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Salmon Hued Blues

Well, this is it--the last LJ post from sunny Arizona. Tonight the computer is packed, the phone unplugged, and my next showing on the 'net will be in a week-and-some-change (how much change depends on how fast our net gets hooked up) from currently sleety North Carolina.

Since I believe firmly that one should not wallow in nostalgia, and I am not a piner-after-things by nature, I'm going to take this opportunity to reiterate what I like about Arizona and what I'll miss, just so it's out of my system, and I can go after NC with a clean slate, and hopefully be excited by what I find there.

I will miss salmon.

Not the fishy, but the color. Arizona, land of the macho gun-totin' cowboy, is in fact predominately pink--an orangey, terra-cotta raw-salmon pink, to be sure, but pink nonetheless. The rocks and gravel are pale pink. The roofs are dark terra-cotta, occasionally with pink adobe. The mountains are a sort of dirty unsaturated mauve.

In NC, I am fairly sure, pink will look awfully weird, but Arizona, for whatever reason, can sustain cotton-candy colored buildings and they look perfectly appropriate. Even blinding teal works. And I'll miss that.

I will miss the houses with linen-colored adobe walls and rich terra cotta shingles. I will miss the square little pueblo style buildings--if I was gonna design a house, it would be a pueblo style collection of cubes, because I love the look--modern rustic whatsit. Such houses would melt in NC, so it'll be awhile.

I will miss the sky. The sky over Arizona is, for no reason that I can determine, harder than anywhere else I've ever been. It is a hard blue, like a ceramic glaze. Some days you think you could bang your knuckles on it and it would ring like a copper bowl. At sunset, however, it turns--you guessed it--salmon again, a sort of perfect salmon-to-gold gradient so slick and crisp and pure that you suspect the desert gods of keeping a copy of Photoshop stashed somewhere in the back.

I will miss the sun. Despite a negligable difference in distance from our primary, and in defiance of all logic, it ain't the same sun. The Arizona sun is bleaching and tawny and dusty and makes everything it touches look like a potential prop for "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly," and it requires a great deal of effort on the part of strip malls and homeowners to counteract this tendency. The light is the color of fossilized honey and old bone.

The dirt here is pink and white, the color and fineness of unbleached flour, and is more like dust that got grandfathered in. Presumably there's a dark brown potting-soil-ish loam under something somewhere, but I haven't seen it.

I will miss palm trees, which have joined flamingos in the hinterlands of tacky iconography, but, like flamingos, are still themselves cool, in an ungainly, high-maintence sort of fashion. I will also miss cacti, because there's nothing in the world quite like a cactus. The only thing that looks like a saguaro is another saguaro. The only thing that looks like a prickly pear is another prickly pear. The only thing that looks like an octillo is found in deep sea trenches next to sulfer spitting vents, and lives on bioluminescent fish and irony.

I will miss the wildlife. I will miss the quail with their little topknots and expressions of permanent, cautious, idiocy. I will miss the jackrabbits, who have stilt legs and semaphore ears and all appear to be strung out on some serious methamphetamines. I will miss Inca doves, which are like regular doves, only small, and with elegant feathers, each feather outlined in dark grey, so they look like they're wearing gossamer chainmail. I will miss the woodpeckers that drill on palm trees, because I have still not gotten use to the sheer unnaturalness of that, and I'll miss the big, glum gray anteaters at the local zoo.

I will miss the potential to have my trash rummaged by javelina, not that it ever happened--I'm in the middle of a city, after all.

I will miss hummingbirds. People trying to describe hummingbirds always find themselves stuck with the phrase "living jewels." Rather than succumb to unoriginality, I proffer the alternate descriptions--they're like hyperactive Jolly Ranchers with wings. They are small oil-slick-rainbows with eyes. They're what would happen if you asked Salvador Dali to design a rhinoceros. Screw it, they're like hummingbirds. There's nothing else quite like 'em. They are also completely insane, being size sixteen spirits stuffed into size .0005 bodies. A hummingbird, in its own mind, is ten stories tall with grendade launchers and gunports. A hummingbird knows, down in the hollow toothpicks of its bones, that it can kick your ass.

