Leaving the Sonoran-Arriving the California Desert

Today I move. In about two weeks I need to be back in San Diego. One more dental surgery to go and taxes need to be done. Sigh.

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Ah, Sunset

Last evening was the warmest evening I have spent in southern AZ. I could actually sit outside till long after the sun had dipped below the horizon. It was a perfect Sonoran desert evening. No wind, owls hooting, and the traffic had dwindled to a minimum. Elsie was busy watching things, out there in the world. Definitely a perfect evening.

I spent the last two days meandering the desert. There are no trails here except the ones the wild burros have made as they trek to the tinaja (water tank). I had to sign in to be on this land. The docent where I signed in said just follow the burrows. FTB. I did just that. I walked through the mountainous terrain to the valley that lies beyond. I walked into the wide dry wash and stood listening to birds. Those pesky birds are hard to find amongst the willows, palo verde and creosote.

What I thought was a dry wash revealed itself as I looked down. The burro tracks revealed a different story. I could see water at the bottom of their prints. The wash was not as dry as I first thought. Water, the life blood of the desert, the mountains and all humans. In this dry, harsh climate I have gained a new respect for water. The tracks at the tinaja were numerous and varied. Even the bees were there drinking from the green rank water. If I was really thirsty, I know I would be joining the others for a drink.

Those Pesky Chollas

Those Pesky Chollas

img_8671You have to be careful when walking in this country. Even though the cholla really do not jump sometimes it feels like they do. Most things are thorny and prickly and demand respect. There are many holes dug in the ground, big and small. They are critters homes. If you don’t observe where you walk you could stumble into one of these. It could lead to disaster. The first hike I did alone I returned to where I thought my RT was only to find I was quite a distance to the south. A strong sense of direction is a must. A map is even a better idea (I didn’t have one). I always carry a compass and in this case looked west. I knew there was a road out there somewhere.

I have seen desert Big Horn Sheep, climbing up and over the top of a rocky mountain. Two javelina surprised me as much as I did them one morning. They started up the mountain. One stumbled and slid down a rock but quickly regained his footing and the last I saw of it, it was running over the summit.img_8570

 

Desert Lily

Desert Lily

Wild flower season is beginning to happen here. With just the right amount of water the desert blooms with the tiniest of flowers. All are showy. It is hard to step around the white daisies that carpet the floor in these washes. The desert is a happy place when there has been rain. Ah, water. I could mention most of the flowers I have seen but that would take too long. The desert Lily is always one of my favorites.

Today El and I pack up and leave. I am not done with the desert yet. I am moving towards Anza Borrego State Park in the California desert. I am having a hard time saying goodby to southern AZ. I have seen so much, found some peace for my sometimes weary soul, and met some lovely people along the way. I know I will meet up with most of them again. We are all part of a group-the wandering, adventurous souls. We love to travel. It is a strong bond and one I want to explore more in depth.

17021834_10153749903052537_7288542039359449127_nI had the opportunity to visit for three glorious days with Missy and Dan. Missy and I have been friends for many years. They live on the east coast, splitting their time between Florida and Maine. It makes it hard to get together, yet every so many years we manage. It was a delight traveling, camping and hiking with them. I loved the access we had with their jeep. I love them.

I have no doubt that I will return to this country. The desert draws me back again and again. Who knew that this east coast woman would fall in love with the wide open space. Now it is time to pack and get ready to move.

I plan to carry my time in this country forward with me. It has changed me as each new experience does. I feel a little less alone and more at peace. These are good things and even if I forget these moments and feelings, I know my body and mind will hold them for me. That way I can tune into this anytime I want.

Getting ready to pack.

Breezes of the Desert

75ccc72e53440b46961e7776d2add1faimagesEarly this morning I awoke around 1:30 am, windows open in my Roadtrek and the gentlest of breezes was beginning to blow. I love the desert. When the night breezes begin, the desert is beginning to cool down from the heat of the day. My RV begins to cool off and now it is a time where snuggling into the blankets begins to feel really good.

Coyotes are howling out in the countryside. Despite how I worry about coyotes and Elsie the cat, I love them. They remind me of the wild country before we had big cities. They remind me of Jim, (one of his major spirit animals) and they give me comfort. I embrace the wild-around me and in me. It gives me the will and desire to wander into uncharted territory.

Instead of worrying about not being able to sleep through the night, I accept the waking and explore the dark, welcoming the moon and the moonless nights. I listen to the wind. Reaching over I open another window so I can get a cross-breeze. I love the feel of the coolness on my face, arms and hands.

Sonoran Desert

Sonoran Desert

Before I arrived on the outskirts of Tucson, where I am for the next few days, I was in the desert north of Ajo, AZ. I was boondocking(dry camping). I had driven about a half mile off the main road into the desert. Each day I would go on my own short walk-about, exploring my temporary home. For two days I sat in silence. My only conversation was with Elsie the cat. In the distance I could hear the occasional braying of the local wild burro population and the occasional coyote. Silence is hard to get used to at first. Then it becomes familiar. Then I embrace it. It is hard to let it go, when I go back into the city or even the small town. I hope that some of the silence follows me back into the noise of the everyday world.

