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ursulav

Desert Pangs

Ten years ago today, I left Arizona for North Carolina.

Ten years is a very long time. I have a hard time believing it's been that long, or only that long. Many, many things have happened since then, some of them terrible, most of them good. (Much of it was front-loaded into the first four years, which were crazy and awful--the last six have been wonderful and rather sedate.)

But I still miss the desert.

I am very happy here in North Carolina, don't get me wrong. I have Kevin and a garden that becomes extravagantly, absurdly lush given hardly any encouragement. I am on the spring migration route and obscure warblers routinely pause in my yard to sip water and catch bugs. I love it very much.

But there is something about the desert--perhaps specifically the Sonoran desert, although the high desert in Washington is similar--something about the strange Spartan puzzle-box vegetation and the bleached bone light, something that I miss. It goes dormant for long periods and then I see photos of saguaros and palo verde and top-knotted quail and I want to get up out of my chair and walk into the desert.

Well, it would be a long walk. I am thousands of miles away. There are days when I can feel every one of those miles and think "What the hell am I doing here, in this soggy, ridiculous place?"

If I were to die--and someday, of course, I will--I would not be surprised to find myself in the desert again. I would stand beside a saguaro and think "Of course this is what the afterlife looks like. I should have guessed. What else would it look like, really?"

Which probably proves that this is my internal landscape after all, and perhaps I'm a fool to live so far apart from it.

Kevin, who knows about my occasional pangs, has suggested that someday when we are fabulously wealthy (or at least somewhat more than we are now), we can buy a house in the desert and move between them. It's an appealing thought. The problem is that I do not know how many seasons I would be willing to sacrifice--winter here is charmless, high summer there is no great shakes, but where do you spend spring or fall? Do I love the rare cactus flowers and the bright pink sage more, or the green stalks of wild indigo and the mating songs of frogs? What am I willing to miss out on? And what gets neglected? Even the best gardens don't do well when the gardener is gone for months at a stretch.

Well. I'm young yet. 36 is perhaps halfway to my actuarial allotted span. There's still time. And for the most part, I love my weird little garden and my weird little town and would not trade them, and perhaps if I did move, I'd pine for them as much as I do for saguaros now.

But I do feel the occasional pang.


I was raised in North Carolina and never saw Arizona until after college. It gave me the spookiest of feelings. I was visiting a friend who had married a native. He (the native) and I had a fascinating conversation. He had just been to North Carolina on business and described how claustrophobic it made him feel. He hated feeling wet and closed in. I realized my discomfort in Arizona was exactly that - only the opposite. Years and years later, my employer moved my job from Seattle to Phoenix. They tried hard to convince me to go. I spent two weekends there - in January - and could not do it.

I am so impressed by your ability to love both places for their individual deliciousness.

My [New York City] photography teacher had a similar reaction to being out west; "There's so much sky!" she said. "Isn't there anywhere to go for a cup of coffee?"

For me it was Boulder City, NV -- just the other side of the state line from Arizona. It was a long time ago, but I still miss it. Once you're a part of the high desert it always stays with you.

Something silly from Arizona you have probably already heard, but just in case... :)


Darn it, I was gonna post that! :D

I am of two minds about Arizona.
One mind is "Little Fluffy Clouds" by The Orb, as seen above.
The other mind is "Call Of The West" by Wall Of Voodoo, as seen below:


my dad grew up in Tucson, so we visited often when I was a kid; we had a house down there for a while. I've introduced my (Minnesotan) husband to the city and he loves the desert as well. but I'm a Colorado girl, born and bred, and I can't bring myself to leave. maybe someday we'll have a small place down there for a few months in the winter. I can't bring myself to make the move permanent, as I cannot deal with the heat in the summers.

I've lived in SE Colorado just a little longer than that. Until then, I lived east of the Mississippi. Where I am now is described as a "cold semi-arid steppe climate." Lawns and agriculture are the result of irrigation.

One of the first generalizations I was able to make about this part of the world is: where I used to live has botany; where I live now has geology.

So it's not desert. But. The one thing I absolutely do not miss [except once in a long while] is the much higher humidity where I formerly lived. Even now, I e-mail weather reports to my brother [near Chicago] and my sister [near Detroit] when the humidity goes into single digits. And giggle. A lot.

It seems to me that neither keeping to the same schedule each year, nor actually maintaining a house in each of the two places, would be necessary to allowing you to get significant, meaningful Desert Time into your life. E.g., I imagine you could find someone willing to trade places for a week or two.

I understand this..oh so completely. I'm an Arizona native, and just moved to Georgia last year. I love it here....I love the green, and the rain, and the fact that my back yard is an acre of forest and critters. I love it completely.... but right now, in the midst of this seeming never ending winter, I miss warm, and sunshine, and desert. Not enough to go back permanently.. but I do miss it.

Welcome to Georgia! It's not always this cold. (40-degree rain is more typical.)

By contrast, my youngest daughter is planning to move to Arizona when she graduates, largely because it has both geology and astronomy. (There are few places in Georgia where you can get decent star-viewing, due to either light pollution, trees, or humidity, or some combination of all three.)

Okay, first off: Next time you feel the pangs of yearning for the desert, you are totally welcome to visit Tucson and contact me; one of my great joys is dragging visitors through local caves, out to astronomical public displays, to ghost towns (I know one named 'Contention'), high ridge trails full of saguaro and Arizona Prickly Poppies, long-defunct missile silos and hot springs. And of course there's Madera Canyon, the local birder's heaven..... Google it; you'll see what I mean.

