This is my third (nonconsecutive) southern Arizona winter, once again in the Sulphur Springs Valley of Cochise County, in our little ghost town cabin between Cochise Stronghold in the Dragoon Mountains and Apache Pass in the Chiricahuas, and once again the Artist and I find ourselves making expeditions through rocky, jaw-dropping Texas Canyon to the west or up north through the equally beautiful and blessedly much longer Stockton Pass. The winter’s Junior Rodeo season took place over the past weekend, again giving me opportunities to relive childhood dreams as I identified with young cowgirls weaving between poles on horseback and thundering back to the finish line. But in this third winter, sharing scenes that have now become familiar, how can I hope that what I continue to find so thrilling will evoke the faintest echo of first-time glamor for you who read Books in Northport? How can I make it new for you, these events and sights that never grow old for me?
Because, for the Artist as well as for me, it never does get old, the daily drive from Dos Cabezas past the playa to Willcox. Every day is different — different light and shadows, variations in atmosphere and in our sightings of wildlife and livestock along the way — and so, too, the trips through the mountains and down among neighboring sky island ranges. A year ago, we were only arriving for the winter in Dos Cabezas on the first of February. This time around, as January nears its end, we are beginning our seventh week here. Would five months feel too long? I wondered. Well, it doesn’t seem too long at all. I look forward to spring’s new leaves in the wash and blooms along the roadside but am not at all impatient for the weeks to pass: for now I bundle up each morning for the first dog walk of the day and shed layers as the sun climbs into the sky. The cactus wren’s morning greeting is nothing new, but that little bird makes me smile every day. And how could a sunset ever grow old?
The ordinary, the everyday, is a joy to me here, as it is back in Michigan. To take my breath away and make my heart leap, I have never needed the Grand Canyon. Back in Leelanau County, Michigan, too, the daily scenes are ever new, and we are grateful for each day we are there. “We live in a beautiful place,” the Artist often remarks. He knows I haven’t forgotten. We don’t remind each other of beauty around us because we think the other has stopped noticing it but simply to bring a moment into focus and share it more consciously.
Right now we are here, and here is a good place to be. As the days and years race by, we make frequent stops to look around and appreciate being alive. We’re here now. It’s good. Can you see it, too?