Looking forward to fall!

Summer is fading, and I can totally feel it, even though it was 105 degrees yesterday. The sun is rising a little later, setting a little earlier. People are getting their fantasy football teams together. The snowbirds from up north and back east are preparing to migrate to Phoenix Metro. Soon, we’ll see them on their jaunty walks in their shorts and t-shirts (while we desert denizens put on light jackets.)

I love summer giving way to fall. We do have seasons here in the Sonoran Desert part of the Land of AZ… maybe not in the traditional sense, but we do. The desert just expresses itself differently. The desert is a season-rebel. It does not conform to the norm. You have colorful fall leaves? We have colorful, blazing sunsets. You have chilly, moist temperatures? We have perfect temperatures… dry temperatures in the 70-80-degree range.

I love the heat, but hospitable temperatures make certain things possible. At some point in the late summer, I start anticipating aspects of the fall, as I know everyone around here does. Some of them can’t come soon enough. Here are 10 off the top of my head:

1). Garage gym workouts.

Cooler weather will put our garage gym back into the equation of my combat-sports fitness training.

2). Opening the front door.

Sitting in the living room at dusk with the fall breeze coming through the screen door is one of my favorite things. In the world.

3). Roasting veggies.

Brussels sprouts. Broccoli. Sweet potatoes. Purple Peruvian potatoes. Onions. Garlic. Fall in our house smells delicious.

4). Pears.

We eat pears year-round, but they come into season in the fall, and they are rapturous.

5). Pomegranates.

Pomegranate season! The flavor of pomegranates also signifies fall to me.

6). This is Us (Sept. 26) and Stranger Things (Oct. 27)

This fall, the two T.V. series I’m anticipating are This is Us and Stranger Things. I’m seriously emotionally invested in the family members of This is Us, and, like all fans, I’ve been waiting forever to find out what happens next in Stranger Things.

I would normally look forward to American Horror Story, but its early start this year puts it more in the summer than in the fall, as far as I’m concerned. Homeland is another fall series that isn’t starting in the fall this time around. Seems that the new season won’t be out until spring.

7). Candlelight writing in the early morning.

There’s something about writing in the early morning dark with just the glow of a candle flame to illuminate what needs illuminating.

8). Fall cleaning.

I’m more eager to deep-clean the house in the fall than in the spring, and the house feels so good after it’s done!

9). Creative inspiration.

Maybe it’s from a lifetime of “back-to-school” mental conditioning, but I’m more inspired, motivated, and revved-up in the fall than at any other time of the year. This is especially good this year, as I’m working on the toughest part of my book right about now. The fall magic will arrive just in time.

10). An extra cover on the bed.

For me, a heavier cover at night somehow leads to a more satisfying sleep. (By “heavier cover,” I mean the bathrobe I throw over just my side of the bed at night.)

Nenette shares my enthusiasm. Earlier this morning, I talked to her about fall, and she looked out the window like “Where is it?”

 

Late summer Nenette, awash in the early morning light.

 

Happy weekend!

 

Rest in Peace, Chris Cornell. (And Gen-X. And okayness.)

Man, I’m in a dark and strange mood this morning. I shouldn’t be. It’s gorgeous out there.

I live in Arizona and it’s May 19 and we’ve been sleeping with the windows open. It’s been like this for almost two weeks. The bedroom air is slightly chilly in the morning, so I reach for a light robe. This bizarre behavior can only mean one thing: we’re entering a new Ice Age.

It’s not just at night, either. After I get up, I go around the house and open one or two other windows and the front door, and leave them open for a good half-day, if not longer. I open them again in the evenings. This, my friends in other places, is paradise. We desert-dwellers love the desert, but we also love an unseasonably cool breeze through our security screen doors.

For posterity, here’s me this morning:

 

May 19, 2017 – in a light sweatshirt. In Arizona.

 

At the same time, awful things have been happening in the world, including the recent and tragic departure of Chris Cornell, whose widespread fame was launched with his Seattle grunge band Soundgarden. His death was not only shocking and sad, but also somewhat alarming for we “lost ones” of Generation X.

