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It’s nothing. Really.

Three generations take a hike at Brown’s Ranch, in Scottsdale. Nothing important happens.

Nothing worth recording.

Except for everything.

My mother, my daughter, me. Sixty years separate those two. My daughter is thirty-one.

I’m somewhere in the middle. In the middle of age and work, love and life.

It’s not a long hike, really a stroll, a saunter. This half a mile is a long enough hike when it’s almost one hundred degrees. We get ourselves ready to go.

We examine plants.

Mother: Looks like something you would find in a window on Madison Avenue. Some fancy florist arrangement.

Daughter: That’s the quintessential saguaro.

Mother: That one’s pretty healthy, isn’t it.

Velvet mesquite.

Do I dwell too much on insignificance? I have always liked the unimportant things.

A bird flits away.

Mother: Was it a female cardinal?

Me (know it all): You know what a female cardinal looks like? They’re green.

Mother: No, they’re brown.

Me: Okay, green-brown.

Nothing of consequence is discussed. There’s an agave. Nothing special.

Me: (the know it all): You see, you don’t have to get far off the beaten track to see everything nice.

Daughter: A saguaro skeleton.

Mother: I’ve seen that before.

We see other specimens we recognize from previous walks here. Old friends. Meaningless probably to anyone else.

We know saguaro have buds that will later flower.

Daughter: How much do they grow per year?

Me (Having no idea): Two inches.

There are phenomena we didn’t know existed. We had seen plenty of saguaros but never seen the honeyed droplets at the end of one’s arm.

Mother:  I’ve never seen that before.

Daughter: That’s definitely the buds coming out.

Always something new in the ancient desert.

We see a plant with with little pale bubbles.

Mother: Don’t touch. It could be poisonous, because it’s white.

Yucca has white blossoms too. We identify them.

We see an information placard saying that coyotes use the wash as a highway.

Daughter: It’s a fun way of thinking about it.

Someone has seen fit to tag one fishhook cactus.

Me: Wonder why?

No one knows. It just is what it is.

Mother: That’s mallow.

Mother: I wish they’d provide some shade here.

There is no shade in the desert, it’s only sun, sun sun.

Me: Let’s sit down for a few minutes.

The view is ravishing, of course, but it is also nothing, an ordinary view for these parts.

Save the tough stuff for some other time. There’s so much to talk about. Not now.

Daughter: If you see human trash don’t pick it up because pack rats will use it for their den.

Mother: That’s a hedgehog cactus.

Daughter: Nice.

We see delicate purple flowers and crush them between our fingers.

Daughter: I think it’s lavender.

Me: Maybe.

Mother: Desert lavender is a thing.

We’re not sure. I like it when you admire things and you don’t know their names.

Daughter: The things you see when everything looks dead.

The nearly mundane. The unflamboyant.

Flame orange tubes, barely visible.

Daughter: Little hot dogs.

Mother: I like way they grow out of the rock like that.

Only the small things matter. The barely seen. The almost missed.

Half a dozen lizards scamper ahead with their tails held high. A rabbit bounds away.

A nothing flower. A plant without a name.

Me: I don’t know what that is, do you?

Mother: No.

Daughter: No.

A butterfly appears, you can barely see it in shrubbery.

Mother: I think I know the name of that one.

Another bird.

Mother: A hummingbird. See the sharp beak?

Me: Really?

Daughter: Yes, definitely.

Mother: Solid as granite, isn’t that an expression?

Daughter: Are these the same ones we saw before?

Me (definitively): Yes, definitely.

Mother: I don’t know.

A beneficence of the mundane. Just wondering. Not sure. Trying to figure things out, but not working at it too hard.

Restroom at the end of the trail.

Mother: They know quite a bit about snakes, don’t they? Someone must have seen them in the restroom.

Snakes. They must. But it’s no big deal. Nothing to make a fuss over. Hardly worth mentioning.

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Filed under Jean Zimmerman

We are nowhere.

Nowhere is sometimes beautiful, especially out a car window, roadside nowhere.

If you’re in the right mood, that is. We drive north from Scottsdale to Cave Creek and pass pretty much nothing. Isn’t nothing interesting?

If you have maybe too much too think about, beefy saguaros in a parking lot can seem pretty cool.

Or massive pines.

Peter drives.

His hat came from the 90th birthday party of Paul Orifice, former chairman of Dow Chemical.

My mother just turned ninety. Still a vision, even when the sun makes her squint.

We pass groves of beaver tail or elephant tongue cactus, no one knows which. Cave Creek’s a tacky western-style town, replete with Jesus, gifts and cheap hotels. Big Earl’s Greasy Eats is the local fast food.

Hooray America.

Bikers throng the bars.

Barrel cactus morphs.

The restaurant a cacophony. Corny Mexican that offers oblivion in its world-famous margarita.

You can get a 32-ounce bucket to go for 32 dollars.

My mother is a naturally spiritual person, though she has no use for organized religion. As long as you’re a good person, she says, it doesn’t matter what you believe, if you believe anything at all. All the fires are lit.

Over chips and three types of salsa, we speak of things that matter. Of “arrangements “ that will eventually have to be made—not yet!

Not every woman has a wall of ornaments gleaned from different cultures, most of which embody spiritual beliefs.

There is a Panamanian toucan and a coming-of-age necklace for Indonesian women. They hang in her lair, in her woman-cave.

One was gifted her recently for her ninetieth year my brother. It’s a Zen chime made by an artist/musician in Memphis, Zen because it is a chime that makes no sound. (I must credit Peter for the best of these pictures.) The Tanzanian headdress for a young woman is especially intricate.

At El Encanto, I dig into my queso guillermo, hot bubbling cheeses blended with yellow chiles, onions and tomatoes, served sizzling at the table, with pico de gallo, limes and corn tortillas. I think about the nothing of the desert, of the flame, of spiritual artifacts, of the ashes that some people want scattered on the desert when they pass. That’s something.


Filed under Jean Zimmerman