I have always hated Phoenix.
Growing up in the steppe, at about 5,200 feet on the upper plateau above the Mogollon Rim in Arizona, you look down on the Valley residents in their air conditioned homes and their sinuous highways and 115+ degree heat in the summer and you wonder, “Why would you live there? Why would you choose to do that?”
Every December since 2011, I’ve flown into Phoenix from wherever I am to see my family for Christmas. They are all gathered in Arizona still, while I’ve been off gallivanting, doing whatever it is I’m doing. But I’ve always managed to make it out of Phoenix fairly quickly, back to Prescott or Flagstaff.
This winter, something was different. I flew into Phoenix, and looking down on the dusty beige of it with its protruding random hills and bowl of mountains in the smoggy distance, I felt almost fond. Walking through the Desert Botanical Gardens with my extended family, I was nearly giddy with the dry air, the memory of the desert winter sun and the sight of dozens of kinds of cacti, gathered around in relatively natural ecosystem gatherings.
I’ve missed the desert.
It’s a strange admission, for someone who plotted for years to escape and never go back. At first it was mountains I missed; then it was monsoon rains in the summer. Suddenly, it was the kiss of warm sun in December, and then it was the dryness of the air and the exotic, unfriendly plants. All of a sudden, I realized how acutely I missed home, which it had never felt like before.
I wonder if we all reach this point eventually.