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.

 

 

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. =)

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!