After a long hiatus, two manuscripts complete, and a third on the way, I am pleased to announce that I’m back in the land o’prose. I think I’ll stick around a while this time. I’ve been through hell and back again over the past year. Of course, the trials and tribulations had everything to do with moving through life at a ridiculous rate, or seeming to, at least.
It dawned on me this afternoon that my mentor, and several thereafter, always said and reiterated that one cannot write absent experience to back it up. The “experience” referred to is, of course, life experience. Lots of it. The good, the bad, the sublime, and the quintessence of ugliness.
I will say one word, “Arizona.” Yes, Arizona righteously kicked my ass. And yes, I did mean to say, “ass.” I came here to take on a new job.
“It’ll be like L.A. I’ll love it,” I said.
It wasn’t. Nope, not even close. Everything in this Sonoran Desert place is prickly, poisonous, and has every intention of either killing or maiming you. Yet there is also this aching beauty that took my breath away. Every twilight, sunrise, sunset, windstorm, and rainstorm. Who knew one could appreciate water so much?
The first time I smelled the earth after a monsoon here, I was in heaven. The first time a freaking gigantic Palo Verde beetle buzz-bombed me and a two-by-four merely knocked the damned thing out but didn’t kill it, I was horrified. Shudder. Seriously.
I could hang with the palmetto bugs aka cucaracha grandes. Yes, they’re heinous, but they’re all over the south. They are a mere nuisance compared to other horrors of the etymological universe that proliferate here. But the Palo Verde beetle? Hell, the thing had a wingspan and was Jurassic in every aspect. Ugh. Second shudder.
Steel can probably melt in the heat. You feel like you’re going to pass out as you walk to the car from your front door to go to work. Air conditioning is theoretical. It works, then it doesn’t. Oh, and cold water during the summer? Ha, yeah, what’s that? There’s no need for a water heater during June, July, and August.
Every extreme exists here, but you figure out how to survive. I was tempted several times to hurl myself into the Colorado River just to get wet. I’m a strong swimmer, but I’ll tell you what, it would have killed me. It’s shallow but fast. Ah, hell, and I’m back to prosecuting again. Yes, the profession I swore I would never revisit. It takes a toll on your soul, I’m telling you. You see the bad stuff people do to each other and somehow, the desert seems the right place to do this work.
As I worked on the final version of a manuscript, my editor said I had better get done or else. That’s when I realized this place had changed me. I was used to cushy, deep-green grass, friends nearby, and choosing to be alone to contemplate life. Here, I am forced to be alone. There is no grass. And my friends are on the other side of the country or up north. I made new friends here, and I am very thankful for them.
I started over in every aspect of my life in this desert place. I got my mojo back and it’s amazing. I wondered where I had been all these years. I floated between complacency and the zen realization that love really is all that matters. And it is, by the way. In a place where life can be so easily forfeited to the whims of the environment, you gain a deep appreciation for that blood pumping through your veins. My reckless streak had slowed down to an occasional bout of acting up and worrying about consequences. Here, all of that changed.
I hated that my mentors were right. But I loved that they were right at the same time. Yes, I gained life experience enough to write it into some beautiful pages. The novels flowed. I saw the movies in my head and wrote down the scenes. And I get up every morning and head into the office, then to court, then home. And it is here that I turn on the music I love, and write like none other because I love it. Love, yes, it drives life.
Every one of you out there who pursues this crazy writing thing will come to recognize that the love of the sublime word is as deep as your own soul. My experiences here are leading me into yet another novel. I read the first three chapters out loud and said, “Damn, that’s good.” I never say that. It will be one of my best stories. I cannot wait to breathe life into the characters and share them with you from this desert place where the sound of running water is a faint memory, and the dry rustling of palm fronds in the wind the harbinger of rain and coolness.
Oh, and the photos? A giant crow overlooking the painted desert out by the petrified forest. Here’s one more. Beautiful green growing under and around ancient petrified wood that had agatized: