Tucson Sky: Clouds & The Value of New Places

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Tucson Six Years in the High Desert

Cool Days in Spokane

Cool Days in Spokane

Not “cool” as in good but thermally cool as in cold. Although it has been dry, so maybe that way too. In Spokane, this sky is not friendly.

Sometimes, we get a grey sky, a thick cloud cover with no shape or edges, just grey without an end or beginning. Today, sunrise screams cool colors behind the pines.

And a week from today we depart for Tucson, AZ, our new winter home and four months of almost always sunshine.

Cool rain is fine when you know you’re close to leaving it behind.

Aside from the simple bragging rights of having a “winter home,” an artist of any type and as a writer and poet particularly needs the power of new landscapes and changes in venue for the work we do. Such variety is invaluable.

Therefore, we loaded up our dog and ourselves and headed south, a lonnnggg way south, from our home in Spokane, 90 miles S of Canada to our winter home, 60 miles N of Mexico, in Tucson, AZ.

Guardian at the Gate

Some dogs are better, some worse, and some are BOTH! 

Some dogs are better and some worse and some are BOTH!

Our dog, Rusty sixty lbs. of mixed breed, partly German Shepherd, Collie, Belgian Malinois: who knows for sure his breeding? He Parks at the upstairs front window of our townhouse.

In Tucson, he growls low and deep, every time anyone walks by on the sidewalk outside. If it’s Patti or me arriving back home he doesn’t growl, he stares at us until he’s sure who we are, then he leaps up on his arthritic shoulders and throws himself down the stairs to greet us, (As a friend once said, “He’s like livin’ with a fuckin’ kangaroo!”). But when anyone else approaches our front door, from grocery delivery to the UPS guy, Rusty’s growl turns into a single bark, just one: loud, deep, throaty, and threatening — A one-time warning that if you come through that door be prepared because you’ve gotten all the heads-up you’re going to get.

We picked him up at an animal shelter 90 miles away. Got him back to our house, opened the door of our pick-up truck and he took off. Ran himself stupid and muddy for 4 hours up on the prairie, until he finally jumped back into the truck. He’s never left our sides since.

Tucson Six Years in the High Desert

He’s nipped a few people foolish enough to reach towards Patti, and he’s never run from anything, especially things that scare him. On the ‘fight or flight’ continuum score it, Flight: 0 Fight: All you’d ever want. Greatest dog I’ve ever had, and that’s saying something, our Guardian at the Gate.

The Tucson Thunderstorm*

But we’ve lived through worse...

(As bad as the choking smoke and filthy air of the wildfires here in the northwest are today, we went through much scarier weather, just a few years back .)

The Tucson Thunderstorm

In the shadows of the Catalina Mountains, nature is tall, powerful, yet, generally, rather quiet and peaceful. But early this morning, 4:44 a.m., it begins. Thunder so loud that the best surround sound couldn’t touch it and right over our heads, lightning flashing through our open Tucson windows bright enough to read small print. No words can do the shock, the power of these explosions, justice. Rusty, our bold, brave, tough-as-nails dog, comes cowering through the darkness and tries to climb into bed with us on my side; after all, I’m the alpha in our pack, and he arrives: quivering, ready to be protected from the terrible night sky and BOOMS and flashes BRIGHTER than words (even words in capital letters) can capture. And this goes on for half an hour, with heavy rain at times but mostly these explosions of night air accompanied by pulsating electric shocks. When our fearless dog turns cowardly and my wife and I, who usually sleep back-to-back, turn to hold one another, nature has ceased to be this friendly, benign, neutral thing. Atheists and foxholes and the ant on the ant hill come to mind. And the Catalinas lean over us, staring down as they have for the last 400 million years or so — unimpressed by thunderstorms and the fears of man or beast.

Tucson Sky & Clouds

With bright, sunlit edges on a day exactly alike and utterly different than today and every other day.

Here’s this photograph holding those clouds and that sky in place forever as it is in this moment, not as it was before or will ever be again.


Watching clouds pass in a strong wind high above.

Wispy, light clouds that seem like nothing huge clouds, or soggy Pacific NW skies over Spokane.


Tucson clouds look like structures or at least like a dream of real things.

 Tuscon Clouds

A watching of clouds, an observing of the sky and wind, and the sun peeking through briefly from time to time and then night, of course, slowly coming on and realizing or maybe barely even remembering that the clouds may or may not still be moving overhead because in the darkness they hide from us.

