Just back from the GWA Symposium in Tucson, I’m jet-lagged and dry as a corn husk, but I am happy. I didn’t know what to expect of Tucson or the Sonoran Desert. On maps, the area is large and brown, but in person, it is . . . Wow! I’ve driven through Arizona and stopped at the Grand Canyon, but usually I don’t venture further west by car than Santa Fe or Albuquerque, New Mexico. If you’ve driven across the Texas panhandle a time or two you understand.
I knew there would be cacti. From my friend, Scott Calhoun’s blog, I suspected there would be an agave or two.
I’m kidding. I’m not that Oklahoma centric.
I didn’t realize the prickly pear fruit would be as ubiquitous to Arizona cuisine as the pineapple is to Hawaii’s. I also learned the tunas (fruit) take some real work to prepare. Prickly pear juice is as pink as Barbie’s play house. Sorry I don’t have a picture. I was too busy drinking. Our hosts served prickly pear lemonade, margaritas, fizzy lemonade and more margaritas.
It’s so dry in the desert. You know the jokes about dry heat, but I found it boils and concentrates the residents of Tucson to their essence. Arizonans are tough folk. They must not go anywhere without a jug of water. I was parched the entire trip. My lips, skin and throat remained dry, and surprisingly, I had more allergies. I also carried a jug of water with me at all times. We met docents in the Sonoran Desert Museum on the extended tour, and they all looked thin and super fit with smiles as large as the Arizona blue sky.
I admire these people.
My climate is tough, but I don’t have to use a jackhammer to dig a hole in the soil. As my kids would say, “No lie.”
I found many things we have in common. I also grow zinnias for example. I’ve found no easier flower for hot, summer days. It seems the Arizonans do too. I also grow several of their other natives as summer plants that can take our abysmal heat.
However, I didn’t realize I would come around the corner of my hotel and catch hummingbirds, a male and female, drinking from a fountain of rock. Arizona is full of surprises that way.
It seeps into your bones and refines your thinking, making you want to return in spring just after the monsoon rains bring out the wildflowers for a week or two. I might even drive across Texas to get there.