Place Where You Live:

In the Folds of the Santa Rita Mountains

Coyotes are common where I live. Lately, they’ve left mounds of mesquite-filled scat on the dirt road and down in the wash that spreads across our swath of the Sonoran Desert. Since the monsoons began, I’ve stood in the front doorway twice and found a reddish-brown coyote in the shadow of a large mesquite looking in my direction. Not towards me exactly, of whom he is appropriately wary, but with curiosity towards Christy, our furry elder dog, who each time has been asleep. One morning I gazed out the front window to see the coyote’s butt facing the house, lifted high in the air, its tail raised.

“Christy,” I said, “You have a visitor.” But the coyote departed quickly, leaving only a scented message.

In the folds of the Santa Rita Mountains, displays of affection and love are often quiet and fleeting.  Mister Cardinal chases his lady love in and out of the branches of mesquite trees and chollas.  Winged insects burn bright and die in piles we wipe up the next morning with damp cloths. Iridescent lizards scurry across the ground and along branches.

The monsoons this summer have brought thunder and some lightning, though little rain. One evening I sat outside, listening to a passing thunderstorm like a woman enthralled by the voice of her beloved on a distant line. When finally the thunder softened and light faded, I returned inside, to call my own beloved. In the desert, affection and love are often as intense as a summer storm cell.

One night a young traveler appeared beside the large mesquite out front. We bandaged the cut on his hand, and later he wrote out his mother’s phone number, requesting that we please call to let her know he was alright.

Did he have his suitcase with him? she asked. Everything was in it. Photographs. His clothes. She was silent.

I didn’t see one, I told her. Pero su hijo está bien. Your son is well.

In the folds of this desert mountain, sometimes affection and love are intense like summer thunder, and, sometimes, hopeful like rain.