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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Mess with Texas!

I was sorry to be MIA here on Monday – the schedule this week went off the rails into the great abyss of move preparation. We’re within three days of moving. We’re not overwhelmed, since we’ve been going at a pretty good pace, but each remaining moment will definitely count toward getting everything packed up and squared away.

I wanted to give a huge, hearty shout-out and “thank you” to Texas for being fantastic! When we got here we couldn’t predict we’d cut our one-year-then-we’ll-see plan short and only stay four months, but we did what we wanted to do… we went with the flow and enjoyed Texas while we were here. We spent the four months of summer in exactly the right place, and it proved to be an amazing time.

 

A little keychain souvenir

A little keychain souvenir

 

Texas is great for many reasons. Here are just a few highlights, things we especially appreciate:

–The people here are friendly, warm and big-hearted. They have an easy way of making one feel at home, and they’re genuine people. Good people. In three words, Texans are awesome.

–The service everywhere is outstanding. Texans know hospitality!

–It’s easy to live here… the cost of living (in Austin, anyway) is very reasonable.

–We’ve had nothing but solid, good experiences with the public transportation system here. There’s a convenient network of buses that take you everywhere you want to go, which includes buses that run late at night. Also, we’ve noticed that the freeways here are never too jammed (compared to, say, California).

–Austin is a good time! It’s interesting just by virtue of the fact that it’s the state capitol. There’s the capitol, itself, and there are many museums to explore.

–We’ll never forget the bats under the bridge, and with the Colorado River here in town and our fossil-hunting family adventure up north by Dallas and the countryside in between, we got to enjoy some sides of nature we’ve never seen before.

 

And the t-shirt, of course

And the t-shirt, of course

 

So the next few days will flash by, and then, like the Ingalls’, we’ll pack up our covered wagon (well, a U-Haul trailer attached to the back of our truck) and head west.

Happy Trails, y’all!

 

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.

In Every Bowl of Soup I See / Giraffes and Ligers Watching Me

(That’s based on Shirley Temple’s “Animal Crackers in My Soup,” in case you didn’t know.)

This post is brought to you by the eleventh orange I’ve eaten this week. Not the eleventh hour. The eleventh orange. I’m pretty sure that crime scene investigators could apply their crazy ninja forensics techniques to my laptop keyboard and uncover hard evidence of all eleven of those oranges, as careful as I am to avoid smudges.

Now, what was I going to share? Oh yes:

“A Giraffe totem corresponds to farsightedness and balance between earth and sky.” (Llewellyn)

I’ve been thinking that my so-called spirit animal must be the giraffe, since reading that quote has an oddly grounding, motivating effect on me. Now, when I close my eyes and envision the giraffe at the window of the safari bus in Arizona that one time, a feeling of centeredness comes rolling back. It works!

I remember when I thought that my spirit animal was the wild horse. I re-thought that whole thing when I discovered, not too long ago, that I’m actually kind of uneasy around horses. I’m still in awe of the wild horse spirit, but the reality of a horse and me standing together is just… I don’t know. It’s a hard thing to phrase, so, just to show you, here’s a picture of me with our neighbor’s horse in France back in April:

 

Pardon me. I just live here. Oh wait, this is a French horse, so... Je m'excuse. Now how do you say "I just live here" - "J'habite seulement ici?" Or "J'habite juste ici?" Not working. American slang doesn't translate! Nevermind.

Pardon me. I just live here. Oh wait, this is a French horse, so… Je m’excuse. Now how do you say “I just live here” – “J’habite seulement ici?” Or “J’habite juste ici?” Not working. American slang doesn’t translate! Nevermind.

 

See the body language dynamic going on there? This was a candid shot of a chance encounter. Callaghan captured a spontaneous moment, and looking at this picture brings back the awkwardness of it. That horse and I were both, like, uhhh… yeah. I just didn’t know how to relate to that guy. Have you ever felt self-conscious in front of a horse? (Surely I can’t be the only person who’s ever been discomfited in the presence of a horse.) I didn’t connect with that horse on any level. It was like he was the reincarnation of someone I used to know. Someone who used to fluster me at cocktail parties.

So, yeah, giraffes.

Speaking of animals, the other night, I was reading to Callaghan about the liger (lion-tiger hybrid) and her baby liligers (offspring of a liger and a lion) at the Novosibirsk Zoo in Russia.

“Check out this liger,” I said, shoving my laptop under his nose. “They actually exist outside of Napoleon Dynamite!” We started flipping through the slideshow.

“Look at that! He’s got strots,” said Callaghan, pointing at one of the baby liligers.

