I encounter hearts like fists, hearts like old paper, like nets, like bear traps, like puddles and the heart that is a lean-to, shade from the heart that is summer, shelter from the heart that is storm.
I thought if I ever set foot in Arizona again it would only be when I could gather my people up in a room somewhere. What a big nostalgic noise I’d planned on making. What a joyful reunion. Instead, I found myself quietly driving just south of the border through a small town called Fredonia with nothing to recommend it except that it was there that I first returned to Arizona after being away for over six years.
We were on a road trip without an itinerary and stopped at a little thrift store to look for books and plates. The sky was expansive and the highway disappeared into a rippling horizon. I felt almost reverent. This was the terrain in which I’d come of age, fallen in love and given birth. Where my father and brother were buried among relatives that lived and died before I knew them. Now all that remain of us have been scattered like cottonwood seed putting roots down in foreign soil. I watched my daughter wilt and redden, her hair sticking in tendrils to her ruddy face. She was frustrated by the inescapable nature of that much heat and I thought, “She doesn’t even know she’s a southwestern baby. How could she possibly know?”
It seems I’ve chosen exile over most of the last decade from the only geography where I feel truly at home. Swapping dust and cedar brush, first for the verdant farmlands of central Pennsylvania and now this city and it’s adjacent dripping dark forests, its rivers slicing up the topography, so every direction I go I’m confronted by water. I’m a desert girl, that I know. As I dried out in Zion’s park and drove through Kanab and then across the southern border my skin burned and my lips chapped. I felt hollowed out. Everything had come to the surface and evaporated in the relentless sun.