Sunday, November 7, 2010

On travel and home

I know the tones of the different rumble strips cut into the pavement along the shoulder of the Eisenhower Interstate System. I have traveled extensively, if selectively, and I know the strangest airports, the best restaurants along Historic Route 66, and that there's nothing like a week of hotel soap to make you long for a loofah. I have traveled by car, bus, plane, train, and boat. My friends, my coworkers and my colleagues have traveled more than most, just as I have, and together we have an insider's knowledge of the various destinations - and methods of getting to them - where we constantly find ourselves. Places as far-flung as Chicago, Vancouver, Caen, Canberra and Tokyo. Collectively, we have millions of frequent flier miles, thousands of road hours, and our names on a hundred different accounts for rental car and hotel upgrades.

I am a child of the American southwest. I am a daughter of the high desert, the land of the Sun, of steer and sagebrush, adobe and mesquite, mesa and arroyo, pinon and ponderosa, mountain and plain; the land where the Railroad is King, where pronghorn and roadrunner and tumbleweed roam freely, where elk and mountain lion sleep in the cool shade of high evergreen forests, where the sky is a bright painful blue emulated nowhere else and the mountains are purple silhouettes against an orange sun. I know this place because it is in my blood; this place where we use the name river mainly as a synonym for stream, where being in the shade actually is cooler, where coyotes and cactus and volcanic rock slowly turn to dust. I am intimately familiar with the way the desert makes the horizon look like a painted backdrop, the way the road surface bakes in the sun and burns your bare feet, the way tiny lizards and ground squirrels and jays move amongst the stones and gambol oak. I can mimic the sound of crows, ravens and sparrows (and peacocks, but we won't get into that...). I can recognize the sweet scent of an alpine park, the syrup flavor of prickly pear, and the distinctive whisper of the wind through tall pines. These are my "purple mountain majesties," my Colorful Colorado and my Grand Canyon State and my Land of Enchantment. I know the rattlesnakes and the saguaro. I am a Sonoran; I can laugh with the mestizos and tejanos at el gringo from New York; I can palate spicier peppers than most of the people I know. While others learned about the Civil War or the Norman Invasion, I learned about the Anasazi and the Trinity Test. To me, the Four Corners of the southwestern US are the Four Corners of the World.

I just returned from a week in New Mexico for a conference, and in another week or so I'll be in Michigan for an experiment. Traveling to New Mexico reminded me of what I love of the place I call home, and traveling anywhere else reminds me of what I miss.

I think I'll have a piece of cactus candy and a nice local microbrew.


  1. Wow. Love your description of the land you call home; I'll have to visit that neck of the Amurrican woods some day. Thanks for the inspiration to do so!

  2. I can definitely recommend it - glad my description was worthy of such an inspiration!


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