When you spend your childhood in the 70’s, your teens in the 80’s, and your twenties in the 90’s –and when the 90’s was your favorite decade, and Ten is one of your all-time favorite albums – the untimely deaths of icons like Kurt Cobain and Chris Cornell are sobering. It makes you want to watch Singles (older Gen-Xers), Reality Bites (younger Gen-Xers), and Office Space all day, kicked back on the couch eating chips and not looking for a job, all of us stereotypical, slovenly losers and slackers of Generation X.

Should I complete my own stereotype as a Gen-X writer and install a coffee pot on my desk?

Should I stare off into space and then write a letter? (“Dear Eddie Vedder: please don’t.”)

But I’m lucky. My depression is under control. I’m okay. We’re okay. Everything is okay. Everything is fine, despite global shenanigans at the highest levels of power, shenanigans of which there’s no need to speak. It’s like that one meme… that one where the dog is sitting in a house that’s burning down around him, and then he perks up and says, “This is fine.”

That’s a sign of our times, though, isn’t it? “Okay” and “fine” have long since been code for “things aren’t exactly hunky-dory.”  

“How are you?”

“I’m okay.”

“JUST okay?”

Commence questioning all of your life choices as you’re prompted to consider why you said just “okay.” You can’t be okay if you say you’re okay, because okay isn’t good enough. To tell the well-meaning inquirer that you’re okay is to send yourself an invitation to spill all of your not-okayness right there in the office hallway on your way to the water cooler.

Is this the product of a society defined by extremes? If we’re not flying high on the vaporous joy of life at all times, then something is wrong?

I’ll take “okay.”

Maybe this entire post was a sort of tangent. Maybe I just wanted to say, Rest in Peace, Chris Cornell.

 

 

Newsflash: the Grand Canyon is not commercial real estate.

Yesterday, I got to the gym early for my morning BodyPump class, so I hung out in front of the low bank of lockers just outside the group fitness room. That’s where people wait when there’s a class in session before their class.

I set my stuff down on top of the lockers and noticed a copy of the day’s Arizona Republic, our newspaper, hanging off the edge. My eye was attracted to the small heading “Grand Canyon at risk” before moving on to the blaring headline beneath it.

 

 

Why is the Grand Canyon at risk? I wondered. What votes? I read enough of the article to get an idea of it before class.

Last night, I read more.

The Grand Canyon’s unfathomable majesty isn’t enough, it seems. The fact that its splendor already draws millions of visitors from around the globe each year isn’t enough. Or maybe it’s too much. It’s too much of an exploitation opportunity for out-of-state commercial real estate developers to pass up.

Plans have been made for large-scale development on a plateau on the Grand Canyon’s eastern rim… specifically, where the Colorado River meets the Little Colorado River. The site is known as “The Confluence.” It’s a sacred Navajo site.

Quoting from the Arizona Republic article:

“The heart of the project, known as the Grand Canyon Escalade, is a 1.6-mile gondola tram ride that would drop 3,200 feet into the Canyon, taking visitors from rim to river in about 10 minutes. The project would also include commercial and retail space, multimedia complex, a river walk and administrative buildings.”

Excuse me?

I read elsewhere that the multimedia complex is reportedly designed to cover over 400 acres. The commercial and retail space would include an IMAX theater, hotels, and shops. In addition to the gondola tram ride to the canyon floor, there will be an RV park.

This is the Grand Canyon, as in, sacred Native American ground. As in, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. As in, please remove your greedy developer fingers from the Grand Canyon… and also, while you’re at it, tell the government to get their hands off of our wild horses, more of Arizona’s native treasures. All of it should be left alone.

This is what developers are planning for the holy site:

 

 

Words fail me here.

Evidently, the Navajo Nation’s president supports this proposal. I get that it would help the Navajo Nation economically, but can’t another way be found?

“Opponents say it could desecrate the region and transform the Grand Canyon from a national park into an amusement park.”

