I’ve been visiting since my parents retired here when I was in my 20s. The scent of the air, its dryness, the heat, all were so different than cold grey New York. In Manhattan, we took cabs. In Arizona, we took hot air balloons. The flora asserted their exotica. Right down the street from my parents, at McCormick Ranch, was a real ranch with horses friendly enough to come over to the fence and be fed carrots.
When Gil and I got married, our best man, a photographer, brought us out into the desert for official posed pictures. We went to an empty lot downtown.
There was nothing but sand and tumbleweed for miles, and saguaros that towered over our heads. Carnegiea gigantea. Easterners, we learned that the single columns were the babies among them, and the more arms that poked out of that central stem, the more ancient they were. There were a lot of vintage saguaros out there.
Years went by. We spent our Arizona time with my parents in Sedona, not Scottsdale. When they returned, we returned, to find that you can in fact pave paradise – though a cliché, it’s no exaggeration. Almost all the desert had been developed. Towering corporate buildings, shopping mall after shopping mall. No horses munching behind a fence, they were long gone, whether to pasture or the glue factory, nobody knew. Development had disappeared them.
But still. The air and the heat feel the same. There are fuschia flowers.
Odd saguaro shapes, as high as ever above your head.
Twisted palo verde specimens. Parkinsonia aculeata.
All of these plants are squeezed along the turf alleys amid winding sidewalks, not “out in the desert” but the embodiment of desert nonetheless. The hot rodders own the 101, transplanted Californians have taken over the parking lots at Whole Foods, gated complexes proliferate.
There is no empty lot where we took our wedding shots. But you can’t kill the desert. It blooms again every spring.