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Tucson: Love Among the Cactus

Updated on June 7, 2013
Saguaro National Park -- Tucson, Arizona
Saguaro National Park -- Tucson, Arizona | Source

Dear Tucson,

This is a love letter. After a week together, I realize that what began as a college infatuation for you has grown into a grand passion.

I want to tell the world about you, but English becomes a foreign language when I try to explain your wonders to the deeply-rooted Midwesterners around me. Say "Tucson" to the average, unenlightened person outside the Southwest, and he or she will probably think something like "cactus, desert, and Mexican food." And that is maddening—not because it is totally inaccurate, but because it is rather like describing Crêpes Suzette as "pancakes in sauce."

Wearied with bland, vanilla provincialism, I delight in your people. They are gutsy, colorful, cheerful and tolerant. Unlike cities whose citizens are squeezed into an uncompromising mold of grey conformity, you breed a pioneer spirit where nonconformity and creativity are not only tolerated but celebrated. There is a vitality in your mesquite-and-sagebrush-scented air that becomes a fever in the blood of those who breathe it.


Tucson, you seduce my senses. Gaudily-painted sunsets over the Tucson Mountains; the spicy-clean smell of the desert after a rain; the brashly-joyful sounds of Mexican music at a local festival; the zesty flavor of a hearty trail-ride breakfast in the Rincon foothills above Tanque Verde Ranch or authentic Carne Seca at historic El Charro Café; the smooth coolness of an exquisitely crafted, silver-and-turquoise necklace made by a gifted Navajo artisan in Old Town ... these moments are branded on my very soul.


But above all else, my heart belongs to your mountain cathedrals —the Santa Catalinas. On this visit, driving in, I was obsessed with catching my first glimpse of your northern sentinels. And when I saw them, achingly beautiful, pink-and-purple-shadowed in the ebbing day, I knew I had come home. Majestic, eternal, they are imbued with a solemn spirituality —a transcendent peace.

That is why I have told my family: no matter where in the world I am when I die, ship me to Tucson and bury me at the foot of the Catalinas.

I can't think of a better way to start eternity.

Helpful Links for Visitors

Tucson Visitor Information

Tanque Verde Ranch

14301 E. Speedway

Tucson, AZ 85748

(800) 234-3833

El Charro Café

311 N. Court Avenue

Tucson, AZ 85701

(520) 622-1922

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

311 N. Court Avenue

Tucson, AZ 85701

(520) 622-1922

Old Town Artisans (the fauna and flora of the SW)

Arizona State Museum (anthropology/archaeology of SW indigenous cultures)


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