November 04 2020
When I was just a young child, we started traveling out to Arizona every spring break. It was one of those yearly trips that wasn’t questioned or planned but rather happened, as though by magic, at the hands of our parents.
I recall early mornings when it was still dark outside, my twin and I slipping into our matching (but color varying) swish jumpsuits (how very 90’s of us), the smell of wet earth slowly waking me as we dragged our rolling backpacks to the car.
I credit these trips out to Arizona for growing my love of travel. These are the airplane trips I recall all these years later. Five hours in the sky, our family spread across two rows with each parent on the aisle seat, effectively trapping us children in. Passing coloring books and the highly coveted colored crayons across the aisle. Mom plopping pre-ordered McDonald's Happy Meals in front of us and our persistent yet convincing fights over who would get which toy.
Arizona; the home of rolling red hills, blue skies, lonely coyotes, unceasing heat, and my grandmother. She was why we went.
After college and her passing, we stopped flying out there. Life is busy, schedules are hard to coordinate, and jobs don’t offer an endless supply of days off.
But then the youngest of us decided to move there. And, to really solidify our visiting, get married there. And just like that, we were headed back to Arizona. October 3rd, 2020, despite the challenges of this year stacked against us, we boarded a plane westward.
Arizona isn’t like the other places. The landscape is harsh and lush and sharp all at once. The sun is unforgiving just as it is light and airy. You don’t sweat in Arizona, but you burn and dry up if you aren’t careful. Your hair stays in place in Arizona, but your scalp may take the brunt of the sun if you wander about without a hat.
But the thing I love best about Arizona is that it isn’t what you think it will be. You think of the desert, and you imagine great, vast, flowing plains of cream-colored sand. You don’t imagine the endless mountains that creep, and fall, and gain shadows as the day lengthens. You don’t think of the green shrubbery that clings stubbornly about or the cleanly mowed lawns of cookie cutter neighborhoods tucked around a golf course.
An hour drive from Phoenix is a man-made lake that spreads for miles and miles, the odd wondering donkey a bit humorous to encounter. Two hours north sits the famous and formidable creations of Sedona. Those marble looking, earth-made statues of orange and red and gold and pale yellow. Onward a bit more, and you’ll encounter the quick and sure descent into the depths of the Grand Canyon. Arizona isn’t a desert at all.
My sister was lucky enough to get married in front of the beautiful formation of Camelback Mountain. They were married at El Chorro; a restaurant and resort that my great grandfather used to take my mom to for special suppers when she would fly out to visit. It was one of those great moments of parallel that come so rarely in life. The overlapping of time and history and people and stories that made the event all the more special.
Leaving this time was strange because it wasn’t the same as leaving before. There wasn’t as much of an unknown; we would be coming back out to Arizona, and likely soon.
It’s funny because if you ask my sister where she thought she would have ended up, she never would have said Arizona. It just happened that way. She followed some strange string of fate and it brought her back to a place that was both old and new for all of us. I like to think all places in our lives do that; step in and out, shake us a bit with memories, grow just enough to move us along but stay sweetly constant for when we might return.
So, cheers to a month of marriage, Meg and Alex - so amazing to have been a part of your day and journey back to a special place.