Prescott, Arizona Loss

Prescott, Arizona LossPrescottscenicThumb Butte and Granite Mountain

I can’t imagine that anyone who has ever visited Prescott, Arizona has left without feeling a sadness and a determination to go there again.  It’s hard to describe the beauty, the peace, the spirituality of the area.  It’s not just Sedona that soothes our stressful moments.  Prescott has something extra that is indefinable.  Maybe it’s the feel of the Old West, the stroll down Whiskey Row, the mountains that rise above the town, the desert with its myriad flowering cacti and the lizards that skitter across walking trails.  Maybe it’s the sunrises and the sunsets, the open blueness of the sky, the colors of the buttes that jut into that blueness.  Certainly it’s the peace and beauty and spirit all rolled into one package.

I fell in love with Prescott on my first visit there.  My daughter was starting college there at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.  She ended up getting her undergraduate degree and then returning a few years later for her master’s degree.  If it’s possible to have a love affair with a place, she had one.  It’s a love affair that will never end for her.

The heartbreak of the forest fire that took the lives of the nineteen elite Granite Mountain Hotshots far too soon fills me and my daughter with a sadness that overwhelms our need to keep moving through our own days.  These heroes died doing what they loved, struggling to protect the land they love and the people who live on it.  I’ve never been to Yarnell, but I imagine I have passed by it on those trips we often took from Prescott to Phoenix to the airport or to shop with my daughter.  These small towns nestle among the desert cacti and the towering mountains.  The loss of any town in the state of Arizona is unimaginable, even with the knowledge of the frequency of forest fires there and the influence of the monsoon winds.  How I wish I could send to Arizona all the rainfall we have had here on the East coast.

The loss of these young men is reminiscent of the loss of the firefighters in 9/11 where the word hero hardly seems adequate.  Fighting for what you love is truly heroic, whether it’s a soldier in Iraq or Afghanistan or a firefighter working so hard to save lives.  The tragedy for the wives and children, family and friends of these men must be unbearable.  The survivor guilt of the one remaining member of the group must be devastating.

As those of us on the East coast try to cope daily with the rainfall of the past few weeks, we need to do something for those in Arizona who long for it.  As always, Americans have compassion and a need to help others, and so now we need to find a way to help from a distance.  We can send cards, donate to the organizations taking contributions, and pray for recovery for those who lost loved ones.  And we can hold our own loved ones a little closer with gratitude that there will always be heroes who are willing to sacrifice their own lives for our safety.  We have to do something to help ease the heartbreak and the devastation to this most beautiful and sacred part of Arizona.

Donations can be sent to a number of organizations, among them the following:

The 100 Club will provide death benefits to the families of the 19 firefighters.  It’s accepting donations to  its 100 Club Survivors Fund in memory of the Granite Mountain Hotshots.  The Prescott Fire Department is accepting donations at 1700 Iron Springs Road, Prescott, Arizona 86301.  The United Way of Yavapai County is also accepting donations to the Yarnell Fire Fund at


Why should I buy chrysanthemums in August?

Why should I buy chrysanthemums in August?

This morning dawned chilly, the air no longer feeling like summer, more autumn-like with dawn coming minutes later each day now.  How does it happen that mid-August often signals the end of summer instead of mid-September?  I like cool mornings, but I prefer those steamy summer mornings with bright sun poring through the windows instead of the filtered sunlight of August.

Mid-August signals summer’s end in other ways, such as the ads for back-to-school clothes and supplies, articles on healthy kids’ lunches and how to manage frantic school morning routines.  This morning’s ad from Lowe’s featured mums on sale.  Mums!  Aren’t they a fall flower?  Why do I need to buy them now?  Actually, I rarely buy mums.  They make me sad, signaling the coming of winter, and with a brief growing season, they hardly seem worth the effort or the money.

During the summer months, I know why I live in upstate New York.  I can even find wonderful moments in September and October, with the glorious colors of autumn leaves and pumpkins and squash at the farmer’s market.  But I know on the heels of autumn will be the first winter snows, exciting only in the first few flakes.  The cold, biting winds and icy roads now seem too much to bear, and I often wonder how I have endured these northern winters for so many years.

