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Monday, January 10, 2011

A Love Letter to Tucson

I drove up Skyline Drive each morning, straight into the mouth of the foothills. The sky was washed purple-pink, like bold swipes of watercolor. These mountains listened to me. 
I was a young teacher, full of fears. The mountains heard it all---the student who refused to write, the girl who lost her father,  and the boy who hid under his desk when it all became too much.  The mountains let me talk. I nestled in her dusty-beautiful arms. She held me close, and then set me free to do my work.

September 11, 2001. On the East Coast, children were already in school---teachers willed back tears and churning panic, as parents raced home to their children. But in Tucson, we woke up to the aftermath---there was nothing to do but drive to work.

The mountains heard me cry softly, as I shifted gears and stopped at lights. The sky was obscenely blue, inappropriate, like a peacock at a funeral. The cacti forest, each saguaro in a perpetual sun salutation, witnessed our coming and going with ancient wisdom.

As I watched the sun tip out behind the mountains, flooding the valley with light,  I said to myself, "We are so safe here."

A girl was born that beautiful Tucson morning. Lots of new lives were born under that desert sun, in a valley which smells of creosote and fresh starts.

I lived there, in a flat-roofed bungalow with wood paneling and a swamp cooler. I rode my bike to the University, where I learned that I could write. I became a runner in that valley, pounding out miles along the empty banks of the Rillito.

I married my love there, and danced with him under twinkly lights and a scarlet explosion of bougainvillea.

And through it all, the mountains bore witness. As they will, long after the camera crews pack up, and those dear families attempt to pick up the pieces.

Bear down, Arizona. Those mountains, and the world, hold you in their arms.

24 comments:

Ash said...

Wow Nancy.

You've cleansed my palate of all the horrible coverage. Not a simple feat. I will focus my prayers of peace on the city you love.

Thank you so ever much for that.

LB said...

Hard to fathom such horror in such a beautiful place.

Michelle Pixie said...

Some moments are incomprehensible. I do hope the mountains will hold them all in her arms and that they may find peace.

tsonodablog said...

Nancy, I'm so moved by your writing, and today I'm humbled. I fell in love with Tucson after taking a road trip there to visit friends this past fall, and I saw what you see. It's a unique, beautiful place. Your tribute is quiet, moving, magical and lovely, and it is much needed in light of this tragedy.
I'm sending this link to my dear friends who live there, as I'm sure it will be welcomed.
Terri

Sandy said...

As an Arizonan I thank you for such a beautifully written piece. You captured the essence of this state as only one who has lived & loved here could. Thank you!

clearness said...

Yes, this is beautiful. The words and images they conjured and the photos.

TKW said...

This was gorgeous! The last line gave me goose bumps.

Ms. Moon said...

First off- let me say that this is as beautiful a piece as I have read on this tragedy. Thank-you.
Secondly- was the sky that blue everywhere on that day? Every thing I've ever read from anywhere always mentioned that clear, blue sky and it was that way here, too.
I wonder about that a lot.

Two Normal Moms said...

Moving. My heart goes out to them all. To us all. Because on some level, it affects each and every person who lives and breathes.

Shell said...

I have no words, just tears.

Mel said...

A moving, beautiful and true piece of writing. Thank you for some shred of perspective today.

Snuggle Wasteland said...

That was beautiful and moving. I've only been through AZ and it was years ago. I've always heard how beautiful it is.

Victoria KP said...

There has been so much anger and hatred tossed about since Saturday. Thank you for writing this beautiful post.

StarTraci said...

Nancy,
Just when I thought that I had stoped crying, you touched my very heart. But unlike the tears of anger, frustration, or confusion that I have cried over the last two days, I am crying tears for the beauty and love that rises above any tragedy -- the tragedy of 9-11 (I was in New York that day) and the tragedy of 1-8. These beautiful words remind of the resolve of the soul and how we are bigger than the acts of deranged men.
Traci

mollykay said...

This is so beautiful, Nancy! I think of you often as I drive by OG Middle School every day. Thank you for sharing this.

Jenny said...

Nancy.

Thank you for this loveliness.

Cheryl said...

I am all kinds of angry about what happened, but your words today are so calming and peaceful and beautiful.

Thank you, Nancy.

noisycolorfullively said...

Very pretty, Nancy. My heart to your Arizona.

Denise said...

This post is absolutely breath-takingly beautiful. And aching. And soaring. Thank you for sharing your wonderful words here.

mama-face said...

Beautifully written, Nancy. Very tender. take care.

michelle said...

absolutely beautiful, nancy

you sure can write

xoxoxo

Mrs. Tuna said...

I too know the feeling of an Arizona dweller. Sept 11th almost seemed like something that happened to another country. The death of a nine year old girl reminds us all of the tragedy that can happen anywhere.

Mrs4444 said...

This is beautiful, Nancy.

(Florida) Girl said...

*Swoon* Gorgeous words for a sad story.