Arizona Republicans Fear

Some types of dark clouds are the same everywhere. The question is are there enough sane people left in AZ on the ‘right’ side of the conservative/progressive divide who possess even the tiniest bit of sanity and decency and psychological-mindedness (and, yes, that’s a real thing) to see the tangerine imbecile for the malignant narcissist he so obviously is?

Are there enough of them who maintain a sense of values that put justice, fairness, democracy, honesty, truth, facts, science, etc., etc. above, or anywhere remotely near, their craving for sheer, raw, amoral power uber allies?

The great Arizona Recount Fiasco (costing millions of dollars and finding that Biden actually won AZ by a few hundred MORE votes than originally counted) has been followed by a steady drumbeat of additional “recounts” (even in states Trump won) all done to sabotage trust and therefore participation in U.S. elections.

Rabbit hole? Rabbit hole? WHAT rabbit hole, that’s a stairway to heaven merely starting in an unusual direction. This Tucson madness is shared everywhere.

Long Drives

Actually, I’m mostly thinking about one long drive...

Long Drives

...A singular, long drive, the one from our winter home here in Tucson, (60 miles N of Mexico) to our bigger house in Spokane (90 miles S of Canada).

I won’t go through the whole roadmap of it: north through AZ, swinging into Vegas for a night, then on through Utah, Montana, Idaho — (although, by the looks of it, I just gave you the whole roadmap).

Amazing country, mile after mile after mile after mile after… craggy red/brown cliffs, bright blue sky, blazing sunshine, cacti, “Bodies in the Desert” country. America or if you’re so inclined, ‘Merica.

The car hums along, eighty mph plus and try as you might not to let it happen, eventually it feels like you’re going about twenty-five.

Long Drives2

Everything drifts by slowly: landscape, signage, and slower cars as you're passed by faster ones. Minutes turn to something else, some weird measurement of time that doesn’t quite have a name, not seconds, not minutes, big parts of days but small parts of weeks, months, etc. — time in its realm of ruling you separated from life/space; time simply taking over.

People who want to romanticize “The Road,” most of them anyway, haven’t spent all that much time on one, or if they have and they turn it into some Iliad/Odyssey thing it must be because they’ve got nothing better in their lives to celebrate: like a lot of people on assembly lines always dreaming about how much they’re going to travel once they retire. I think these are folks who’ve never really done much traveling and who, after being confronted by third world toilet paper, once finally back home to Walmart and Safeway, hit their knees and kiss the tarmac. All I’m saying is long drives are like sitting in the waiting room at the dentist, indeed survivable; but please, if you want to talk about how great it is don’t interrupt me as I’m thumbing through People Magazine, and leave your Jack Kerouac bullshit at the door.

Last Lunch In Tucson

The Rawhided cost of social responsibility and having trail-hands on yer hands.

Last Lunch In Tucson

Throw yer hat on the hook and hang the keys in the barn...

Sounds like a Western movie about gunfights and cowboys, huh? But it’s not. Over the preceding forty-eight hours, we’ve had dinner out the night before last, and a friend over for a last dinner last night. I’ve had lunches, goodbye drinks, and more Tex-Mex and beer than any man should be able to survive.

We head north, away from Tucson for the next 8 months, this coming weekend, so for these last nights (& more): lots of red wine, fat/sugar/salt, conversation, eye contact, socially appropriate and mostly pleasant chatting: In other words, too much of everything!

Today, I’m meeting up with a pal whom I haven’t seen a single time since we arrived here back in November for a first and as it turns out a last lunch.

But Escaping Tucson won’t save us. In Spokane, we have family and old friends accumulated over many decades and we entertain, or are entertained, on average two to three times a week.

Mark Twain used to take his entire family to Europe for many months at a time because that was cheaper and less intrusive than having to host all the people who wanted to visit him. I know, I’m not Twain, thank God. But these first and last lunches/dinners alone are more than enough to wear my ass out.

So Yee-haw, motherfuckers: “Move ’em on, head ’em up Head ’em up, move ’em on Move ’em on, head ’em up, rawhide Cut ’em out, ride ’em in Ride ’em in, cut ’em out Cut ’em out, ride ’em in, rawhiiiiiiiidddddeeee” Rawhide. And yes, I do mean MY hide, Yee-fuckin’ HAW!

Just Weighing Separator

Photo by Pierre Jeanneret on Unsplash

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