Notes: A friend of this blog emailed recently me wondering why I haven’t posted anything here for a while. One way to explain it is that I took a break from drawing and photography for the monsoon season. Part of the reason for that is that I don’t have a good camera at the moment (the same monsoon killed it) and that it’s been so hot.
Tumamoc is the best place I know of for cloud-gazing. And that art is best practiced with the unaided eye, unhindered by trying to record what you see. The eye and brain are wise, and the landscape itself can be seen as a poem, a screenplay, or a painting, just by itself. You don’t really experience the whole when you are taking pictures. It takes one out of of the present moment. But I did start a long train of thought inspired by those clouds and kept a journal.
Maybe that’s one reason, not the only one, that Indian Reservations all have signs prohibiting photography. I still have a very old permission card from the “Papago” Tribe to photograph on parts of the territory. Tumamoc, in a way, is a Native American sacred and historical site. I don’t photograph indiscriminately there.
It all started to condense last Saturday. I’m a slow writer, so I’ll post it as I finish it in sections. Otherwise who knows when I’ll ever do another post.
In the well there is a clear, cold spring from which one can drink.
–I Ching: The Well
We stopped at a desert plant nursery Saturday to buy some shrubs to teach Leo, our 2-year-old, to plant and care for them. He loves hoses and buckets watering anything. It was mid-September, near the end of monsoon season, Autumn equinox, the last day of summer. The last big thunder-storm was a week ago. It was not yet 102˚F, but it soon would be that afternoon. The sky was an empty, uniform blue.
We wanted native plants that we would not have to irrigate. The three of us each chose a plant. For some reason, we all chose aromatic sage plants: an Aloysia bush, a couple of Salvias, Desert lavender. They’d smell like rain.
I walked over to a demonstration water garden they had full of Sonoran Desert oasis plants, things like cattails. Yes, I’ve seen them at Quitobaquito spring near the Arizona-Sonora border, a little pond surrounded by the most dry desert, it seems to also have been forsaken by the rain god. Cattails are a desert plant, I realized. Other water loving desert plants were set in pots right into the water, all looking happy. It was just a metal stock tank with a ramada over it and a pump that made a fountain just high enough to make the sound of falling water.
I put my hands into the water and it was surprisingly cold. So did Leo. I put them in further, to my forearms, and just wanted to stay there. The water was only a couple feet deep and had slimy plants growing at the bottom. I would have scoffed at it when I was growing up in Minnesota. Now I was smitten. I could feel the dopamine starting to saturate my brain. I probably drooled on Leo. But he didn’t care about anything else either except standing there with his hands in the water watching the black dace swim up to look at him.
For a few moments there was nothing else in the world but just me and that stock tank. It seemed like all I ever wanted, right there in front of me. If I had an oasis like that in my back yard, I could hear it at night through an open window. Eventually, I remembered where I was, the nursery grounds came back into view, and went to pay the cashier. But things were not the same.
Leo stayed there by the tank and I had to lift him up and carry him to the car, enticing him with a promise to stop and get a cold juice-agua on the way home.
I was thirsty too. We stopped as promised at a 7-11 to get some cold drinks on the way home. It was air-conditioned. The attendant was inattentive as I asked him how to make a Slushy for Christina and just said, “over there.” How can you expect a man who’s cool to understand a man who’s thirsty?
Leo and I looked at the rows and rows of cold drinks behind the banks of glass refrigerator doors that covered one whole wall and even went around a corner, where several more glass doors revealed bags of ice in piles. There was everything one could imagine to drink, but I could not decide what I wanted. Nothing there attracted me, not even the designer labels. There was spring water, drinking water, smart water, branded energy drinks, electrolyte added drinks, carbonated soft drinks, every kind of beer. I advised Leo to get the real juice, bot just the colored water. We each picked a drink and went to the counter to pay.
I glared at the bottle in my hand. No, that was not it. I walked back to the refrigerator put my bottle back and picked a different one. I figured out how to make Christina her coke Slushy, then I saw that other people had bigger ones. I went back and poured it into a larger cup, then filled it up more to make it a Huge.
I was just not a satisfied customer and I didn’t know why. The attendant just stood there staring at me, waiting for me to get this over with. It was not really his fault. Whatever I got would be disappointing. I was still thinking about that little oasis. You could not bottle whatever was in that place.
Leo had watched me pull a cup out of the rack to make Christina her coke Slushies, and had also grabbed a paper cup. The logic of doing so was irrefutable. I was carrying our three drinks the the counter and just let him have the cup.
As we were leaving with said drinks, the mute attendant barked at me that Leo could not take that cup. By that time, I was so anxious to get out of there that I roughly pulled the cup out of Leo’s hand, put it on the counter, and ran out out, dragging him by the arm. Of course that was a trigger. I left him yelling at the top of his lungs outside so I could carry the drinks to the car. Then it got even louder and I ran back. Leo, again rightly, as I realized later, tried to get back into the store to get his cup. I didn’t see this, but he got his finger caught in the door when he did that. The next morning the finger was infected.
Sometimes, a toddler’s tantrums are justified when we look at them later. I should have just walked out and let him have his cup and gave the cashier some attempt at an Italian arm signal. The cup was probably illegal to put back once a 2-year old with a cough had carried it around the store. But I knew those stores has such heavy security that they might call the police and they’d have a video of me committing the theft. Could I go to jail? As it was, I felt awful. I drove home on automatic, not seeing anything.
Later that afternoon, it began to cloud up. The weather was improving, cool enough to go out in the yard. We dug holes and took our time. We worked so slowly that it probably looked more like playing in the dirt.
It never did rain though. I showed Leo how to make a little basin around the plant after we put it in the ground and he held the hose to fill it. That night I went to bed thirsty, running dry, feverish. Sleep did not come. I went to an empty room, put on some headphones and listened in the dark to a recording of a mountain stream.
(To be continued)