11 January 2006

Christmas among the cacti

The idea is simple enough, and maybe we can actually stick to it: a yearly pilgrimage back to Tucson for the week between Christmas and New Year. A break from the gray sleet of DC, and a return to the spot where Mrs. and I lived for the better part of a decade. It's a chance to check Tucson's progress as it schlumps towards a gentrified void of strip-malls and flimsy, mission-style McMansions like ready-made colonies for affluent lepers in need of private golf courses...

But also to remember the lovely town we first saw, and to glean where those ribbons of cool still hide behind woodframe/stucco nightmares. For the intrepid explorer with magnifying glass and pickaxe, the cool IS still there.

...and the mountains are still there, praise Allah. The Catalinas still stand firm against it all, catching the nightly firestorm of dusk and bouncing it back to the citizens as a reminder: there is still beauty in the world.

So we haunted the old neighborhoods, which included a trip up Mt.Lemmon to check on the condition of Summerhaven, the tiny town that nearly vanished when the Aspen Fire of 2003 cooked the top of the mountain. Charred trees still stand like pagan gravestones, and the forest is nude to the bones. Two and a half years later, the scene is still quite chilling.

As soon as it began, our week of hikes, margaritas, and street-wandering was over. The siren-call of The Day Job reached me with its amphetamine stutter, and I knew there was no use in hiding out here for the rest of my days. There's no publishing scene in Tucson anyway. But many lovely sights. We will surely do this again.

A much larger collection of photos is here, complete with larger versions, captions, etc. Good stuff.

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