“Strots?”

“A mixture of stripes and dots.”

 

The liger and her liliger cub at the Novosibirsk Zoo in Russia

The liger and her liliger cub at the Novosibirsk Zoo in Russia

 

In other animal marking news, my current favorite eye makeup look is sparkly pink shadow with a matte black overlaid on the lids:

 

Friday, 21 June 2013

 

Can you see it? (Don’t mind the hair. I had the front chopped and deep layers cut all around for growing-out purposes.)

While I’m at it, here are some pics of us goofing around before we left the house this morning:

 

Goofing around on  Friday, 21 June 2013

 

Goofing around on  Friday, 21 June 2013

 

A bonus cool thing that happened today - our state ID and drivers license arrived in the mail! Texas state residencies established, check.

A bonus cool thing that happened today – our state ID and drivers license arrived in the mail! Texas state residencies established, check.

 

Happy Summer Solstice, Everyone!

BIG TRANSITION AHEAD

We’re moving!

In September 2011, The Universe poured us a tall glass of France. The Universe was generous.

Universe: Say “when.”

(fast-forward 17 months)

Us: When!

That was in January. Since then, we’ve been super busy preparing to move. We’re now less than two months away from moving day.

While there are aspects of France I’ll miss, I’d be lying if I said we weren’t excited to be continuing on our amazing journey as a couple living completely irrational lives.

We’re heading across the pond to Austin, Texas. It’s on the eastern edge of the American Southwest, which I love. (Yeah, I was the 22-year-old girl who moved to Phoenix “temporarily” and wound up staying for 20 years. I’m a heat-addict.) Austin has a 100% approval rating from everyone we know who knows it.

Us: Hey Austin – Joe, Holly, Nick, Davey, Eden, Tracy, Christa and the person who wrote that cool book about bats have all told us so much about you!

Austin: Only good stuff, I hope.

Us: Of course! Here we come!

Austin: You seem weird enough. Especially him. Knock yourselves out. Oh, and BY THE WAY we’ve been targeted by that crazy man in North Korea. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Well, okay.

In addition to its obvious advantage of having a legendary flock of bats under a bridge, Austin has a low cost of living and a diverse music and art scene. It’s a state capital and a university town, and it’s on the Colorado River. We’ve never been there, and we’re especially loving the excitement of that! We’re looking forward to exploring a new place together.

As for the transient bats we have with us here in France, well… they’ll just have to carry on without us, those shameless little camera whores.

 

The bat crew

The bat crew

 

Look! They're wearing pants!

Look! They’re wearing pants!

 

Posing for Myspace

Posing for Myspace

 

"Do you seriously think an Austin bat could be a cute as ME?"

“Do you seriously think an Austin bat could be a cute as ME?”

 

 

Callaghan Doesn’t Eat Fish

“I can only eat tuna, and only sometimes, because tuna doesn’t bring that elephant cage quality to it,” he explained.

“What?”

“I used to eat sole, no problem! My grandmother used to make it.”

“No, I mean, what did you say about… I mean, did you say elephant cage?”

“Yeah, we went to the zoo in Vincennes when I was like six. It was a visit of the elephants’ cage. It was horrible.”

“And after that, you went to your grandmother’s house and ate sole?” I thought I was getting to the bottom of his elephant cage/sole association.

“No… I don’t remember why, exactly. All I know was that I went to the elephant cage, and after that, sole became TO BARF FOR.”

While this conversation left me with more questions than answers, it did remind me that I wanted to add Infamous to our “to watch” movie list. Infamous had come to my attention when a friend on Facebook posted a link to WTF Evolution.

The first thing I saw when I went to this page was a picture of a flatfish, which I saved because I thought it was endearing.

 

Flatfish pictured in WTF, Evolution?

Flatfish pictured in WTF, Evolution?

 

The ensuing search engine time-suckage exercise went like this:

WTF Evolution à flatfish. Flatfish à sole. Sole à swordfish. Swordfish à marlin. Marlin (the fish) à Marlin, Texas. Marlin, Texas à Infamous, because it was filmed in Marlin, as stated on the Marlin, Texas Wikipedia page (I had never known that there was a place called “Marlin” in Texas).

Now doesn’t it make perfect sense that the flatfish led me to the movie Infamous? It seems very obvious to me. I honestly don’t know how I knew anything before the internet.

Anyway, back to Callaghan and his gustatory idiosyncrasies. The elephant cage thing will have to remain a mystery while I ask him for the back-story on his distaste for cherries. I’m sure it’ll be a good one!