Filed under: Cabbages and Kings, Me! Me! Me!, Memoirs, All At Once I Remember..., Vacations/Travel | Tags: 4th Ave., arizona, cacti, canyon ranch, equine therapy, flora, hunting, kiva, Kumihimo, labyrinth, learning, lessons, memories, mental health, miraval, mothering, old friends, parenting, photography, plants, relationships, searching, shopping, sightseeing, southwest, time alone, travel, tucson, wyatt webb
Right now, I’m flying back from my favourite place in the world – Arizona. If I were to explain why that is, I can’t really say – I mean, there are a million reasons why I love it there, but in terms of it being my favourite, it’s more a feeling than an explanation.
I arrived a week ago. It was strange; I haven’t been here since 2008. I came out of the airport, and there in front of me was the first cactus I’d ever seen – wait – I’d seen one in Texas before, but it was so small and meek that it didn’t really count (and neither do those ones from the grocery store in the little pots). This one was majestic. Tall, green, spiky, amazing. And so were all the others around it. Anyway – I began to have immediate flashbacks from my first and last stay in Arizona in the late Summer/Fall of 2008. I have been thinking about going back ever since I left, and even got married in the desert where I met my husband – except in California. That was weird also, being there without him, as that trip is when we met and fell in love. At times, I’d wished I’d waited for him to be able to come with me, so we could experience that together. And yet, it ended up being a journey that was better off taken alone.
I arrived, and got into my hotel. I sat outside and read, and was surprised at how humid it was – it is Monsoon season in Tucson, a much different climate than the one I remembered – hot, dry, with freezing nights – from before. Still, it had nothing on NYC where that is concerned, and I was happy to be away from the suffocating thickness of New York air, and in the desert, instead of the concrete jungle.
I started getting the creeps, as I saw things that my North East eyes are not accustomed to. I began to remember all of my experiences and close calls with wild life during my last stay, including startling a rattlesnake and almost getting bit, running into a sidewinder in my doorway, two king snakes on the desert paths in the dark, a wolf spider that I almost sat on, a black tarantula clinging at eye level to a wall I was passing, a scorpion that climbed up our shower drain and got lost in a pile of clothes for a while, a giant bullfrog that snuck up on me in the rain, and a million javalinas, the disgusting, pig-like giant rodent that runs wild, smells, attacks, and is apparently so gross that one bite comes with an immediate infection.
So, there I was, back in Arizona. Giant bugs with meandering flight patterns making loud noise, big holes all over the ground where who-knows-what had been coming and going (interestingly enough, these holes are not made by snakes, but a snake will chase prey down into them – they are most often made my spiders or rodents, but are nonetheless unsettling for a time), and one hole had a mouse skeleton that looked like it had been spit out right by its opening. I saw a bird’s wing – yes, a whole wing, with no other piece of bird in sight – being devoured by bugs. For the first 24 hours, I jumped at every buzz, every noise, every imaginary thing I felt brush against my skin. Then, I got over it, and was once again oddly fascinated by all of the ugly and mesmerizing creatures of the Southwest.
That first night, I heard something I’d never heard before. You know when you hear the phrase ‘rolling thunder’? I had never heard thunder roll until my first night back in Tucson. It was not like the extra loud, sharp cracks I’m used to at home. It was a slow, progressive… roll, that I could literally hear travelling, gaining speed, and decreasing to silence overhead. It was amazing. There was lots of lightening, and I waited for the rain, but it didn’t come for hours. It was heat lightening. Fascinating. It rained, but it was actually warm. It was peaceful to walk through, and even more so to listen to and to watch. By sunset the first evening, I’d remembered why I love Arizona so much. It wasn’t the blazing hues of the setting sun – I could barely see those, it seemed to have already passed – it was the deep, thick blue of the sky settling over the mountains – strong, dark, unshakable – that stopped me in my tracks and brought an overwhelming peace. I stood in the gentle rain, and just stared.
Over the next few days, I learned to make Kumihimo, the art of Japanese braiding that you would definitely recognize if you saw it, but probably don’t know what it’s called. A million different bracelets, necklaces, key chains, ropes, and leashes are made using Kumihimo. It was fairly easy when I got the hang of it, and during the rest of my time there, I practiced by making a lot of jewelry. I took a class in Gyrokenesis, and LOVED it. I watched 2 documentaries – about 7 or 8 in total during my trip. I’d brought them with me, since I never have the chance to do it at home. But after a few days on the North East side of Tucson, I wanted to get out of there.
One of my good friends, Meghan, lives in Arizona. I haven’t seen her since 2008. We met in Boston when we were both living there, and became very close. She came down to Tucson, and we moved to another hotel closer to the center of the city. For two days, we caught up with each other, laughed our asses off, shopped in the eclectic 4th Ave. shopping district, bought stones at Dah Rock Shop, and took advantage of my MAC discount. We blew off reality in a way that I haven’t been able to do for a long time, and it was great. I made her a Kumihimo bracelet, and put feathers in her hair. She gave me the awesome nail polish I’m wearing. We watched a movie I barely remember seeing, haha. We ‘watched the storm roll in’, and laughed over a rainbow. None of that will make sense to you, but it does to me, so I’ll remember it someday.