I will miss 70 degree weather in January, and chile peppers as object d'art and the peculiar sight of adobe pueblo houses hung with icicle christmas lights by people in shorts. I will miss the desert, which is not like any other desert, but more like a Zen garden put together by very small, very busy Zen monks who visited Sparta in their youth and came back with a really nasty sense of minimalist humor. It is an interlocking desert. Everything fits together like a koan, and when you get to the bottom of it, you find something pointy or fanged or sharp. I can appreciate that. There is a certain kind of beauty to a desert that will produce extravagant pink flowers and three inch thorns on the same plant.

I'll very much miss my father and stepmother, who managed to turn what could otherwise have been a really unpleasant sojourn in joblessness into a really positive experience--I'm glad they were here, and I'm glad I got to know 'em again.

I'll miss a lot of things, but those are the ones that occur to me.

And now--North Carolina ho!

That's one of the loveliest love-letters to a place I think I've ever read.

Good luck with the move.

I love your description of hummingbirds! There should be plenty in North Carolina though- just put out a feeder! At least, we had tons in TN.

I grew up in Arizona down along the border and that country still feels like home deep in my bones no matter how long I've been away from it. Your entry actually brought a bit of mistiness to my eyes.

Good luck in North Carolina.

Oh jesus, Ursula. I am actually crying. I lived in Arizona for ten years before moving to Kentucky, and I have never missed it more than I do right now. You captured the lowlands perfectly. I lived at a mile above sea level, in prescott, so there were more pine trees than shrubland, but I visited the flats enough to love them as much as the rest of that state.

You know what I think I miss the most about Arzona? You can tell the good plants from the bad at a mere glance. I mean, you have bushes, grass, and cactus. Look at the three, and decide for yourself which one would do you the most harm. VERY OBVIOUS, what with the cacti being all thorny and shit. Out HERE though, you want to go for a walk in the woods, you had better be watching the ground like a HAWK. There is all this dense, green vegetation, running rampant all over the fucking place . . . climbing on the trees, catching your legs, just swallowing everything. And some of it makes you break out in INCREDIBLY UNCOMFORTABLE BLISTERS. And the REAL lovely thing about it is that the bad plants look just like the good plants, at first sight. Oh sure, you can investigate every plant you see to see if is shiny, or has three leaves, or whatever, but I like hiking to let my mind wander around the clouds and trees and everything. I want it to be a relaxing experience, not a complicated maze through a hateful plant kingdom.

I also miss the Javelinas that would eat at our backdoor. The babies would make your heart melt on the spot, in a good way. And I miss the way the ponderosas smelled in the spring, when the sap was rising . . . you go stick your nose in a tree trunk and inhale, and you smell butterscotch, coconut, vanilla, and one time, I found a spot that smelled EXACTLY like spice cake.

I am gonna go cry some more now.


Well I have missed most places I have live,and mostly because of the people i have met there.

I have visited the southwest fairly often, and aside from the heat, I have enjoyed it, the country there felt "bigger", and encouraged exploration and mucking about.

But I have visited "The Triangle" in North Carolina and my observations match yours, and I do think it's a very beautiful place there as well.

However I would gladly leave California, except I have the newjob and the new place, so...

Good luck with it. Hope to see you online soon.


P.S. You write so well.

There are plenty of hummingbirds in NC. After about the 10th time in a summer after I'd had to get a ladder and get one out of the garage I'd maybe even say there were too many. ^_^

And are they ever grateful? Nooooo, they try and bite you, or spear you with their pointy bills.

And I will say that one of my professors lived in Arizona and one of the things he tells us is how very beautiful it was out there. May I print this out and show it to him? I think he would enjoy it.

Absolutely! Feel free!

I am heartened to know that there are hummingbirds in NC, too.

Reading this, I find myself missing the desert, and I've never seen it. Arizona's one of many places I very much want to visit, because it seems so completely unlike any place I've been before.

