Waking up in phoenix
The yellow bolt darting across the walls refracted in into a pattern that made the room look like the inside of a lighthouse during a storm and was followed with a clap of thunder but made out of steel. I rolled over and inhaled a blast of refrigerated air that tasted familiar and abnormal at the same time. I knew it was a trash truck and it’s shift to forward motion would begin as soon at the PTO had fully retracted the machines’ hydraulic cylinders and with a full throttle shift to second the slashing light beams ended and I came to full awake as the sound bounced away.
Being late is always it’s own punishment. You end up with the extra work of thanking and apologizing or conversely screaming and swerving but in the end the personal, internal result of mistakes are usually some type of guilt or shame so it was fine that I woke up with a headache. I was late for my flight 30 hours earlier and I need a drink of water. We are somewhere near the airport.
It’s the end of summer and ninety degrees but still way before dawn when I crack the door open, which is moderate. I brew a cup of “room stuff”, head outside to the unfiltered mess of small particulates, gasses and last chances that make up predawn Phoenix air. The view outside reminds me of an old cartoon. The background two-dimensional and motionless with just a few things in the foreground moving in their own special pattern The security guard taps his badge, the perfumed and long legged girls with scissor like cadence fade into the distance and the old man holding the bottle in the far corner of the lot just keeps holding perfectly still, only animated by his labored breathing. I sit cross-legged on a rock and illuminate my face with the screen of my device tapping on the keys and for a little while it’s just us.
The sun appears first cresting it’s natural horizon which although interrupted by a dozen man made structures shows me a tiny slice of virgin profile that has yet to be blocked while viewed from the valley bottom. A generous slice of the mountain range viewed and admired by a carbon spec in the bubbling vat that is Phoenix. Me. It was the injection of life that sent me forth into the tepid waters of Phoenix.
I set out to show Lanie what I knew about Phoenix which was very little at this point so many years past. I did a good job getting us to south mountain for a beautiful morning hike and the desert was so beautiful my god, so beautiful to me because I grew up and lived most of my life breathing the scents of Mesquite,Greasewood and Palo Verde. The food cooking, family and life and blood. We got there before sunrise, clearing travel grit from our eyes.
We chose a “botanical tour of indigenous species” trail led into the types of trails we like, learn a few things then head off and raise the tempo a bit and develop a little pace while watching a beautiful sunrise. We gained elevation and heard what sounded like people sobbing or even whaling or chanting in the distance. I had thoughts about morning treks across the desert in the early hours in the Yeti box van listening to radio broadcasts of drumming. We could see a small group on a distant hilltop and knew where the sound was coming from. I made assumptions then just made myself available by existing in the moment and went on. As we progressed I told Lanie stories of the time I spent living in the area.
When I reflects on events of the distant past, it’s a bit like waking in the the morning. You start the process, draw some lines, make a few efforts to remember certain people or events and before long the color begins to take it’s place and fill between those lines. We continued to climb aligned with the path and directly into the sun which illuminated the valley behind us and began to heat the ground and peel away the final embrace of darkness as we crested the summit.
We had completed the assent and turned to view the awesome scene before us and stood silent for a long moment while I saw the faces, felt the embraces and the twinges of pain that are the result of life lived and waking up in Phoenix.