Just who did I think I was exactly? Driving around the perimeters of Tucson, AZ and searching for some semblance of familiarity, I was blindsided more by my arrogance than the brilliant sunlight glnting off row after row of shop windows. Who was I afterall to think that the city I loved so much would remain the same after thirty-four long years?
Surely I believed the old adage “you can never go home again” didn’t apply to me. Though I was realistic in imagining changes would certainly have occurred in three long decades, I blissfully discarded warnings about sprawl, traffic and overgrowth. How foolish was I? Very! I set myself up for a disappointment cocktail: a mix of sadness, regret and nostalgia.
However, a week later I can finally let reality sink in, and I can come to a new recognition and acceptance of beautiful Tucson. It was never mine to own. I think of the Native Americans who roamed freely before the white man came and began obliterating the desert landscape. Then I wonder what early settlers must have thought about the influx of easterners taking over the simplicity of their Arizona lifestyles. No different was it I’m sure than snowbirds wintering in their towns or retirees boosting populations and arriving with myriad expectations in how they envisioned things to be. Nothing can ever truly stay the same, and that’s a good thing in more ways than not.
So maybe things are different, but the tall saguaro cactus still meet and greet with arms raised upward or sometimes downward or even crisscrossed like the Scarecrow in Wizard of Oz trying to point out directions. The saguaro are both the royal sentinels of highways and biways as well as comedic characters in all of their uniqueness. I’d forgotten how beautiful they are, especially with other cacti filling in the desert floor beneath the saguaros’ feet: prickly pears, chollas, ocatillos, and barrels just to name a few.
Overall, despite the letdown, I enjoyed my return to Tucson. The Santa Catalinas are the ever present beautiful mountain range they always were. Indeed, Tucson remains the soup bowl city – ringed on all four sides, even though not fully contained, by mountain ranges. My old apartment was there on Stone Avenue, very recognizable despite the paint makeover. And my Manzanita dorm is still standing! I was afraid it would have been leveled and replaced by a high rise, but I was happy to see that it exists.
My desire to return again to Tucson is stronger than before. I didn’t get to explore it on my own. There were the usual health reasons for that, but we had others with us too and our Worldmark Resort seemed a whole other world away in Oro Valley. I want to get reacquainted with Tucson on its own terms, not mine.