An Arizona Visit and Surprisingly Fond Desert Life Memories

An Arizona Visit and Surprisingly Fond Desert Life Memories

Unfortunately I have a tendency to make absolute statements on subjects that are anything but. I’m aware I do it, and it’s something I’m constantly working on improving. It’s something I’m especially aware of when I come face to face with one of my past absolute statements that is now being flipped on its head.

In 2011 I returned to my hometown of Chicago after living in Tucson for two years while attending graduate school. When I’d applied to graduate programs in late 2008 (REALLY hoping, at the time, to get lucky enough to experience living in Hawaii by getting accepted there), The University of Arizona in Tucson was the only one to dually accept me and provide financial support, allowing me to pursue my graduate studies without incurring debt or needing to secure an outside source of income. As thrilled as I was with those opportunities, I couldn’t have been less excited about the location.

The desert. Yuck.

I have a fair number of people close to me who absolutely adore the desert - my stepfather, my best male friend, and my best female friend, etc…you get the idea. The news that I was moving to Tucson was received with great enthusiasm by them, with a flood of, “you’ll love it there!” and recommendations for activities & attractions.

I tried to keep my mind fairly open to the possibilities of living in the desert. And granted, it did have its perks, like when I could call my sister who was freezing her butt off amidst Chicago’s typical January deep freeze while I waltzed home from my classes in a tank top.

But overall, I didn’t terribly enjoy living in Tucson. If you’d asked me at the time, I believe my specific words would have been, “I hate it.”

For a woman who mostly adored the change of seasons that classically accompany life in the midwest, I despised the constant hot, dry, sunny climate of the desert. No autumnal colors, no snow for Christmas (unless I trekked up to the top of nearby Mt. Lemmon)…I was quite simply bored with the absence of variety. The hardest part of it all was the lack of real greenery - the desert was a harsh, brown place that could only remind me of what hell might look like.

So when I left in 2011, my singular feeling was good riddance. I was thrilled to finally be leaving behind that land of dust and death, returning to, quite literally, greener pastures. I never looked back.

Fast forward to five days ago when my plane touched down in Phoenix. Making the pilgrimage to visit a close friend whom I’ve known for almost 20 years, I still couldn’t believe someone had managed to return me to the desert I’d dismissed so thoroughly four years ago, even if it was only for a visit.

As I settled in to my temporary Phoenix residence, there was no one more surprised than me when feelings of nostalgia and (gasp!) even enjoyment sprung up for my desert surroundings.

My new favorite morning routine has become walking the dog along the pretty wash that runs through the subdivision. A dinner on the patio of just about ANY local restaurant (because they all have them…)? Yes please. And I must say, the mountains rising into the sky along the horizon make for a fabulous background, be it for a photo or the naked eye.

At the same time, I’m all of a sudden being rushed with all sorts of pleasant memories from life in Tucson. Although Tucson isn’t nearly as manicured (and therefore not quite as “pretty”) as Phoenix, I found myself fondly recalling parts of my life there as well - Saturday mornings riding my bike along the wash to the farmers market, days spent out in the rural desert at my advisor’s ranch, and short stints up onto the mesa for visits to the high desert.

I will say, the desert is an easier place to delight in when you’ve had the luck to arrive during a “cool” spell in May - mid-80’s, everything still in lovely spring bloom, but just the same….I was completely caught off guard by not only how much I was enjoying this current stay in the desert, but by how many pleasant memories were returning to my mind from the original stint in the desert.

Thanks to ever-unfolding and complex circumstances, the possibility exists that I may need to consider temporarily returning to an Arizona address, even if it isn’t immediate and is only for a brief period of time. No one is more surprised than me to find I am not completely appalled by this idea, despite vowing never to return.

My mother is, after all, always telling me, never say never.

Most of us, we’re constantly changing and evolving. Concepts that once seemed completely outrageous may someday become palatable, whereas on the flip side we may find a long-standing desire suddenly dropping to a place far down on the values list, assuming it doesn’t drop off the end of the page entirely.

There exists only one absolute truth in the universe - that there is no absolute truth. And life can throw you the most interesting things when you stop trying to fight it.

Infamous as a young adult (and sometimes still) for being fickle, I have long been guilty of seeing greener grass on the other side of whatever fence I was sitting on. Yet with every new experience, such as this one, I am continually schooled in the endless procession of lessons the entirety of life provides.

Filed under: Everyday Life, Travel

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