Or background scenery as people shop, dine, and watch movies.

Who would think of coming to the Grand Canyon to catch a show at IMAX?

People go to the Grand Canyon to behold its grandeur. They can opt to hike, raft, and run. They can take helicopter tours to view the canyon from above. The Grand Canyon is nature. It is not commercial real estate.

Can we please just leave the Grand Canyon to be a natural wonder in the desert? Can we please refrain from trampling the sacred ground of indigenous people?

Powers that be (Haiku 7: Power)

Questions I asked myself all week: Does power always, in every circumstance, corrupt? Is power breakable? What would it take to break chains of power, and would it take a super hero or a super villain to break them?

In these new haiku, I explore the correlation between power and corruption.

 

Haiku 7: Power

(by Kristi Garboushian)

1.

Grand tribulation:

oak doors hewn by elected

justice. Reckoning.

 

Power of position

Power of position

 

2.

Preternatural –

czars savoring backfire,

litanies of blood.

 

Power of risk

Power of risk

 

3.

Gold, palladium…

lustrous, incorruptible,

soft nobility.

 

Power of heritage

Power of heritage

 

4.

Ravishing spittoon:

molten glass posterity.

Inheritable.

 

Power of fortune

Power of fortune

 

In a lighter vein, the week wound back down to normalcy after the in-laws departed. It was a good visit. We took them to typical Arizona places (i.e. Tombstone, Sedona), and they ventured down into the Grand Canyon. They saw a fraction of what Arizona has to offer… one really needs more than a week to take in all of its splendors. Our guests enjoyed what little they experienced.

Nature Walk at Dusk

Yesterday was hella hard, guys. It was just one of those days, like we all have from time to time.

My work day ended at five, as usual, and Callaghan gamely came to get me, as usual. We had to run some errands at Tempe Marketplace, so we went there and did that. Then we were almost home when I suddenly felt the need to feel the earth under my shoes… I mean, the actual earth, as opposed to pavement. I wanted to feel and hear the gritty crunch of desert as I walked. Callaghan is always up for my whims – spontaneity is a part of his DNA – so we swung a right on the Mill Avenue bridge and went over to Papago Park, because why not? It was right there, five minutes from home, and it was dusk, the ideal time for a little nature walk. It was around 6:30pm.

The second I stepped off the pavement and onto the desert ground, the aroma of creosote seeped into my senses, even though it hadn’t been raining, or wasn’t about to, and I was exactly where I needed to be. The sunset progressed as we made the gradual ascent toward the red rocks, picking our way over fragments of jumping cholla. When we were almost there, we paused to look out west.

 

Dusk over the Phoenix skyline (Papago Park, Tempe, 2/19/2015)

Dusk over the Phoenix skyline (Papago Park, Tempe, 2/19/2015)

 

We stepped aside as a couple of guys toiled past us on their mountain bikes. Higher up, we could hear the quiet voices of others who likely had the same idea… tough day, long day, the desert calls, the desert heals.

When Callaghan turned around again, he found me sitting on the ground. I’d planted myself on other the side of the trail, and I did not want to get up.

 

Hi. I'm not about to get up.

Hi. I’m not about to get up.

 

No, REALLY! I'm staying right here.

No, REALLY! I’m staying right here.

 

But I was thinking about how I’ve lived in Arizona longer than I’ve ever lived anywhere… about how I moved here with almost no possessions after my military service, and how I built up my life here over two decades. I was thinking about how I left for two and a half years and then one day woke up with every atom of my being aching to be in this desert again. I was thinking about a poet teacher I knew who’d moved to Arizona after his parents died in a plane crash. He said, “I came to the Southwest in ruin. Both real and metaphorical deserts have helped me recover my life.” That’s a part of the magic of living here… you can come to Arizona in ruins, with nothing, and you’ll find yourself gathering the desert’s power and rising up from the ashes of your former life, just like our city’s legendary namesake. Phoenix.

I know I’ve said all this before, but I think it even more than I say it. I think these thoughts often, and I’m so grateful.