Oddly, a few of your descriptions here and there put me in mind of things I miss about Florida, which is about as far from a desert as you can get. I think it's similar in that it does have its own very unique personality, though, and beauty that most people don't recognize.

In any case, welcome to North Carolina. :) I hope you find beautiful things here, too.

Having spent a good bit of time in Florida and Arizona.. I think it's just that Arizona makes you feel very very small. It's.. a gorgeous state, and while it sounds silly, being out in the desert or in the mountains is.. one of the greatest feelings on earth. I'm not spiritual. But I felt a lot of something bigger than myself out there.

And I've felt the same in other places I've been- there are still places in Florida that seem untouched, as if you're the first person to ever walk there.. and it touches a bit of your soul.

Rather clumsily said, but.. that's the way I feel about it. :)

It sounds wonderous in a lot of ways
But i don't know if i could live in a world of glased ceramic skyies and a sun that wants to bleach the bones you have before you are off them

I like deep woods with streams and beavers and Deep Moss that squishes under your feet like a mindless mass sea cucumber migration
I like SNOW the kind you trip over soccer teams trapped beneath and break off a piece and gnaw on it as you wander in a world of white with flakes the size of kittens out of a dryer float around and icecicles big enough to use as walking sticks hang dangerously over your head.

Most of all I LOVE RAIN ! but not constant moisture level mildew enriched rain of the West coast or just rain rain but the GREAT HUGE FANTASTIC GLORIOUS TITANIC LAKE EFFECT THUNDERSTORMS OF EPIC JOY !!!!!!!!!!

so as nice as Arizona sounds to visit I will keep my Western PA joy and just visit other places even though i know that someday i will prolly be dragged kicking and screaming and whining like a bakers dozen of goths to the desert someday

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Wow. Heh. Too bad We're moving to Phoenix in 4 or so months. I do not get a chance to meet you after all. (And here I was bragging I might get to meet -THE- UrsulaV, ah well) But yeah, the desert has it's own specialness. (Atm I'm in AZ, NorthWest tip jut a little under 2 hours from Las Vegas) This desert, though, the Mojave desert has nothign on the Sonoran desert. Man, I used to visit every summer whn my aunt was living in Tucson. I miss that, and am glad I'll be able to live there.

I've never been to Arizona, but with that sweetly written goodbye, I think I have a very good artistic picture in my mind. Good luck with the move!

(Places a very large boombox on the ground and sets the volume to a tolerable level)

(Presses the "play" button on the CD player)

"What were the skies like when you were young?"

"They went on forever. They - when I, we lived in Arizona and the skies always had little fluffy clouds
in them, and, ah, they were long and clear and there were lots of stars at night. And, ah, when it would
rain it would all turn - They were beautiful. The most beautiful skies as a matter of fact.
Ah, the sunsets were purple and red and yellow and on fire and the clouds would catch the colors everywhere.
That's neat 'cause I used to look at them all the time when I was little. You don't see that.

You might still see it in the desert.

(The Orb - "Little Fluffy Clouds")

(Yours is prettier...)

Ahhhh.. I just adore that song. Always have.

You have such a wonderful way of writing, but I just love the hummingbird comment. That's awesome.
Hope the move goes well!

Hey, I'm just a random guy you don't know. Hope you don't mind me commenting.

So um, I read your entery, and now I want to move to Arizona. Sounds manly. I want to be a cowboy.

HAH! Oh, man, I adored that bit on hummingbirds. It's SO very true. We have bazillions of them up here in the mountains just east of Albuquerque... a terrain, and architecture, fundamentally identical to what you so eloquently describe.

But skies! The hummingbirds! We get a half-dozen varieties drawn to our feeders, and they are vicious little buggers! They express their outrage in no uncertain terms if we dare let the feeders go empty... or take them away. They've very nearly followed us into the house, chasing after a feeder being brought in for filling, and are often suckling away at the newly juiced offering before we can even hang it up again.

I love this high desert, with it's magnificent spine of rugged stone sprinkled with a magnificent excess of trees that is so very unexpected to those who equate all deserts with the movie version of the Sahara.

I don't think I've ever loved my state more than I do now. :)