Sunday, November 18, 2012

Home For Good










Last Monday was P's birthday and Veterans Day. Fittingly, we spent that weekend in the Arizona desert as part of a small retreat for young Marine vets currently enrolled in graduate school programs.

It was raining when we landed in Phoenix, and the blunt, camphor scent of the creosote bushes –a desert rain smell so distinctive that desert people find, on the whole, the onset of rain in other climates rather unexceptional for lack of precipitational heraldry- filled our noses as soon as we hit the runway. I  gripped P's hand in excitment as we taxied to the gate. Back in the desert. Finally.

Up at dawn the next morning and out east to Tonto National Forest. A nine mile hike, a loop, someplace with marvelous names you only hear out west: Lost Dutchman’s Mine, Weaver’s Needle, Superstition Wilderness. Accordion-waisted saguaro stood like sentinels keeping watch over cold igneous valleys and hot, wide washes. When the morning sun filled the canyon P. and I hung back and let the jolly voices fade ahead of us on the trail, and we hiked along together enjoying the silence; I forget how loud New York is until I'm out of it. The previous night’s rain brought the autumn Sonoran to life, and we marveled at the botanical phenomenon of resurrection plants metamorphosing from crisp grey cracklings to feathery emerald tuffets.

As we hiked I calibrated my thoughts to the rhythm of my feet. Thoughts in simple sentences: P. is home. P. is safe. No more deployments. Home for good. It's been three and a half years since he got back from Iraq, but each time I have these thoughts they are revelatory, still.

We stopped for fish tacos at a little place on the way back to the hotel. We split a beer. We unlaced our boots and stretched out in the desert morning sun, legs tired, bellies full, a little buzzed.

Back in the desert. Home for good. 

27 comments:

  1. the rhythm of your feet and your thoughts is music to my ear!

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  2. <333 this is just so lovely. i'm so glad you two got the time to go back to your hearthome. :)

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  3. Lovely...
    My father was a career Army officer, and after he returned from Vietnam, my brother and I would just stand at the door and watch him sleep... couldn't get enough of him!!

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  4. So sweet. Home for good, gives me chills.
    And the desert! RIGHT?! I can almost smell the air and feel the sun.

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  5. lovely part of the world. we are digging: "igneous"! home for good - it's a good thing.

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  6. I love the way you write. It's so honest.

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  7. gorgeous images, and a lovely description. peaceful, serene... BLISS.

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  8. This post made my day (I'm a desert gal living in Portland OR). And it made me realize I need to write more if I'm going to communicate as eloquent as you just did.

    Also, I'm happy your loved one is safe and sound.

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  9. Celebrating a special homecoming in a magically special place for you both - perfect.

    xo
    cortnie

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  10. I love your writing. You are an artist to the bone. Thank you. And, I'm jealous of your word skillz.

    It is good to hear that someone else had a little rejoicing in her head on Veteran's day - he's home, safe, even when he's not next to me it's never so far that we can't get in the car and get to each other, or pick up the phone, missing him when he's on a trip is never going to feel like that. I never connected with a support group when Christopher was deployed because I felt like an outsider from that culture (as a grad student, scholar, unmarried, you name it) and so I feel a bit of surprise and a connection when I read your words. Affinity. How unusual.

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    1. Amy, thanks for leaving your thoughtful comment. You're a kindred spirit. Happy belated Veterans Day to you and Christopher. xo

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  11. That photo with the tiny tuft of cloud? Delicious. My eyes gobbled it up.

    Also, I saw this recipe and thought of you. Have you ever made these?
    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/09/dining/091crex.html

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  12. Ah, I just got goosebumps thinking of Arizona sunsets, hanging out at Weaver's Needle, and "A" Mountain in Tempe. I miss home.

    Thank you for writing about this so beautifully... It really made my day.

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  13. fabulous--your words bring about such imagery, alongside your pictures.

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  15. These photos make me even more excited to be going back to the desert in a couple of weeks. Your description of the smell of the rain is something I have never been able to describe, but you have done so perfectly. How I miss that smell. So happy that you are in a place of warming comfort with your man, safe and sound. Enjoy the Sonoran sun! :)

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  16. Poignant words and lush imagery. A gorgeous analogy of using the desert as a measuring stick - a place to zero the scale and calibrate your thoughts. When all is silent, what's really important in life finds its way to the surface. I am so inspired by your words and sentiments. It must be interesting for your husband to have his birthday, the Marine Corps birthday and Veterans Day all wrapped up nearly in one.I was in a long term relationship with a man who graduated from the Naval Academy, went to officer school, and went to Afghanistan and Iraq as a captain. I met him shortly after he returned. He was there when Fallujah was bad - I'm glad I didn't know him then. He did spend some time at 29 Palms as well. Thank you for sharing. Your gifts as an artist have the power to affect so many people! One of the pieces I wrote about him: http://slivers.wordpress.com/2008/01/09/where-they-go/

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  17. What a gorgeous piece, Lily. I am so glad that you had that trip and P is safe and sound for good.

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  18. Love. There really isn't anything like the peacefulness of the desert. Glad you guys were able to do this together!

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  19. What a lovely post Lily.So happy for you.

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  20. Beautiful pictures! I live in Arizona, and the desert offers its beauty in different lights everyday.

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