Wild Burros

Wild Burros

In the quiet I can begin to hear and feel in a deeper and clearer way. I feel the gentlest of breezes and welcome it’s whisper, quieting my heart and mind.  The sky becomes clearer and the world around me brightens. Sitting out after dark I begin to hear the scurrying of little critters and have a passing hope that a pack rat is not setting up home in my engine, they do that.

When I first moved west I thought I was going to see sand and dirt and nothing.  The desert is so alive. There are plants big and small and so many different cactus. The birds and wildlife are varied. In Suguarjo National Park there are over 200 species of birds. They all have their own unique way of surviving in the hot summer months and cold winter months.

Late Afternoon Hike, near Gilbert Ray Campground

Late Afternoon Hike, near Gilbert Ray Campground

I would like to consider that I may also have my own unique way of surviving. This is why I sold my home last July. This is why I moved into my RT. This is why I accept my questioning spirit. This is why I know it is OK to grieve. This is why I know it is OK to roam and wonder what is next. Maybe just maybe when the wind whispers, I will hear the answer I am seeking.

 

 

 

 

Into the Desert

img_7051Last Wednesday, Miss Elsie the Cat, the Roadtrek and I left San Diego for points southeast. The desert was calling my name. The dentist gave me a reprieve and so we departed into the vast Sonoran Desert.

It is winter here. It is chilly at night, if not down right cold. It is wonderful hiking weather during the day and after the rains the desert is alive and the color green is showing up everywhere. The Octotillo are already blooming here at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

Why the desert? The desert is the place I go to seek solitude, solace, to think and sort and grow. There is something about the wind and the animals and the vastness of the desert that is wonderfully healing for me. I slow down and really observe my surroundings.

Roadtreking Together

Roadtreking Together

I am not alone. I met up with Mary, a friend of mine. She has a Roadtrek too. We are exploring the desert together. We get along well. One of the nice things about having our own vehicles is that when we need time to ourselves we can retreat to our tiny home on wheels. I appreciate the fact that we both are respectful of our need for our own space.

I enjoy sharing my life with others. Mary asked me if I felt that things were getting easier for me, regarding Jim’s death. This is a very interesting question to ponder. I don’t always take the time to gauge where I have been, what I have achieved, and where I am going regarding Jim. Now the question has been asked I will take some time to bring this into my awareness.

Before I left my friend Nancy mentioned she was having a hard time remembering what I was like before Jim. And there it is. I will never return to who I was before Jim. Who I was before him, during our relationship and who I am now is a cumulative effect of all that has preceded this day, this moment in time.

Years ago Jim and I rafted the Grand Canyon. It was a life altering event. After the trip was over, we often would mention before Grand Canyon and after Grand Canyon. I notice there are times where I regard my life as “before Jim’s death and after Jim’s death”. How have the past four plus years affected who I am today? Well that could be a loaded question. I mean over six years ago I was entangled in the the whole breast cancer issue, that led right into Jim’s diagnosis and his death a year and a half later.

Most of the time I see those times as a hard exercise in growing. I had always heard of others who went through periods of trauma (all kinds-you pick it) and then life smoothed out again. I am hoping that my time of trauma is smoothing out. There are issues still to address but for the most part I would like the smoothing to start.

I miss Jim. It is not often that I feel that overwhelming raw grief that carried me through the first few years. I am thankful for that. I was reminded of it, once again, after the National election results this year, and although the grief was strong I knew to step beyond it quickly. Raw grief is not somewhere I want to stay. I find I like to carry him with me, in the stories I tell and the photos I look at. I guess I feel he is here and I can still advance forward in my life.

Janet, Hiking Alamo Canyon

Janet, Hiking Alamo Canyon

Most days I feel I am doing much better and am working towards sorting out my own life. Grief has no timeline. I am not even sure it ever truly goes away, it softens over time. I would like to consider the possibility that grief is softening for me. I am doing better at meeting people I don’t know well and enjoying their company. I have needed to re-teach myself how to reach out to others and know I will be accepted. Being alone most of the time is not good for me. I am enjoying the moments of meeting others and feeling valued as a person. One positive experience leads to the next.

While this all goes on within, I find I am enjoying each day, sometimes a little and sometimes much more. I am enjoying the desert. It was time to leave San Diego. I did not know that when I left and yet it only took one look at the Anza Borrego Desert, as I was coming down the mountain, that I knew I was where I needed to be.

Gila Woodpecker

Gila Woodpecker

Even in an organized campground, with people around the quietness of the desert is everywhere. I wake each morning to a Gila Woodpecker on the cactus next to my campsite. It is good to get up early to greet the dawn and enjoy the wildlife before they disappear in the warmer part of the day.

Elsie is slowly adapting to life on the road again. Thanks to the calming flower essences my friend Beth gave me, she is quietly and shyly coming out to explore. I appreciate my steady little companion on this journey of mine. At night she curls up on the bed with me. Like I said, a good companion.

I will be returning to San Diego, late in March-one more dental surgery to go. I know some of you have been waiting for an update. It is because of all of you out there in the world, known and unknown to me, that I can continue forward with the adventure of life.

Each day, I am getting ready to hike and explore this marvelous country.