I remind myself of miracles. Glass that lets the sunlight spill into my house. Art on the walls. The warmth I can turn on and off with a tap on a screen. The colorful ceramic mug, shaped by the hands of someone I never met. The dark brew inside made of beans grown half a world away, shipped here and roasted while still fresh enough to release the flavor I enjoy so much.

It is so much easier to attend to our sorrows. But joy is here too.


The bluebells are well up now, adding a splash of color throughout the yard. They contrast with the fading daffodils and the bright heads of the fuzzy dandelions. I always forget about the creeping carpet of purple that fills in the back corner of the lawn until it surprises me with its reappearance.

The trees are just starting to show us their tiny green leaves. In the afternoon, these are incandescent before the sun. The hydrangea bushes beyond the back fence are getting heavy with green puffballs waiting to turn white.

Spring is not a time I typically associate with loss. This year is different. I look at the flowers. I know they will bloom for only a short while before they fade. But I will treasure them in the meantime.


Storms yesterday. The smell of wet dog in the living room while I write. I’m up and going by 6:30, but my husband has already been out and come back. The sky is low and gray but the new leaves are brilliant in every tree.

The birds are clamorous this morning. I only know a few of their calls. Last week, I learned that starlings are mimics. One sat on the branch of the massive and venerable maple that would be cut down a few days later. We watched it scream like a red-tail hawk, then fluff up its feathers with apparent satisfaction.


Plates clink and drawers rumble. My husband is making dinner. I breathe in the scent of mango chutney and tuna steaks.

Today was full of logistics and doing. I am tired, aching both in body and soul. Looking back, I was distracted when I should have been engaged. The present is so often slippery, with the past and the future elbowing in from either side.

But we will eat good food tonight. We will talk. We will rest.


A bright beam of slanted sunlight falls into the living room, illuminating the peace lily. It’s an undemanding plant. But when I give it a soak and leave it in the sink to drain, it surprises me how its absence deadens the room.

Outside, the leaves on the river birch are larger today than they were yesterday. They dangle and sway, bright green against the pale blue sky, with a cardinal adding a dash of brilliant red.


What is the past? It’s a place I dwell less often than the present. But sometimes it gets stirred up and asks for my attention.

To remember is an exercise in melancholy; a bittersweet exploration of old aches. I have been lucky in my life to have found happiness often. But happiness, for me, is rarely a quiet thing. I look back and wonder sometimes. Why was I so inclined to choose connections that could only end in fireworks?

It has become strange to recall the elation of those fading times. A voice speaking when I’m half asleep. The angle of a set of shoulders beneath a thin shirt. A secret smile tossed across a room, meant for no one but me.


Sunlight bathes the shoulders of the mountains. The desert is damp from the recent rains, and a dusting of snow adorns the highest peak. The mesquite trees are mostly bare for winter, their small leaves scattered on the brick patios that surround my parents’ house.

Indoors, there is dying pine held upright in a base. Its branches adorned in trinkets, it completely blocks the view.


The chorus of birdsong here in the Sonoran desert is nothing like the one in Iowa. It is familiar despite how little I actually listened when I lived here. The low cry of the mourning dove. The sharp cheep of the quail. The rattle of the curved bill thrasher.

Dogs bark in the distance. But the shooting range is silent. The rain deterred target practice, I imagine. And now perhaps it is closed for the holidays.

Further up the road that leads back to this secluded valley, they have bladed another many acres of desert. The sign says, “New Homes!” There is no mention of the murdered lizards and evicted jack rabbits, the thousands of residences destroyed by the bulldozers, the cacti smashed and discarded, the secret trails creatures of all kinds once followed through the sagebrush.


Travel changes time. It is Sunday. On Wednesday, we were at home in Iowa, packing and preparing to be gone. The twenty-four hours of driving was a peaceful grind. We have made this trek so many times now. And yet the evolution of the landscape from midwestern to southwestern never stops being wondrous.

We can’t take my preferred route through the mountains on the last leg due to a winter storm. But when we stop for gas south of Albuquerque, the scent of damp creosote hits me in that way only an old, familiar smell can manage.

For a moment, I am overrun by the tenuous yet powerful sense of a former self. The things I did in air that carried the scent of the desert shift and swarm and jostle, trying to return. So many loves and losses. So much solitude. The memories are murky now. But their imprint remains. It is hard to imagine who I might be now if I hadn’t spent so much time alone in a vast, wild landscape with only a horse for company.


I have returned to the desert for a time. After two days of rain, the sun has emerged. It streams through the windows of my childhood bedroom in brilliant beams.

Indoors, the heat builds by degrees. Outside, low clouds cling to the nearby peaks. I listen to the sound of my mother’s slippers scuffing on the brick floor as she moves around downstairs and the high, frantic beeping of the automatic gate as my brother’s wife goes out and then returns. When I look out the window, I seem my nephew on his new bike, navigating the muddy section of the driveway with surprising aplomb.

He is six years old. On our first evening here, I hid his toy boat in the pocket of my sweatshirt. This turned into a game. Last night, when we were parting for the evening, he hugged me with surprising force and assured me we would see each other tomorrow. We would play boat again.