I'm lucky. With only one exception I've loved everywhere I've lived, from Florida to Germany to Nevada to Arizona... but when I say 'home', I usually mean NW Florida where I was born and raised. It's the home inside my head.

Anyway, come visit; I'll drag you and Kevin to the haunted ruins of an old mission along the San Pedro and down to Tombstone so you can get cuttings of the giant 100+-year-old rosebush there.

As someone who grew up in the red rock country of southern Utah, and now lives in the absolutely saturated valleys of western Oregon, I know exactly what you mean.

I've lived in western Oregon my whole life. I've got this gut-deep conviction I need to move to the desert because it's so overcast here in the winter and I go absolutely nuts. (Not to mention that, even though Oregon summers are nowhere near as humid as south-eastern state summers, it's still too sticky here for comfort.) This winter has been unnaturally sunny and dry, which sucks for the farmers but is great for me. :)

Okay, first off: Next time you feel the pangs of yearning for the desert, you are totally welcome to visit Tucson and contact me; one of my great joys is dragging visitors through local caves, out to astronomical public displays, to ghost towns (I know one named 'Contention'), high ridge trails full of saguaro and Arizona Prickly Poppies, long-defunct missile silos and hot springs. And of course there's Madera Canyon, the local birder's heaven..... Google it; you'll see what I mean.

I'm lucky. With only one exception I've loved everywhere I've lived, from Florida to Germany to Nevada to Arizona... but when I say 'home', I usually mean NW Florida where I was born and raised. It's the home inside my head.

Anyway, come visit; I'll drag you and Kevin to the haunted ruins of an old mission along the San Pedro and down to Tombstone so you can get cuttings of the giant 100+-year-old rosebush there.

It's the beach for me. Grew up near the ocean my whole life, and now I'm in Kansas with my love. He's worth it, but I miss the ocean all the time.

Yes. One of the things that keeps me on Long Island (well, aside from my kids are still here is the ocean. Even the largest lakes don't work. They smell wrong, they taste wrong.

I need the ocean.

Maybe you could get a flexible time share down there instead and go for a few weeks or a month once a year.

Thinking about this makes me tear up some because I was born and raised the first chunk of my life (til 12 at least) almost entirely in Southern California near San Diego and I miss it all the time. I had tried to not think about it too much, but it's more upsetting than I admitted to my boyfriend or myself til now that he has spent the last few days just a little North of where I grew up.

I've lived in Seattle since 1998 barring a few months in Tennessee/Virginia (town sat on state lines) and I'm incredibly grateful that I was finally able to grow deep set roots with friends and life here and it's hard to picture leaving that because it seems so hard won; my mother's nomadic habits even in one place made it hard to do before, I barely remember most houses/apartments we lived in. It's hard to picture leaving because I love a lot of things about this place and the people I know and even winter, though I hate being/get cold easily, can make me nostalgic for time spent in Kentucky with family there.

But I miss Southern California with an aching feeling that makes me cry sometimes. I've put down roots here, but some still stretch to SoCal and even Kentucky to a lesser extent (more for the people than place, but there were many charms with that too) and every so often my heart strings thrum with the need to go back. It's the worst to not be able to afford to go either place even briefly

Er, sorry to ramble, I do that when I get emotional and it's worse when I'm tired too.

I was born and raised in Minnesota for most of my childhood, and I still have deep ties to the glacial landscape, but the Californian desert is the home of my heart. We lived there for a year when I was seven, and I missed it deeply afterward. My husband and I lived there for eight years after we were married as well, and I hope someday we'll be able to return.

My parents live in New Mexico now, and I'm always pleased to visit. There's just something about the land there that feels right to me.

The trouble with geography is that you can't take it with you.

I hated the Midwest the entire six years I lived there -- and, no, hated is not too strong a word -- but now that I've been back in the Pacific NW for over twenty years, I can admit there are some things that I miss about it. Spring wildflowers carpeting the ground under the bare-limbed woods. The colors of fall (but not trees after the leaves fall, which then proceed to look dead for the ensuing six months. And the wide-open spaces. I even took a vacation to North Dakota summer before last, and reveled in a sky that looked like it took up more than 180 degrees horizon to horizon.

Much as I love western Washington, and I do, to the point where I intend to die here someday, we don't have a lot when it comes to wide-open spaces. And I'm not a desert fan (having grown up in S. Ca.), so eastern Washington doesn't really do it for me.

But I really do miss the spring wildflowers. We don't really get the huge carpets of them until summer up in the mountains.

The Midwest, on my one and only visit there, made me feel uneasy because it was So. Damn. FLAT. I kept having to look back out the bus window to convince myself that yep, it really does look like that.

My parents did that. they had a House in Kansas, that they put their money and retirement into and a small place in Santa Rosa, California where they would come for the seasonal extremes (Summer and winter in kansas is not fun). They did it for the project of restoring a house, as well as for avoiding California's high taxes, So it would be more than possible to do,, Spend christmas in arizona,with your folks, maybe part of the spring.

Alas, my folks moved to Georgia, which speaks to my soul not at all. But I may yet wind up in the desert some day.

I mostly grew up in Texas -- Austin, to be precise -- and there are times I miss it, even after over 20 years up here in the Frozen North.

(Sadly, what I miss is the Austin of 20 years ago. I do not want to be anywhere near current Austin anymore. Which is... *sigh*)

THis I so understand. I went to school in Colorado Springs and would have loved to move there- then . NOTHING could impel me to live there now. Same with Tucson. Lived there 2 years, and loved it, but not now, never now.