon at a time when Mormonism was still in many regards a regional religion, and my sense of self is thoroughly tied up with a sense of place, as well as a sense of community and spirituality that derives quite specifically and literally from the place I was taught to call both "zion" and "home." It MATTERED that I was not only born in Arizona, but born in Arizona because my ancestors walked the distance from Illinois to Utah, then headed south for various reasons. Frankly, it matters to me still.
So to introduce me to people by saying that I'm FROM some place without no real mountains to speak of and a great lake and lots of rivers instead of pervasive and profound aridity is akin to introducing me as "Heidi" or "Heather," both of which I get called from time to time: even though you can see how people make that mistake, it's just not right, and it's annoying to have to correct someone on this.
And then there was what happened when I asked other people where they were from.