July 5, 2010
We’ve been in the house all day and I just need to get outside so I ask Gus to take me for a ride before the sun sets. We head south on the Sonoita Highway as the sun dips behind the Santa Rita Mountains. The rolling hills around me are casting deep shadows as we drive past the possible future site of the Rosemont Mine. I can’t help but wonder if I go away, will this still be this way when I come back? Right now the gentle slopes rise unblemished to the sky, but for how long?
We pass over the crest of the hill and drop down on the south side. On my right is Greaterville Road and the way through Box Canyon to Madera Canyon. I know that there is good birding in there, but we will not be going that way at this time of night. Instead we pass the Border Patrol Checkpoint and turn left into Las Cienegas National Conservation Area. By now the sun has slipped beneath the horizon and all that remains is the soft glow of dusk. I immediately spot a Red-tailed Hawk in an old oak tree. I think he was in that same tree when I first came here 3 year ago. A Mockingbird flies up and lands nearby, its white wing and tail patches flashing as it flies. It is in no danger from the Red-tail, which eats mostly mammals instead of birds.
The rolling grassland of Las Cienegas is spread before us. We drive slowly down the dirt road with windows open, all senses alert. The air is much cooler here and I feel its coolness wash over me, cleansing me from the 100 degree heat of the day. We watch as the car’s thermometer drops into the 80’s and finally into the 70’s before we leave. Now, as we drive down the road I hear the soft twitter of sparrows, a thin “zeet zeet” in the grass, and some raucous chatter I do not recognize, nor can I find in the long grasses and fading light. What are you? Where are you? I just want to know who you are!
We only drive a little under 3 miles before we turn back for home. It has taken us an hour to do this and now twilight has descended around us. As we pause at the end of the road I can see Venus, Mars and Jupiter all lined up in the western sky. Their line is tilted upwards, as if pointing to the heavens. I feel my spirits lifted even as a sadness settles within my soul. This is such a great place to live. It is so beautiful here. The weather is great and the scenic beauty is outstanding. There are so many habitats, so many places to see. I have only lived here three years and I have barely scratched the surface.
When I was a teenager we always had spelling words to learn for a weekly spelling test in high school. One week the teacher gave us the word, “ambivalence.” I had never heard the word before but when I looked up the definition I was astonished. It became my word, my definition of how I feel much of the time. Ambivalence means to feel two strong conflicting emotions at the same time. This could be my middle name! It is how I am feeling right now. I do not want to leave this place, yet I am excited about new possibilities and new adventures. But how can I leave this beauty and this wild life? Has Arizona gotten into my soul and become my new love?
We stop at the Roadrunner Market in Corona de Tucson on our way home. It is pitch dark by now and Gus goes into the store while I step out and walk to the corner of the parking lot to watch Lesser Nighthawks whirl through the sky. They are hunting insects drawn to the bright street lights at the intersection. Their bat-like flight is erratic at best as they fly in and out of the darkness. I stand there silent and alone drinking it all in, trying desperately to preserve this memory in case I need it on some cold New England winter night to get me through.
This story begins in the previous post: Knowing