4 wheel drive weather...Tucson beckons

Okay, its not that bad. I wouldn't have had to click it into 4-wheel drive to get over to the nursery this morning, but it was nice to have the stability provided when the front wheels pitch in. The roads aren't plowed, so the pickup billowed through the fluff. Fresh snow changes the sound of things, makes everything muffled. When I walked out of the Morton building after parking my pickup there, I got buzzed by a flock of low-flying geese, honking away, skimming underneath the low overcast, completely unruffled by the snow.

Arizona! Land of windows down in January. Once you've been there in winter, it pulls you back. Mom and Dad weren't going to go down this year, but as the temperatures plummeted this week, I sensed some changes in their tune.

As for me, I'll never forget getting off the train in Tucson for the first time in January. I had never escaped a winter in my 30 years, not even for a week in Florida. I never imagined that anyplace could be summertime warm when it was so cold up north. The weather map made no impact on me--even if it showed 70 degrees in the Southwest, I assumed that they had some other misery to compensate. Rain. Wind. Dust. A faltering economy. Clouds of locusts. Something.

But they don't. Tucson in winter is paradise. The fires in CA have clouded the skies in Tucson for the past week, but they are soon under control. Part of me wants to take the long road to Tucson--through Seattle, then down the coast highway, visiting friends and relatives all the way. And part of me wants to high-tail it straight to the high desert. Why dawdle?

As a kid, I read the Reader's Digest cover to cover. I remember seeing classified ads in the back pages for Tucson, aimed at retirees, no doubt. There was a big sun shining down on the letters in the city's logo. I think I instinctively knew the value of sunshine and warmth to my morale even then. Tucson became sort of a mystic destination, like the Tibetan Himalayas.

Sometimes in life one is lucky enough to have a mystic destination which doesn't disappoint when you finally arrive there. Fenway Park in Boston did not disappoint. New Zealand, another childhood dream, exceeded my every unrealistic expectation. And when I arrived in Tucson, twenty some years after it was first planted in my imagination, it came through.

In fact, my imagination failed me. I imagined swimming pools, lawn chairs, palm trees and fading turquoise Howard Johnson motels. That would have been good enough for me.

I didn't imagine the adobe, the mountains, the food, the mequite smoke in the evenings, the centuries of history, the hobos, the scruffy downtown, the lively green desert vegetation, the mourning doves by the million, or the cool fall-like evenings.

If you like the smell of a place, I think you get hooked on it deep in the brain. There is a tree in Tucson which emits a smell similar to that of a thirty-year old paperback book. There are many good used bookstores in Tucson, but as you walk the streets, you catch whiffs of used bookstore everywhere. Aromatherapy without the overpriced little bottles!