She is one of the only people in the world – well, the only person I know of at all, actually – that knows exactly how and what I feel. Not only because she understands me, but also because she feels things exactly the same. That is actually how we bonded upon meeting – we stayed up sitting on a deck the first or second night we met until 5am, giving more and more complex emotional scenarios for comparison, finishing each other’s sentences, and finding a deep sense of relief in each other. So obviously, when it was time for her to go, it was depressing. I was aware at how we’d both changed and matured since we met, years ago. But somehow, it had been at the same rate for the most part, and our feelings were still in sync.
I felt a profound emptiness being in Tucson. And when Meghan was gone, it was even deeper. Like I said, I find it hard to explain, why it is my favourite place – but I had also forgotten some of the more painful experiences I’d had when I lived there for those two and a half months. The hotel we stayed at was the one we stayed at during my last visit. The stores were the same. But everything was different.
You know how you go somewhere that has an impact on you, perhaps it’s your hometown, perhaps it’s somewhere you’ve had profound experiences, like Tucson for me, or where some great change had taken place in your life. Perhaps things were never the same. Over the years, you think about this place, maybe it is a summer camp, maybe it is where you had your first relationship, or the place you moved to when you moved out for the first time. Anyway, you’re then gone from that place, but in your mind, you have a picture of it. And that picture only gets better as time goes on, more dreamlike, more and more like perfection. The perfect time, the perfect place, and you want to go back. But then, you do go back. And even though you already know it will be different, you go chasing a feeling… a state of mind, your memories. You go, and you’re surprised to realize that that place has moved on without you, that it didn’t freeze in time the second you left. And you knew that it would, but at the same time, you didn’t. You are different, too. And it’s bittersweet, that return. The memories are bittersweet. The nostalgia is overwhelming. You live in the past for a while, lost in your thoughts, lost in another time.
I left the second hotel, and moved onto a third. I went to Miraval, to the North West, where I also stayed before, very close to where I spent those two and a half months. I stayed there alone, however, so it was only fitting to do it that way again. Miraval is somewhere I’ve thought of many, many times. It was the first place I stayed in Arizona. I couldn’t believe the feeling that radiated from there and through me – the same peace I caught a glimpse of my first night back, when looking at the darkening horizon. Being back there was also bittersweet.
It was at this point, feeling nostalgic, overwhelmingly lonely, and confused, that I started to make decisions. I remained there for the rest of my trip until early this morning.
What do you do when you’re faced with decisions – when you’re at a point where you have to choose a path, and you don’t know what you’re capable of? You get moving. And stay moving. I had been having a good experience until that point, when the growing feelings I was having overtook me. And, there is the fact that I’m just not used to being alone anymore. Everywhere I’ve been for a few years now, I’ve either had a baby in my belly, or in my arms. All of the nights I spend at home in my apartment, I’m on a schedule, a routine, and I had someone to take care of. At Miraval, I had no obligations, and I was completely alone. It was daunting at first. I realized that I didn’t want the rest of what would probably be the last time I had to myself for quite a while, in a place I adored, to be spent living in the past, focusing on my memories, trying to explain my feelings. I decided that the only way to make myself feel better, was to do as much as I could to make my trip worthwhile for me. To create new and different memories, so that I’d be able to look forward with excitement to creating new and different memories again. I’m being vague when I’m discussing the reasons for these feelings, where they came from, who they involved, and why – that’s because there are some things that really are better left in our own hearts and minds, and that’s where the flesh of that aspect of this story is going to stay.
The point, is the recovery. I continued to watch documentaries nightly. I continued to read – in the tub, on the deck, at meals, everywhere. I wrote more than I have in a long time. I took a lesson and finally learned to use my camera – then I went exploring, and practicing taking pictures. I walked into and out of a labyrinth. I set an intention with a stack of rocks, and photographed it to remind me. I got massages. I went to a lecture on emotional transcendence, and got a lot out of it. I participated in Equine therapy with the man who invented it – it was amazing. I wrote some more, I read some more, and I actually bought new clothes for the first time in over a year. I bought a plant guide and a snake guide, and went on a hunt for both. I found a lot of plants and flowers, but no snakes (which is really puzzling to me, since summer is the season where you usually see the most snakes and spiders in Arizona because of the heat, but I saw so many more when there in the Fall), I found jackrabbits, quail, a million hummingbirds, and more giant flying bugs. I got up at 5:30am one morning, and on impulse, walked out of my room in a nightdress with my camera, and went in search of more sights. I sat in an outdoor hot tub (which was very hot!) when it was 104 degrees, just to see if I could take it – it was enjoyable. I got my nails done, and started preparing to go home. It took me two hours to pack. When I was on the ground of my hotel room, stuff everywhere, I pulled a shopping bag over to me, and there was a giant spider on it. I yelled at it – I had been waiting to find critters all week, but I didn’t want them showing up in my bedroom, or catching me off guard! Upon closer inspection, I felt dread as I realized what I thought it might be – I decided not to confirm my suspicions until I was done packing and off the floor, during which time, another spider and a big beetle of some sort also snuck up on me.
Now, my solo vacation is over. I’m in the air, heading back to reality, and back to where I belong. I am itching to see my baby girl, I’m dying to have her in my arms again, and look at her gorgeous smile. It is our plan to move to Arizona as a family sometime in the next few years.
I’m refreshed, I’m satisfied, and I was overjoyed to realize that I’d had a very happy trip. As I hear from time to time, happiness is not where you’re happy 100% of the time, just more than half. More than half. That seems doable.
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