October 27, 2022

Postcards from Arizona

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 11:46 am by chavisory

Tucson is lovely in a way I didn’t know how to expect. It’s greener than I thought it would be. It feels a little bit stuck in time, in a different way than parts of upstate New York do. Part of it is the weather, and part of it is the quiet, and part of it is almost literally being in a time zone unto ourselves (since Arizona doesn’t observe Daylight Savings, it’s part of the Mountain Time Zone for part of the year, and part of the Pacific for the other part).

One of the strangest things is how early it gets very dark. The clouds are astonishing every single night.

New Yorkers kept talking about this place as if it were a Republican hotbed, but there are Support Ukraine and Climate Action Now! yard signs everywhere.

Trains, both freight and Amtrak, run close by my loft all night and it reminds me of a friend’s place back in Athens. Radio towers remind me uncannily of the ones in the Selenetic Age in Myst, where I’m still stuck in a game I haven’t played since February.

There are a lot of tattoo studios, a lot of ice cream parlors, and a lot of feral cats. A fluffy black one seems to be the night patrol of our block, and a green-eyed tabby crosses my patio wall in the mornings. There are wind chimes somewhere I can hear but can’t see. There’s a bird with a strange, complaining call who’s always too fast for me to glimpse.

The grasshoppers are enormous.

Browsing in a local head shop, I find the “I Want to Believe” poster in their stacks. The Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Satin” comes up on the shop playlist, and I want to tell my 14-year-old self things she wouldn’t understand or believe.

It’s a beautiful fall day, and you’re in a hippie shop in Arizona. The Moody Blues are playing and people still love the X-Files. You’re 40 and you’re here for work because you have a career in theater. Also you just survived your first global pandemic. There’s a café that will make you an Irish coffee. Everyone here has tattoos, and so do you. There’s a bar that doesn’t treat you like you’re strange if you go there to watch baseball and write letters.

A plaque says Jascha Heifetz played at the dedication of the theater here. The church downtown has a mosaic of the lyrics to my favorite hymn, and the bookstore carries my preferred brands of planner and notebooks, which is good because I should’ve but I didn’t bring a spare one.

Hallelujah.

A young man approaches me on the sidewalk one night. He sounds German or maybe Dutch and he’s asking me where the Old something-or-other is, and at first I say “Sorry, I just got here, I don’t know anything!” before I realize exactly which establishment he’s looking for, and luckily, it’s one of the three or so things I do know.

October 1, 2022

The meadow

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 8:17 pm by chavisory

The last few years I’ve been going home to the Midwest more often in the summertime, as various factors have made it the easier time to have large family gatherings, and the pandemic has made it the safer time, too. But almost never is it the case that I see anything that makes me happier about new development in the area where I grew up. There’s always a new subdivision of identical-looking houses in yards without trees. Another cheap-looking strip mall of chain restaurants and mobile phone stores on former grassland or woodland. Almost all of the woods along Highway 9 into Parkville are strip mall now. A local shopping development turned a patch of grassland into parking decks and chain stores and restaurants, and the pandemic subsequently turned most of it into a ghost town.

My old school district, last I checked, was planning to put a new elementary and high school complex on the site of some of the very last original forest in the city.

But this year when I was back for the 4th of July, as we turned off the highway on the way home from the airport, a corner plot of land that had been a usually-fallow soybean field for as long as I could remember, and then untended scrub that I was increasingly afraid was about to become another barren housing development any minute, was, somehow, forest. Extremely young forest, probably not more than four or six acres, but forest. It was a variety of shock I’ve never experienced before in my life. Somehow the opposite both of turning a corner to see a building where there wasn’t one before, and of turning to find a patch of sky where last you checked there was a building. For a second I was so disoriented I doubted where we were, even though I’ve driven that way probably hundreds of days of my life.

A friend said that apparently there’d been an agreement made to leave the plot undeveloped as flood control. Another roadside plot a little ways down is now a monarch butterfly preserve full of wildflowers and milkweed, and a sparse patch of woods across the street is protected watershed.

I’ve seen buildings both appear and disappear seemingly in the blink of an eye. I’ve come back to the city from summer stock to find apartment buildings where there had been a parking deck or a vacant lot. I’ve seen buildings demolished and natural habitats destroyed for buildings, and buildings long since decayed and abandoned and the land they occupied gone feral. I know of places this has been allowed to happen, though mostly long before I was born, like North Brother Island or Doodletown. Earlier this year as I returned home from a hike via a subway station I hadn’t used much in recent months, I emerged onto the sidewalk to a patch of sky I’d never seen before in my life where an older building had been demolished to make way for a new mixed-use development. The new building rose and eventually blotted out the sky again, but for a few weeks, a patch of sky existed that hadn’t been seen for decades.

I’d never seen a piece of land restored to something approaching wildness within such a shockingly small amount of time.

And I didn’t think I was going to see such a thing twice in one summer, either, but back in NYC, I was out walking in Central Park one night and took a turn up a trail I don’t follow much because it only led to a scraggly hillside along the road dividing the Ravine and North Woods from the ballfields. But I did, and rounded a corner to find a landscape I’d never seen before.

Signs on nearby fences said that the Central Park Conservancy was restoring a plot of native meadow.

There were plants I’d never seen before, insect sounds I’d never heard before, a kind of light I’d never seen, about half a mile from the apartment where I’ve lived for 18 years. Clouds of chimney swifts darted across the sky above.

As I stood and just looked at it, I watched probably half a dozen people stop and do the same. I like the idea that for people who are kids now, this is just the way it will have always been.

[Three photos of an urban meadow with tall grasses and purple and yellow wildflowers under a deep blue sky]