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Since I could hold a pencil, writing has been an integral part of my life. I've written diaries, journals, poems, novels, short stories and hundreds of letters. Along with most other writers, I have a strong compulsion to record the events of my life and my perceptions about them. I suppose it could be considered a self-centered or arrogant endeavor but it has given me a glimpse into the world as I perceived it at various times in my life. I like to think that it has helped me to know who I am and where I fit into the scheme of things.  

Today I stumbled upon a letter I'd written to my mother shortly after I moved away from my family home in Delaware and settled in Tucson. My mother has been dead for many years and when we cleaned out her house, I reclaimed my letters. I put them in a sealed box and carried them wherever I moved. Today, more than thirty-five years later, I found the courage to look at them. And in the looking, I saw, more clearly than any photograph could have shown me, the person I was when I wrote them. 

The letters are filled with news of my small children, our daily activities and then, every so often, something that surprised me. My mother was born and reared in the lush Virginia woods and never understood what I loved about the desert.  In this passage, I was attempting to show her.  

"Today as I hiked in the Saguaro-laden foothills west of Tucson, a rust colored bolder tumbled from the mountainside and halted against a gnarled Mesquite tree. Bits of granite dust thickened the air around me. I stopped to rest there and I can't really explain this, Mom, but I knew I would remain for a long while, contemplating the desert's contradictions in order to discover my own truths.


It's a wild landscape, secret and yet open at the same time. A place where wind circles the valley. It seems to come from every direction at once. In the spring, thorny scaled cholla, barrels, prickly pears and hedgehog cactus burst into transparent blossoms that seem fragile, yet eternal.


It's a place where pastel sunsets darken into shades of mauves, blues and fuchsia until the sun finally winks out behind the mountains and the night sky spreads its star-studded blanket above me. A place where I can sit and listen to the plaintive howl of a coyote and realize we are not the only animals who have feelings.   


If you ever saw the desert during monsoon season I believe you would come to love it as I do. Huge thunderheads build up in the south and soon the entire horizon turns a blue black. When the rain comes, it splatters on the dry sand, carving moon craters that rapidly rush into white water washes that fill the summer-dried riverbeds.  And all around, the creosote bushes spill their perfume into the air. If I were blind, I would know the desert after rain by the way that fragrance clings to everything. 

I can tell you, Mom, the desert is an exhibitionist and she'll lift up her skirt and dance for you without provocation."

It has been more than twenty-five years since I moved away from Tucson. My mother never came to love the Sonoran Desert.  But, because I wrote that letter, I clearly remember why I do.  



 


Comments

Laura
09/06/2013 3:45pm

WOW Takes me back to the pictures of her vist west

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Lois Baker
09/06/2013 4:53pm

Loved the blog. I was only in the Desert once but will never forget it. I really felt the closest to God on this earth as I had never felt before or since.

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09/06/2013 5:19pm

Thanks, Lois. I didn't know you visited the desert. Wish I could have shown you some of the places I love. I guess it is a place you either or love or don't. My mom didn't. But it will always be a part of me.

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sherry mullens
09/06/2013 5:15pm

I love that last line to your mom. You've described the desert's beauty with real feeling. I know you still love it, but I wish you still lived here!

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09/06/2013 5:20pm

Thanks, Sherry. I miss the desert (and you) but it will always be a part of me. So much of who I am was formed there.

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Carol Clough
09/06/2013 11:14pm

I really enjoyed this blog about your descriptions of the desert and your letter to your mom. It is wonderful that she saved those, so that one day when you were ready you could re read. I have never had the pleasure of going to Arizona or Tuscon for that matter. I am currently reading a book by Sylvia Nobel called Devils Cradle. She lives in Arizona and also writes a lot about the scenery and weather. Sounds like a most interesting and diverse area. If you have a chance to read one of her books, could lend you ours I believe, from the Nook, you might enjoy her writing. Ed has started your book. Want to see what he thinks. A great change from all the wars stories he reads.

Linda Wilkinson
09/07/2013 5:49am

Again I love looking at the deepest parts of your heart through your writings. The feelings you had reading your words to your Mom make me wish I had written more to my Mother before she passed. Your Mom was an amazing woman who I personally learned my love of gardening and canning from

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Patti Sias
09/07/2013 7:52pm

I love how you paint pictures with your words. The pictures you paint of the Tucson desert are exactly as I remember them, especially the smells of the monsoons. You can't forget the wonderful lightning shows that come with the thunderstorms/monsoons.

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Bob Olds
09/10/2013 3:58pm

Your letter is beautifully written. You have been a master of writing sensory detail and metaphors for a very long time. Hopefully you'll find a publisher to appreciate how good you are as much as the rest of your fans.

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Martha Ragland
09/20/2013 11:50am

I've rarely read a more beautiful and heartfelt celebration of the desert country of the Southwest. This is beautiful, Susan!

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All the developed and rich people of the society always have good and educated parents the educated parents always help their children’s in their problems. They educated parents have the education and ricks how to solve the problems.

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Barry
03/04/2016 1:46pm

Having lived in different parts of the beautiful Sonoran Desert for over 50 years (Tucson and now Phoenix), I can relate well to what you write about and the monsoon seasons are indeed the most memorable. Having been raised in the South (Florida then Virginia), and having grown up with the Goop Book where I learned “like little ships that went to sea, I push my spoon away from me,” Swiss Family Robinson (in words of one syllable) which inspired my love of tree houses, and Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses I can remember sitting in the beautiful desert rain with my daughter, Jennifer and reciting:
“The rain is falling all around,
It falls on field and tree,
It rains on the umbrellas here,
And on the ships at sea.” ― Robert Louis Stevenson, A Child's
Garden of Verses

Over these many years, I’ve also found the spontaneity and fragility of this desert expanse to be intoxicatingly beautiful. Thanks for painting this never ending picture again for me and others to enjoy.

If I could perhaps learn to write anew, the Sonoran Desert would be my muse.

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