I have a confession to make, you guys. One I’m not proud of.
I was not excited when we found out we were headed to the desert.
I’m a lover of big trees and long rainy weekends and lush undergrowth and gurgling brooks nestled into forests and cozy cups of tea under heavy blankets. The desert? It just sounded dry. And hot. And possibly like everything in it wanted to kill me.
I told myself that it would be fine…it’s only three months, after all. I figured I’d hide in the air conditioning if I needed to. And as we were leaving New England in January, I thought maybe a little sunshine would do me good. My expectations were pretty low.
“I’m just not a ‘desert person’,” I told myself.
Shame on me.
What does that even mean- “desert person”? This isn’t Star Wars and there aren’t “desert people” from which I am separate. What was I even talking about? I think most of us have climates and landscapes that call us home, that appeal to our hearts in a special way, but to assume that that is the only landscape we can thrive in simply isn’t true and doesn’t serve. What a ridiculous label to apply. What an unnecessary limitation to place on my life.
Tucson was surprise and delight over and over and over again. While trees and water and cool weather might be the landscape that resonates most deeply with me, Tucson and the Sonoran Desert won me over in ways I couldn’t have dreamed of. There is something special and magical there, and it was a huge reminder that I potentially miss out big time when I decide something’s “not for me” instead of coming to it with an open heart.
My curiosity saved my butt once again as it pushed me out the door and out into the desert when I was inclined to pout about it instead. Thank goodness.
There I discovered the way evening light slides across the desert floor and sets the surrounding mountains on fire, creates a halo of gold behind the saguaro and prickly pear and turns the barrel cactus pink. There that I paused and realized that the thorns and the spiky exteriors, the venomous teeth and the pointy tusks, weren’t the desert trying to kill me, but rather the desert fighting for its own survival with everything it has. How could I possibly hold that against it? I respect the hell out of survivors and that’s all the desert has.
I grew attached, much to my surprise. I grew to love running across shale covered trails with precarious footing and watching for rattlers sunning themselves in my path. I grew to love that we could load up Tess and some snacks and drive up Mount Lemmon for cooler temperatures and a pine tree fix. I grew to love a town big enough to draw the artists and entrepreneurs that create gorgeous murals and craft beers and restaurants with tons of personality, all while remaining small enough to harbor a sense of community and history and culture that thrives.
And while I admit that it’s probably a good thing that our time in Tucson drew to a close just as daily high temperatures were beginning to consistently hit over 100F, I left there with a new and deep appreciation for the desert that has etched it’s way into my heart. Tucson opened me to the desert in a way I would have thought impossible, and I am so grateful for the time we were gifted there.
I hope you have a chance to spend time there at some point. I urge you to consider it when you think about making your travel plans next. To nudge you in that direction, I’ve created a guide to Tucson that will help give you a sense of the town and the desert that it calls home! It contains four itineraries that span 36 hours to a full week and is based on Justin and my favorite things from our time there (so expect a lot of breweries…Tucson knows its beer, y’all!).