I had to get up eventually, of course. We headed back, and I felt blessedly centered and calm. Walking in nature is my favorite way to soothe frayed nerves, even if it’s just down the street from home.

Also, I don’t know about you, but I’m SO glad it’s Friday! Happy Friday, everyone. =)

Welcome to the Hotel NOT CALifornia!

First of all, Happy 4th of July, fellow Americans! I’m coming at you from a coffee shop this morning because our internet at home is down. And hey, how about that dust storm last night?! The luscious scent of creosote enveloped us the second we stepped outside this morning… it’s going to rain. Monsoon season begins!

Whoa, I’m feeling scattered here. Let me focus on sharing with you my latest favorite discovery.

The first time we spotted a vehicle with a “Not Cal” decal, we did a double-take. The second look was necessary because we’re used to seeing California pride decals that say “So Cal” for Southern California, or “Nor Cal” for Northern California.

We thought we were looking at a “Nor Cal” decal, but the “r” wasn’t right… it looked more like a “t.” It seemed to spell “Not Cal.” Squinting and looking closer, I realized, Hey! It DOES say “Not Cal!” Then I saw that the lettering was centered over a beautiful bronze graphic of the state of Arizona, which was resplendently merged with the Arizona flag. Not California. Arizona. I was stoked.

 

The AZ flag with its copper star and sunset rays. (AZ is famous for its copper mining industry and sunsets.)

The AZ flag with its copper star and sunset rays. (AZ is famous for its copper mining industry and sunsets.)

 

[Side-note trivia: In the 2001 poll taken by the North American Vexillological Association, the Arizona flag ranked #6 on the list of 10 Best Flags in North America – the sixth best flag out of 72 flags! New Mexico’s flag took first place, Texas came in second, and Quebec’s flag ranked third with its elegant fleur de lys design. Interesting, right? See the poll results here.]

Broken down geographically, the residential picture of my life looks like this:

First, I lived in “Nor Cal” for 18 years (born in San Francisco, raised in San Jose), spending most childhood summers with extended family out of state (Hawaii). I moved away after I graduated from high school. I’ve spent the last 27 years in “Not Cal.”

Over those 27 years, I lived overseas for five years (three years and three months in West Germany/Germany, six months in Saudi Arabia/Iraq/Kuwait, one year and six months in France), and five months in Texas… and I’ve lived in Arizona for 20 years and eight months (interrupted only by the time spent in France and Texas).

The point being that I was born and raised in California, but I’ve lived more of my life outside of California than in it, and over 75% of that time, I’ve lived in Arizona. I couldn’t be happier in a place, and I especially couldn’t be happier to NOT be in a place. For all its beauty and the fact that people I love live there, California and I are not a good fit. I’m a California native who feels like an Arizona native, and I’m not alone… we ‘Zonans like to joke that anyone who’s lived in the Land of AZ for 10 years or longer qualifies as a native, since most people who live in Arizona moved here from somewhere else.

(Apparently, a significant percentage of transplants in Arizona come from California. My friend and real estate agent Nick once remarked that every time there’s a natural disaster in California, Californians stampede to Arizona.)

So when I saw the “Not Cal” decal the first time, I was amused.

The second time I saw it, on a different vehicle, I was even more amused, because then I realized that “Not Cal” was a thing, which meant that it could be had. I found it online, ordered it, and Zach-the-Not-Cal guy got it to our mailbox within two days.

 

Bugsy all glammed-up!

Bugsy all glammed-up!

 

So, Zach and everyone at Not Cal Clothing and Big Cartel (funny coincidence… I’m at Cartel right now), thank you! Thanks for helping us ex-Californian ‘Zonans represent. =)

Return to the Land of AZ

We are here! And as of yesterday afternoon, we have internet! Once again, we’re surrounded by boxes, and this time we’re unpacking every last one of them.

