Back in the early 1980s, I had the privilege of working in a vast and desolate area of north Phoenix.

Bell Road was paved and lined with many small businesses at that time but the north side of Bell was all desert from 32nd Street east towards Scottsdale.

Around 63rd Street, heading into North Scottsdale, the north side of Bell was graced with one Arabian horse farm after another. It was amazing.

I used to love to drive out that direction to watch the Arabian horses run in the green fields under the arcing spray of the massive sprinkler systems.

Anyhow ... I digress. Back to the desert - - two and a half decades ago.

One day, at lunchtime, I drove north of Bell on 40th Street. It was a smooth dirt road but oh-so-dusty from the dry, incessant heat.

Off to the left was a small desert area designated as "Paradise Valley Park". It had a winding dirt road going back to an area with two park benches as the only amenities.

Grabbing my apple, book and bag of chips ... I headed for one of the park benches located under the feathery shade of a mesquite tree.

The sound of the quiet desert was sweet music ... soft breezes rustling in the plants, a desert wren calling from a cactus, and the buzz of honeybees dancing from one wild flower to another.

After sitting for just a few moments, I heard a movement in the creosote bushes to my right. Although I could not see anything, I knew that there was a critter of some sort in there.

I sat transfixed with every nerve aware of the location of the noise.

Finally, I was rewarded for my effort with the sight of a three, perhaps four-foot long rattlesnake slithering from the bushes down into a ravine ... perhaps to look for lunch.

I have never forgotten that sight. It is etched into my mind and I recall every emotion that I experienced at that moment: cautious fear, surprise, curiousity, wonder ... and awe.

Twenty-five years later, that unfettered desert park has become the home of Paradise Valley Community Center and Park that now boasts a large public pool, a skatepark, lighted ballfields, clean bathrooms, running drinking water, and picnic ramadas with BBQs.

I am in that area at least once a month.

Every now and then I will drive into the park ... traveling now on paved roads ... to the professionally landscaped, lighted and paved parking area.

I park. My recollection tells me I am just about where I parked so very long ago.

Now surrounded by literally thousands of homes, bustling businesses, a busy hospital, a large high school, a golf course and overwhelming city noise ...

I think back on that day.

That moment.

Me, alone in the desert ... but safe ... but still able to witness the majesty of Mother Nature.

Perhaps it would be prudent for me to remember moments like those when I find myself griping about the urban sprawl, relentless traffic, and over population of metropolitan Phoenix.

I have been blessed with the sweetness of memories.

[11:30am MST] [Permalink]


Well damn.

I am not prone to going out and doing things after dark.

I have to be motivated.

Fireworks are somewhat of a motivation. Especially when I can watch them wearing a sundress and flip-flops, no makeup, with hair twisted up in a clip ... from the air conditioned comfort of my car.

So, at about 8:45pm, I grab the bottle of water and off I go.

I pull into a church parking lot that I know will look directly down Central Avenue to Steele Indian School Park where the "Fabulous Phoenix 4th" fireworks is held.

The huge church parking lot is crowded with folks coming and going on tour buses. There were about a half dozen City of Phoenix Police Cars patrolling the lot for security.

I wait.

A storm blew through the Valley earlier and brought the temperature down to about 96° with gusty winds. It was actually quite pleasant sitting there in the dark with the windows down letting the post storm breezes blow away the memories of the heat of the day.

I wait.

Listening to some smooth jazz, drinking iced water ... and smelling the desert air.

What more could a girl want?

Um ... fireworks?

I wait.

Finally, one of Phoenix Finest pulls up and tells me that the fireworks were "shot off" early (about 8:00pm) due to the storm and because the embers were drifting on the wind, the display was cut short.

Well damn.

[12:00am MST] [Permalink]


      My country,' tis of thee,
      Sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing;
      Land where my fathers died,
      And of the pilgrims' pride,
      From every mountainside let freedom ring!

      My native country, thee,
      Land of the noble free, thy name I love;
      I love thy rocks and rills,
      Thy woods and templed hills;
      My heart with rapture thrills, like that above.

      Let music swell the breeze,
      And ring from all the trees sweet freedom's song;
      Let mortal tongues awake;
      Let all that breathe partake;
      Let rocks their silence break, the sound prolong.

      Our fathers' God, to thee,
      Author of liberty, to thee we sing;
      Long may our land be bright
      With freedom's holy light;
      Protect us by thy might, great God, our King.

      - Lyrics by Samuel Francis Smith, 1831 -


[05:30am MST] [Permalink]

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