Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Memorial Mass for Josseline

This February, 4 NMD volunteers found the body of a 14 year old girl from El Salvador in the desert. Two months later, we went back to the site of her death, along with her family, to hold a Memorial Mass for her. We pilgrimaged about 3 hours from Tucson to Arivaca, then to the site of her death - a 1/2 mile walk to the canyon below.
It was a beautiful afternoon...windy, warm and sunny. There were about 25 of us there, 10 of her family drove from California to be there. Fr. Bob gave a wonderful Mass in Spanish, using a large stone as the altar. We built a cross that will remain there... Josseine Janiletha Hernandez Quinteros"

Her mother requested a quote be added to the memorial:

"Cuando sientes que el camino se te ha vuelto duro y dificil, no te des por vencido y sigue adelante, y busca la ayuda de Dios."

Te llevaremos siempre en el corazón

Thursday, April 17, 2008

With every Season

It's been eight years since I moved back to Phoenix. Living in Ann Arbor, one of the most amazing things I've experienced was the changing seasons. After the Winter months of dread, cold, and snow, the Spring jumps out with daffodils and flowering trees and perfect weather. Then the Summer months come with the fireflies, picnics, Jazz at the Park, long walks, humidity, and greeeeeen, followed by the Fall with a burst of color in the leaves on the trees, the change in the air, the pumpkin patches, the apples and cider farms. I was living in "season heaven."

So, people have mentioned that Phoenix has no seasons. That it shifts from freaking hot to cool. I, too, have been guilty of thinking this, at times, when I desperately want to leave and move away to a utopic place (which I've since d
ecided doesn't exist). But this is nonsense!

This Spring, as I sit in my hammock in February, March, and April I can smell Spring in the air. Do you have smells that bring you back? Back to a certain feeling, memory, place? For me, one of my 3 favorite smells (2 are season related) comes in and out of my backyard, as I lay and read my book, or as I walk Nerina, or as I'm laying in bed with my windows open. It's the smell of blossoms. There is nothing else like the sweet smell of these little orange flowers, everywhere. As I inhale, I'm immediately taken back to some fond memory, or feeling, and I am in bliss. I stop everything and inhale. I do this until I either feel lightheaded for inhaling too deeply (the exhales are no fun) or if I'm in public and I worry about what the strangers will think of me as they notice me just standing there, smelling the air. It's a bit weird, I know, but you should smell's heaven.

Then, there's the flowers. The desert in bloom is one of the most amazing things to see. The desert explodes in intense color for only a few weeks. A desert that looks so dry and brown, and, well, deserty, is transformed into a sea of california poppies, flowering cactus, amazing colors of reds, purples, blues...
The ocotillo cactus shoots out these bright red cone-shaped flowers on each "branch" - and if you eat the flower you'll taste that it's super-sweet.

The thing about the Arizona desert is that the seasons tend to blur into each other. The warm Spring weather of 75 degrees quickly changes to the 90's, then the 100's...well before June. Then, Summer hits us full on! The air conditioners go on 24/7, tank tops, summer skirts, flip flops, sun screen, pools, hats...definitely no walking around outside for about 3 months (no Jazz in the parks for us!). Not a cloud in the sky...until the monsoons.

Which brings me to my second favorite smell of all time...the smell of the monsoons. Now, I don't think I can really describe this smell. It's just in the air. You know when the Monsoons are coming by the air. It smells. The Creosote bush (or Greasewood) puts out this smell that is the desert, to tell us that it's going to rain. And after 2 or 3 months with nothing, no rain, the smell is welcome news! Again, I sit, I inhale, I watch the rains come in, the thunderstorms, the wind, the flash floods, the dry arroyos fill up with water to become a raging river...Summer is not subtle during the monsoons. In the southern AZ deserts, where I spend most of my summer months and weekends, the once dry desert turns into Savanna...tall, green grass, flowers everywhere, rivers, cottonwood trees blooming, snakes and other desert things out looking for the new water...a desert totally alive.

So, as I sit here in April, in 90 degree weather, I can say that, what I used to think of a place void of seasons, is full of life, color and smells!