Hawthorne Hill: Desert Dispatch #2: Remembering and Re-remembering

Hawthorne Hill by Richard DeRosa

Desert Dispatch #2:
Remembering and Re-remembering

Every spring up on the hill a process of re-remembering inevitably takes place. Bird calls and songs lain dormant all winter need to work their way back to conscious memory. And as the world greens up and comes to life, memory needs to do a few tricks as well. Can’t remember how many times I have been on a walk, noticed a spring flower and then spent a good part of the walk wracking my brain for its name, knowing all along that I really do know it. Few mental conundrums are as exasperating as knowing something and not being able to dig it out. Sort of like forgetting one’s name. Perhaps it is a function of age, but that is no matter. The process of recall is as welcome as it is frustrating.

Eventually memory eases up a bit, opens a few doors, however slowly, and stuff happens. It is a waiting game—at times the wait is too darned long. But, when memory’s initial intransigence takes a break, it is really a glorious feeling.

At this point in my life, a few years shy (but still pretty spry) of 80, I get it—one’s gray matter gets a bit lazy. One has no choice but to work with whatever tools one has in one’s cerebral tool kit.

That brings me to our recurring winter respite here in Tucson. We come for the warmth, and the sunny, cornflower blue skies. The hiking is wonderful, with endless possibilities over varying terrains and, depending on where one hikes, the mountains and canyons are filled with an impressive array of flora and fauna. Our walks are interrupted from time to time to identify a flower or shrub and, when they deign to appear or even be heard, one of the many not always gregarious birds that inhabit these fascinating landscapes. Among my favorites are the canyon wren and the cactus wren. From time to time, a little flock of black-tailed gnat catchers might bustle noiselessly within a trailside bush. No snakes or mountain lions yet; early for the former and the latter have as little interest in us as we them. We are always on the lookout for long-horned sheep; no luck as yet… Among the most nimble-footed creatures of these rocky slopes, they prefer consorting with their own, a characteristic not exclusive to their species.

Hiking is a solitary activity. The solace of silence is what appeals to me most, as does getting lost in swirls of unsolicited thoughts. It requires nimble-footedness as well. One must travel two tracks; the conscious and the unconscious. Many of the most inviting trails are a bit rocky and we have discovered the virtue of walking poles—finally. I had eschewed them for years, admittedly more of a “you will never catch me using those damn things.” I also swore against ever becoming a snowbird—times, as well as attitudes, change. They say wisdom comes with age. There is hope for the most curmudgeonly among us.

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