We left Austin early on Friday morning, dragging our ponderous beast of a rented trailer behind us as we drove west. An unexpectedly odd sensation: 13 hours later, we were somehow still in Texas. At the half-way point, very late at night, we stopped to sleep for a few hours at a motel. We were still in Texas! It’s not even like we left from the eastern border; Austin is in central Texas. Come to find out it’s one thing to look at a map and note the area of the state compared to other states, but it’s something else entirely to take in its vastness on the road. It seemed that we drove and drove and drove, and we were still there! Under the overcast sky, it almost felt like being in the twilight zone. But we took in some charming little towns on our way out – Fredericksburg, for one (must go back for a proper visit!) – and enjoyed seeing as much of Texas as we could until the sun went down.

The next day, right on cue, the sky turned bright blue and sunny when we reached the actual southwest. It was like we entered New Mexico under a party of sunbeams, and when we crossed the border into Arizona, the broad desert sky was like a gorgeous, familiar embrace.

 

Heading west on a Texas country road

Heading west on a Texas country road

 

In Fredericksburg, Texas

In Fredericksburg, Texas

 

Entering New Mexico!

Entering New Mexico!

 

We had to stop and do the touristy thing and get New Mexico t-shirts. And then I had to take a picture in the truck. This is me in the middle of a long road trip on just a few hours of sleep... in a New Mexico t-shirt.

We had to stop and do the touristy thing and get New Mexico t-shirts. And then I had to take a picture in the truck. This is me in the middle of a long road trip on just a few hours of sleep… in a New Mexico t-shirt.

 

Back home in the desert!

Back home in the desert!

 

Entering Arizona, at last!

Entering Arizona, at last!

 

Basking in it... and here's Callaghan's New Mexico t-shirt.

Basking in it… and here’s Callaghan’s New Mexico t-shirt.

 

Arizona - the prettiest flag in the States, in my opinion!

Arizona – the prettiest flag in the States, in my opinion!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NEWS – You Can Take the Girl out of Arizona, but You Can’t KEEP the Girl out of Arizona.

Yeah, good luck with that!

So. Our move has evolved, rather surprisingly, like this:

Phase One: (planned) Back to the States (June 2013)

Phase Two: (spontaneous) Back to the Desert (November 2013)

Surprise! Surprised?!

That’s right… we’re moving in November, as in, about a month from now. According to the Taoist calendar, I’m in a CHANGE year, which I guess I might have figured out by now, anyway, even if I didn’t know it. We just decided on this move in the last, like, week and a half.

One thing’s for sure – Texas is a fun and interesting place! We agree with our friend who remarked, “Austin is a town to fall in love with.” We’ve been here for four months now. Great times have been had and awesome people have been met and there’s so much to do here, it’s just been crazy-wonderful. Our plan was to stay for a year and then decide what to do after that. We’ve had a few other places in mind, in the case that we did decide to re-locate again. The short list included Lincoln, NE and Denver, CO.

But the longer I’m back in the States, the more I find my thoughts returning to the desert, to the Greater Phoenix Metropolitan Area, aka the Valley of the Sun (Phoenix is situated in a vast desert valley, surrounded, as per definition, by mountains). Callaghan loves Phoenix, too. We talked about it, and then we looked around at The Shipping mostly still in boxes, and we thought, why wait?

We’re going back to the Land of AZ!

It’s not that I think that one place is better than another, because I don’t. This is simply about feeling right somewhere, which is a very personal thing… feeling spiritually connected to our environment can only be a deeply personal thing. Just as some people believe in soul-mates, I believe in soul-places.

I was born in San Francisco and raised in San Jose, and the whole 18 years I spent in the Bay Area, I never felt comfortable there… not because of the people, but because I didn’t feel that I belonged. It wasn’t my place. In high school, I plotted my escape planned my departure for the earliest opportunity (hello, U.S. Army!) and never looked back. Now, I’ll go to California to see my family and just to visit, but live there again? Not going to happen. I’m hardly alone in this. It’s a pretty common phenomenon, people growing up and leaving their hometowns. It’s like we have to wander away from the place of our upbringings in order to discover where we really belong. Often, we find our special places by accident. You arrive for one reason – school, a job, a significant other – and before you know it, it’s been decades and you’re still there and you’re feeling that content, rooted belonging feeling, and you can’t imagine being anywhere else.