Good Morning America is doing a series on the ten most beautiful places in America.  I voted for Sedona, Arizona.  I think I long for Arizona at least ten times a day, remembering the colors, the majesty of the buttes, the pure blue of the sky, and the cleanness of the air.  There are seasons in Arizona, depending on the part of Arizona you visit and the time of the year, but the snows are short-lived, the cold temperatures replaced quickly by sunshine and warmth, the incredible scenery making anything glorious.  The June morning my oldest daughter graduated with a Master’s Degree from Embry-Riddle University in Prescott dawned sunny and a little cool.  Sitting on folding chairs on the athletic field on campus waiting for the ceremony to begin, we began to notice ominous dark-gray clouds boiling up above the mountains rising in the distance, and before the diplomas could be given out, hail was upon us, pelting down on heads and the bare arms of those of us expecting a warm day.  Within an hour it was over, bright sun and comforting warmth in its place.  Arizona is like that.  New York is not.

Maybe the day will come when I can leave the certainty of cold and snow in New York for the impulsive storms of the southwest and the glory of the aftermath.  Until then, I will breathe in the diminishing warmth of summer, take in the beauty of the few remaining roses, soft-blue hydrangea blossoms, and rosy-pink impatiens still flourishing in the gardens, and reject those ads for chrysanthemums a little while longer.

Is this place on your bucket list?

Occasionally, I hear someone talk about making up a bucket list of things to do before they die.  I don’t really have a bucket list, at least not on paper, but I do have a number of things floating around in my head on days that seem especially difficult.  My mental list includes places I have been to and loved, places I want to return to.  One of my favorite places is Arizona, especially the area from Prescott north to Sedona and up to Flagstaff.  I know everyone’s bucket list is different, individually tailored to their interests in life, but I can’t imagine anyone would not love to have Sedona, Arizona on their bucket list.

Several years ago while driving my oldest daughter to college in Arizona, my family took a drive down from Flagstaff  through Oak Creek Canyon to Sedona and down to Prescott.  It’s a harrowing drive, a near-frightening drive in fact, but so exhilarating, one wants to do it over and over, I guess like people who love skydiving or jumping from cliffs.  When we returned home, I wrote this description of our trip so I wouldn’t forget it, but truthfully it’s not easy to forget the beauty of Arizona.

 Oak Creek Canyon

The drive down to Sedona from Flagstaff took us miles over a narrow road to Oak Creek Canyon, one of the most beautiful places in Arizona.  It was a 2000 foot drop from the top of the canyon through the Verde Valley to the bottom of the canyon floor and the town of Sedona at the base.  The red, sandstone walls of the canyon were mixed with muted purple, gold, and bronze and create rock formations resembling castles with cones and cylinders reaching toward the cloudless, deep blue sky.

Along the way were lookout points, and several times we stopped the car, got out, and tried to capture on film the brilliance and the magnitude of the canyon.  The edge of the winding, sharp-curved road was precipitously close to the drop off to the base of the canyon, causing our hearts to beat rapidly.  Near the top of the canyon we entered the town of Jerome, an historic, copper-mining town with cobblestone streets and renovated structures that balanced precariously on the sides of the cliffs.   Gift shops, pottery and craft shops, art galleries, and restaurants filled the buildings which once housed miners and their families.  Steep steps led from the road up to and down to the shops and galleries.

As we neared the bottom of the canyon, the trout fishing stream wound its way in front of resorts, cabins, and inns set back from the road.  In several places flat, slate-gray rock ledges jutted up out of the clear blue water, forming areas for tourists to sunbathe as they sprawled on colorful beach towels and blankets.  Tall pinon pines towered above the road and the fragrance of the pine forest permeated the air and wafted in through the open car windows.  As we neared the base of the canyon, the picturesque town of Sedona came into view, the main street lined with art galleries, shops, and restaurants.  The courtyard in front of the adobe chapel surrounded a variety of small fountains and colorful gardens.

From Sedona we could look straight up to the top of the canyon, where we had started our descent a few hours previously.  I felt a sense of relief mingled with awe as we drove out of Sedona on less treacherous roads through the hot, desert sands of Arizona.

I’m not sure why anyone would care about my trip to Sedona, but I hope everyone has a place like this they can visit, even if only in their minds, when life gets a little rocky.  I wonder what places are on other people’s bucket lists.  I especially wonder if Sedona is on anyone else’s list of favorite places to find peace and beauty among the rough spots in our daily lives.

photo credit:  billandkent’s photostream