Arizona’s Desert


imageArizona is a living, breathing place. She isn’t simply desert, spanning out over miles and miles. She is an oxymoron: the marriage of practicality and mysticism over a wasteland of scorched earth, seemingly barren yet teeming with life. The passing of the day is contingent on Arizona’s temperature and the vitality that she inspires. Your time is fluid, in sync with Arizona’s schedule. She guides the manner in which the day is spent, harmonious with the desert and the creatures that live there, with not an hour wasted.

In the morning, the desert awakes renewed; the evening chill has cleared away yesterday’s grit and lethargy. She brings with her a sense of rejuvenation, the overnight meditation building this frenetic energy. Arizona mornings have promise. The birds of prey lift into the air, soar through the warming sky, following the sun. The morning drives people outdoors: joggers running along the pavement until it grows hot, owners walk overeager dogs sniffing out cottontail rabbits that bound unexpectedly through front yards, and kids ride bikes around and around cul-de-sacs until the heat drives them inside. Midmorning, the fervor of the day ignites passion to craft new and exciting things and reinvigorates creative work left dusty from the day before.

She languishes at midday, when the sun has reached its highest point. Even the grunting javelinas seek shelter, little rodents tunnel into their homes in the sand, and woodpeckers roost into their holes drilled in sides of towering cacti. Midday is a gift from the desert. There is this sense of monotony: time stretching before you, completely untarnished by the inexplicable urge to create. When the sun and the heat rule housework can be done, emails can be answered, work calls can be made. The indoors cage everyone indoors, forcing them to come to terms with mundane and practical tasks and providing the time to leisurely finish them. With the ending of the day, this mood is broken.

When the sun finally dips below the mountains, it’s almost as though everything breathes a sigh of relief. Everything is colored orange and red: arbitrary rock formations, the rolling hills dotted with cacti, and the canyons dropping into the earth. Rodents cautiously duck out of their holes, lizards scuttle around the rocks, and the coyotes awaken and stretch before their evening hunt. Finally, being outside is no longer a task. With the close of the day there accompanies this sense of things underneath the surface that you don’t understand. It could be the sudden respite from the sprawling static of midday. Or it could be the way the oncoming darkness shrouds the endless expanse of sand and rock. Or perhaps it could be the Native American culture that subtly touches almost everything. But this feeling evokes a strange joy and vigor. Over the dinner: strange but beautiful Navajo flute music playing softly over the table set with delicious food and drink. People gathered together, talking about meaningless things but still relishing each other’s company. The feeling of Arizona’s nighttime awakens this sense of camaraderie, gathering people together in the deepening of the evening to just be together. The night spurs the extra ordinary. Simple excursions across the cities or towns diverge into an adventure with the car windows down and the radio up high.

As the evening grows late, nocturnal predators begin their hunt. The coyotes call to each other, lovely but haunting. To go outside is to feel Arizona at her most raw. The time spent with Arizona at night is peculiar in how it inspires. It’s easy to lose sight of the danger of the desert in the sun: the vistas and stunning mountains in the distance distracting. At night, the full terror and mystique of the strange landscape is revealed. Everything is alit under the moon and marvelous stars, clear in the open sky. Scorpions creep through brush, dark shapes scuttle around on rough ground, and bats glide erratically through the night sky. Sometimes a light dewfall touches the mountains, pressing the sand and grit back into the earth. Everything is furtive movement until the desert awakens once again, rejuvenated.

About the Author: Beryl Shea is a senior at Mount Saint Mary’s University, graduating in May as a Communications major. Road trips are my favorite means of travel.From New Hampshire, living in Maryland, but my heart is in Oregon and Arizona.

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