On Color and Craving
What color do you think of when you think of the Southwest? Brown, most likely. Tumbleweed. Parched earth. Or, maybe blue. Sky and turquoise. The color of mid-summer daydreams. Of longing.
It is true that the palette used to paint this landscape was not the same one that dressed Appalachia in shades of mossy green, or the Midwest in hues of yellow and wheat (and then, at dusk, the most delicate stroke of violet). I wouldn’t say that the colors here are fewer, really, just more sparingly applied.
At a distance, I find it is sometimes a challenge to see beyond the sienna sweep of desert scrub, or the tan walls of granite that frame so much of this corner of central Arizona. And so, in response to this, I try to get up close. I walk trails and scramble over boulders. I press my face into cracks in the rock, where sometimes there is water and, for this, sometimes flowers. I sit on my porch in the mornings and wait for a very curious hummingbird to pay his daily visit, his gorget flashing crimson-purple-gold as he turns somersaults in the early light.
I enjoy how, on the days I fully inhabit my senses, each flush of color comes as a delight and a surprise. The red siren penstemon that grows, it would seem, out of nothing more than stone. The oriole, firecracker orange as it darts down-canyon. The unlikely blue of a lizard’s tail. Just the other day, hiking in the welcome cool of an oak-lined drainage, I was stopped dead in my tracks by a butterfly wing that had settled into a drift of leaf-litter. Back when I lived in a place where the eyes are not left with so much to pine after, I doubt I even would have seen it. And if I had, I do not think I would have paused to examine its delicate armature and pigmented scales.
There is something fulfilling about living in a land of seemingly less. It has put me in closer contact with my own senses. It has led me to consider what it means to crave and to want in ways that have allowed me to find satisfaction in desire itself, and perhaps even in absence. Living here is teaching me to make do; to find joy in what is small, simple, and, more often than not, held in a moment’s passing.