Desert Deviation


“Madness plants mirrors in the desert.”
― Floriano Martins

Quiet. That’s what I miss the most about the desert. There’s no Boston banter, no city litany, no traffic tumult. Just open space and skies deeper than your eyes can reach. Desert protagonists and antiheroes alike will tell you that once you spend enough time there, eventually, there’s nowhere to look but inward. That’s when you end up running into yourself.

Buried in northern Arizona is a place that almost prides itself in being a little out of the way. Highway 89 stretches across it, inviting views of purple mountains during sunset and star-studded skies at twilight. In the distance, you can catch a glimpse of Thumb Butte (facetiously dubbed “thumb butt” by the younger population). This is Prescott Valley. And you can believe the rumors–it’s just as small as they say.

Joe and I touched down here after spending a weekend in Vegas. (Prescott Valley is home for Joe.) One couldn’t imagine a more stark contrast between the two cities–from casinos and yard-long drinks to dust devils and ghost towns. Here, your best friends are the same kids you grew up with, and your kids become friends with theirs. You’re on a first-name basis with the post office staff, and buying anything other than groceries requires “going into town.” For an urbanite’s idea of fun, you could drive to the modest array of bars at Whiskey Row, but inviting some friends over for drinks and conversation is more the status quo. Here, you live on stories.

I’m a firm believer that a good story is the shortest distance between two people. This is helpful to keep in mind when you’re meeting someone for the first time–especially your boyfriend’s family. Lucky for me, Joe’s mom had plenty of stories to tell off the bat, and we found ourselves laughing over homemade meatballs and wine in no time. I had forgotten how good it feels to give up control and let the conversation run its course.

Through meeting his friends and observing relics of his past firsthand, I was also able to confirm the stories he had long told me about his Prescott Valley years. (I may or may not have snagged pictures from old photo albums for safekeeping. I mean, blackmail.)

I have big things to say about this small town, but most of it is logged elsewhere for my own records. Among the manifold memories made were a stargazing date off the highway, a four-wheel adventure in Sedona, a wedding by Watson Lake, a birthday road trip to California, an exponentially hilarious excremental situation, and so on.

You know you’ve had a good trip when the stories from it cover the broad spectrum–good to bad. Sometimes, we’re too eagerly inclined to scrap the bad and only remember the good, forgetting in the process that we need both in order to grow. An escapist by habit, I was convinced at the beginning of this trip that leaving the city would somehow mitigate my stressors. However, I re-learned that places don’t carry problems; people do.

Now, upon returning to Boston, I feel refreshed and equipped with an arsenal of travel tales–but also with a commitment to looking inward, not wayward, to let go of heavier loads.

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