That’s how it happened with me and Arizona, back in 1991. After the Army, I accepted my then-boyfriend’s (also an ex-soldier) invitation to move to Phoenix. It was August, right when Arizona’s at its feistiest. It was scorching hot, dry, and alarmingly sunny year-round with brilliant blue skies and these ridiculous sunsets you just wouldn’t believe, and alien red rock formations with holes in them and gigantic cactuses everywhere. The sky was enormous. There were haboob (dust storms), and the July-August monsoon season brought the heavy aroma of creosote with the rain and the lightning over the desert. It was magical. With the surface streets laid out nice and neat on an idiot-proof grid system, you can get all over the enormous Valley from one end to the other without ever setting tire on a freeway, but an elaborate and efficient freeway system does exist should you desire to use it.

Next thing I knew, I’d been there for 20 years, longer than I’d lived in California. I never wanted to leave. I loved it. Being there just felt right. It was my place.

Then I met Callaghan. We got married. The plan was for him to live with me in Arizona for a year, but it turned out that he had to be in Europe for his business, so after just a few months, we ditched the plan and moved to France.

By January this year, Callaghan’s business circumstances had changed, so we were free to move back to the States (he has dual citizenship, as you may recall). We both wanted to move, and our adventurous spirits tingled with the possibilities. The question “Where should we go?” carved out an enticing open door in our lives, and there were so many places that could answer it! It was easy to sweep my beloved Arizona under the “been there, done that” rug while scanning the horizon for something new. The United States was like a gigantic candy store, and we were standing in the middle of it with ONE decision to make, to start.

We decided on Austin for all the reasons in this post.

And Austin is truly fantastic! What I didn’t anticipate, though, was seeing Phoenix everywhere I looked! The similarities are real, but I’ve come to realize that the reason I see Arizona all over the place is that I want to see it. I miss it. The saying goes, “East or West, home is best.” Arizona is my home. For me, it is best.

There’s great diversity in the Valley, and I’ve lived all over it… Phoenix’s many suburbs include (but are not limited to) the municipalities of Avondale, Glendale, Paradise Valley, Tempe, Scottsdale, Chandler, Gilbert and Mesa. We’re going to settle in Tempe, because it’s my favorite, and I’m planning to find a job there.

We’ll rent an apartment at first, but we’ll eventually buy a house so when the BIG ONE hits and California falls off into the ocean, we’ll have beach-front property.

I can’t believe it! We’re moving in November!

Here’s a smattering of pictures I’ve taken in Arizona over the years:

 

Desert blooms in the springtime make me so happy! This was one of the plants in my front yard.

Desert blooms in the springtime make me so happy! This was one of the plants in my front yard.

 

A shot of the sky at dusk

A shot of the sky at dusk

 

I miss the giant Saguaro cactuses, too

I miss the giant Saguaro cactuses, too

 

I love these alien red rock formations near the Phoenix Zoo and Desert Botanical Gardens...

I love these alien red rock formations near the Phoenix Zoo and Desert Botanical Gardens…

 

I can smell the creosote in the air just looking at this monsoon season sunset!

I can smell the creosote in the air just looking at this monsoon season sunset!

 

Stormy monsoon sky!

Stormy monsoon sky!

 

Phoenix's Camelback Mountain

Phoenix’s Camelback Mountain

 

This was my favorite sunset, and I remember it well... I came home from work to my Tempe apartment and went straight out to the balcony to take this picture. Pink Floyd's "High Hopes" was playing.

This was my favorite sunset, and I remember it well… I came home from work to my Tempe apartment and went straight out to the balcony to take this picture.

 

Sedona. Enough said.

Sedona. Enough said.

 

 

 

 

 

Note: None of these pictures were photo-shopped, touched-up, color-corrected or otherwise manipulated in any way. Arizona’s a natural beauty.