This morning when I looked in the mirror I saw a grandmother! (Maybe it was because I was in Chandler, Phoenix area, sitting for my grandkids.) But I didn’t look like my grandmother. She had that dark gray hair that blondes used to get when they grew old. Mom would give her a permanent in our kitchen so she had a head of curls. She would take her teeth out at night and put them in a glass with polident; I was fascinated by them. (When she visited us she would stay in my bedroom.) She wore flowered dresses (always dresses, never slacks), and because she had enough of a stomach to look pregnant (she gave up wearing bras and girdles after grampa died), the dress pulled up in front. She wore stockings rolled above her knees, and sensible black lace-up shoes with a one-inch heel. After she went into a nursing home and we would visit her on weekends, I noticed that all of the women there all had variations of the same flowered dress. She only put on a solid purple dress for my wedding.
When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.
I left today and noticed all of the wildflowers. Because the highway, I10, has been widened south of Phoenix, around Picacho Peak, and north of Tucson, I think the extended shoulders had been seeded in wildflowers. Or the rains just brought them out. South of Phoenix the road was lined with yellow-flowered brittle bush (not my photos; I was driving) and an occasional globe mallow (pictured). By Casa Grande there was a cover of blue lupine (photo). That petered out by the Florence exit, leaving creosote and burr sage. And the pollution. If smog is a combo of smoke and fog (which had been very common in London, for example), what can we name the combination of blowing dust and carbon emissions? Darbon? Cust? I like cust because it sounds like cussed. When the winds pick up in the desert the lower sky turns tan from the cust.
When I got to Picacho Peak the lupine shared the side of the road with a purple flower (purple lupine? lupine can be purple as well as blue), african daisies (pictured), which are not native to arizona (note the name), and desert marigolds. The big pull of Picacho Peak this time of the year is the carpet of poppies. (I’m sorry that I didn’t get to take this gorgeous photo of the poppies there.)
About 15 years ago a friend and I went on a picnic there to see the poppies. It also happened to be the weekend of the reenactment of the westernmost battle of the Civil War (where a troop of Rebels accidentally bumped into a troop of Union soldiers). http://azstateparks.com/parks/pipe/events.html That was before I10 was widened there and the park parking lot enlarged. Cars were backed up all the way to the freeway off-ramps. But once we got in we had a lovely picnic on a rock up the hillside.
Back to today’s drive. By Marana the west side of the road had become farms, the east matching houses all of the way to the mountains, then more desert. On the west followed a cement factory (not exactly Blake’s dark Satanic Mills, but very dusty), then more of the matching houses with their Spanish tile roofs as far as the eye could see. A bridge over the highway is under construction. By next year I bet that there will be seeded shoulders turning into banks of flowers. After that a sand and gravel pit, mobile homes for sale and fast food west of the road. By the time a Starbucks appeared there were billboards on the left (and they’re not those small Burma Shave signs we saw in our youth), big box stores and an RV park. Aside: the billboards got me to thinking about Edward Abbey, our (he wasn’t born here, but he died in Tucson) eco warrior, and the fact that I never read The Monkey Wrench Gang. Need to get it from the library.
Getting into Tucson the road is bordered in “decorative stone” landscaping, a mishmash of buildings, power lines, palm trees, eucalyptus, salt cedar, native mesquite and palo verde trees. When I first moved to Tucson I loved the huge salt cedars (see photo) with their leaves like pine needles and their pink blooms in the summer, but the city is trying to eradicate them along the washes because they are too thirsty.
Home now. Adios.