On Vacation Eve
Checking Out, Checking In

Letting Time Go

8:45     Went to breakfast
10:00   Went back to room

My daughter is tweeting her vacation.  Well, not really.  She's just writing things such as this down in a one by two inch memo pad she carries in her pocket.  She's not publishing it, at least not yet.  I asked her why she is doing this.  She says she doesn't know.  It's just fun, she says.  I asked her if I could see her list. She said no.


This afternoon I walked out of our ground level hotel room door, crunched across the gravel between our room and the path that circles the property, navigated the cacti on the hill and started walking.  It was like being among old friends.  I suppose it is the starkly different surroundings of the desert that make me hyper-attuned to the plant life and wildlife around me.  I see pine trees around 355 days a year.  I take them for granted. Here, it's not so.

I decide to get off the gravel path, which is a bit too cultivated, and I take to an adjacent wash that is just dirt.  Maybe in the Summer the wash may be full of water, during a monsoon rain, but now it's bone-dry. Imagine the sound of the birds which are everywhere here.  Two desert hares skitter across the wash, two of the eight to ten I see in the 40 minutes while I walk.  I've seen javelinas (wild pigs) here on occasion, rooting in earth and snorting.  None today.  I've even seen a coyote, warily watching me from a distance.  In the heat of the day they are likely farther up in the hills that are shadowed by the Santa Catalina Mountains.  I look up at them.  It's difficult to believe that 11,000 feet up, where I see green, there is a birch and fir tree forest, maybe even snow.  The browns and greens are in such sharp contrast to an azure sky, the blue so piercing it almost hurts.  I look down and ahead.  Last time I was here I nearly stepped on a rattlesnake.  Not everyone here is friendly.

Let me introduce you.  Here is the palo verde tree, and there, and there. They're all around. The word means green stick, a tree with green branches that photosynthesize in the place of leaves which are difficult to maintain in the desert.  There is the jumping cholla, a cactus so named because its needles ended up (that is jumped) into the hindquarters of many a cowboy.  They don't really jump.  There's the staghorn cholla, which is severe looking and has a tinge of red its green branches, and the barrel cactus, a fat squatting type.  Yucca.  Brittle-bush with yellow blooms.  Prickly pear cactus, with its Mickey Mouse ears.  And towering over them all the saguaro cactus, many of which were germinated in the last century. I mean the 1800s. Because the arms on each of them all have a different shape, I even recognize some.  After all, I have been coming here for 25 years.  They haven't changed much.  Maybe they grew a foot in all that time.  Maybe not.  They will outlive me and my children and grandchildren will visit them.

I said old friends.  Maybe what I really mean to say is that I am among my elders.  Walking here I have the sense of timelessness.  I see mountains that were here long before the first settlers came West.  Most of those here preceded me.  They may be inanimate, but if rocks cry out and trees clap their hands (as Scripture says), then perhaps these elders say something too.


11:00    Went to pool
12:00    Tired. Bored.  Went back to room.

What is it with this hyper-attentiveness to time? I'm not sure what possesses her.  It's not a journal. Nothing profound in what she writes down.  Maybe it's just documentation, validation that she is here.

I could have told her that.

Maybe, just maybe, she'll take to the wash and find something there to really write about, something that will make her stop counting time, stop measuring it at all.  Maybe she'll discover things that are timeless.

Like the cactus wren poking his head from his nest in the saguaro.  At 1:22.