Wednesday, March 21, 2007


I recentely ran across this intresting blog entry that talked about totems, defining them thusly: "A totem place belongs to you—even though you leave it and even though other people might use it, too"

As an urban planner I have always been a little obesses with the idea of place. So this idea of totem really appeals to me. The next question in my mind after reading this became what placeas are my totems. I have been living here in Arizona for almost two years so I should have a totem, I just took me a while to figure out what it was.

Without a doubt my Arizona totem is theopen desert that surrounds my neighboorhood. As far a deserts go there is nothing remarkable about this stretch of desert, as far deserts it actually kind of ugly. It is not pristine, asshats love dumping trash in it and it is criss-crossed with ATV tracks. Despite all this I love it.

I grew up in Colorado, far from the sandy deserts of Southwestern Arizona. It was in desert immediately adjacent to my home that I first fell in love with the desert. Without a doubt the thing I love best about my house is that it is directly adjacent to the desert. I love being able look out my back window into the desert.

My favorite thing to do in the desert is to take dogs out theree let them off leash and then start running. I have never experience a greater sense of freedom then I do the when I run of leash with the dogs out in the open desert. I love watching them fly freely across the sand as they run circle arround me. (Only two the dogs pictured in this post are actualy mine, the rest belong to my friends)

Because it is so flat, open, and free of obstructions there is total freedoom of movement. I love the feeling of not being shackeled to a path but rather being able to just drift along in what ever random direction that my feet choose to take me.

Clutter dominates so much of life, my house, my desk, and my car all incredibly clutter, it is simply who I am. However it is very refreshing to be to go spend time in a place that is so starkly unclutterd. Cloudless blue skies meet seemingly endless open sand. I love the emptiness of it all. I love the fact that I can see all the way into both California and Mexico. After being surrounded all day by so much stuff it feels incredibly good to be in a place that is more ot less empty. This contrast helps restore some balence in my life. Going out into the desert never fails to lift my mood.

Finally one of the other things that I absolutely love about the world just beyond my back fence are the strange flora & fauna that inhabit what at first glance can seem to be a barren wasteland. My favorite plant is the Ocotillo (pictured to right). To me it looks like something straight out of Dr. Seuss, particularly when the flower in spring, when bright orange flower erupt from the the ends leafless thorny fronds. The ocotillo only has leaves after rains, when things dry back up the leaves come off, but seem emerge overnight after a rain.

Another plant that I love is the Creosote Bush. It certainly not the prettiest plant in the world, but it might be the most tenacious. I have read that the creosote can go 3 years without any water, a fact that totally amazes me, how can you not respect a plant that is capable of such a feat. The other thing that I love about it, is the way that it smells after it rains, hence the name creosote bush. It makes the desert smell like it has been freshly scrubbed

Though you seem them only very seldomly I love the animals that inhabit the desert. Like the desert mice that I have occasionally` found swimming in my pool. They look just like regular mice but the have gigantic ears. The desert hares that sometimes blast across my path I as run have ears as long as rest of their bodies. Real life roadrunners are almost as comical looking as the cartoon version. But I think my favorite is the burrowing owl, what is not to love about a pocket sized owl that lives in holes in the ground.

I feel so lucky to live so close to such a neat area, that is also a personal totem.