January, 1995. “Today, I went for a walk. I was searching for something and I needed to release the tension that comes whenever I think about the abuse. I found what I was looking for in a scrubby, dense Palo Verde. Two saguaros, each a foot high, grew in its shade. It was a nurse tree.

In the desert, the shade provided by nurse trees gives moisture to germinating seeds. Desert soil is thin, rocky and sparse in nutrients. The debris from the trees and other plants which grow underneath their limbs enrich the soil. Those few, square feet of shade become a sanctuary, an entire microenvironment of plants and animals.

One of the saguaros was near the trunk of the palo verde. Years of slow growth from now it will push through an embrace of spiny branches to tower over the tree the way an adolescent boy, on his way to becoming a man, does his mother. At that time, the intimate arrangement of tree and cactus may seem haphazard unless the observer understands their history. It is the safety provided by the Palo Verde that enables the saguaro to grow.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Back Again

In order to develop an audience, bloggers are advised to be consistent.PutIT OUT THERE. None of this splayed helplessly across the road of stuff that comes into your life business which is distracting. The business is writing.

So, where have I been since October, 2010? Splayed helplessly across the road. I will explain.

That was the month Dwight and I spontaneously and with little thought to consequences made an offer on a rambling, and well known family home in Lehi, a hamlet of northwest Mesa. When the deal fell through because our realtor faxed the offer to a wrong number, I was glad. After twenty years in a home I loved, there was no move on my horizon. I would enjoy my eucalyptus tree and Catalina Mountains for a good long time.

Then we discovered the deal fell through and my intrepid spouse made another offer which took.

There were reasons to move: to be closer to my elderly parents; it was a good place for Dwight the Beekeeper’s bees andbee stuff; there was enough room for everyone to have a bed when they came home for Christmas. Lastly, there was an undeniable, overarching, voice that said Rene and Dwight, you are supposed to be there now, so get going.

The deal closed in December and we officially arrived in March after a hundred back and forth trips between Mesa and Tucson relocating bits and pieces of our lives.

After 40 years, it was tough. I went to Tucson in 1971 to attend medical school and never left. It’s where I practiced medicine, married, had my children, made friends, and finally, finally, after a decade fighting it, learned and loved the lessons of the Sonoran desert.

But I am here now, and it has been over a year and there are still unpacked boxes and pictures that haven’t found their places on the walls. But this is what we have done.
Our new home has two stories and a basement. Having had two surgeries on both knees, I saw my future hobbling up and down stairs with a great likelihood of tumbling head over heels, so we put in an elevator. Yes, a true elevator. You close the door, push a button and up you go. Or down. When I told my just younger-than-I brother, Mark, he immediately told me about an elderly couple in Florida who had an elevator, got trapped inside, had no telephone and died.

“Want to go for a ride?” I asked. He took the stairs. It was scary, though, when the elevator phone stopped working and it took six months to figure out why.

“You better take your cell phone,” Dwight said.

Unfortuantely, I am cell phone challenged.  I can’t find it 90 % of the time and when I do, it is usually out of charge. Fortunately, there were no mishaps with the elevator even though I experienced a kind of horrified thrill every time I got on. Sometimes, I took our cat, Zipper, with me for company in case I got stuck.

Now, I live on three levelsin this house  and have wondered if it is metaphorical. Id, ego and superego? Mostly, it is three levels of forgetfulness. I’m convinced the vacuum cleaner grows feet during the night and travels. It’s always somewhere besides where I last left it. My cell phone does the same thing. It’s very strange.

All of this has been to let you know why I was splayed helplessly on the road of “stuff that comes into my life” and got hit by a semi. I did not know how hard it would be to leave Tucson.

What I miss about Tucson are the lessons of survival that came when I needed to know about survival. It is how the Palo Verde lose their tiny, tic like leaves during drought, and how they return after rain. It is how, on hot summer afternoons, Gambol’s quail dig depressions in the dirt and hunker in and stay cool. It is how the mountains rise to the sun every day, and though shadows come and go, they are resilient and unyielding.

The lessons here in Lehi are different. Here, the top soil is five feet deep and irrigation waters the citrus and greens the lawns. The message here is about growth, I can feel it when I look out the window of Purgatory 2.0, a small room on the top story where I work on my book. I see massive trees that have been attached to this earth as long, or longer than I have. There are birds and nests and tiny eggs. I have zucchini, tomatoes and a crowd of sunflowers in my garden. Oak trees brought from Texas by my Uncle Tam who built this house give deep shade where I have put a cement bench that offers a place to sit and experience the quiet energy of growing things.

Before today, I could have blogged about the move. Why didn’t I? All those old reasons that once kept me from writing came back and stopped the flow like a head gate against the rush of water.

The blank page is intimidating because it demands truth. Of how much I loved the .86 acre of desert land in Tucson that had a big eucalyptus tree. Of the friends we had and the gentle, enticing routine of our days there. Of the home we transformed and made lovely and inviting. Of the rugged pull of memory and affection back to what we knew, and the uncertain push to what was ahead.

Moving causes a shift in identity. I am those deserts and mountains and now I must transform, rewrite, change. Now I am about Lehi and I can feel it coming, the blessing of this place, so I place myself among other growing things to be favored by the sun, good soil and water.

This is a notice of site change - I'll be going to a new URL and would love you to come with me. It is www.thenursetree.blogspot.com.  You will notice the similarity to the current site. This is all about Google.


  1. Welcome to Lehi. Your blog is well said about change and growth, and facing a new life. It hold a tone of hope for the future also. Glad I stopped by.

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  3. Living in that home attached me to the roots of all of that growth. I could never change the irrigation gates without feeling the earth's memory of my father and grandfather doing the same thing. The large sycamores that I love so much were planted by my grandpa and father when my dad was just a boy. They looked eternal to me and the interweaving of the generations grew my soul. The pear tree my boy planted for me as a Mother's Day gift stands besides the trees my father and grandfather planted.

    Although I had to move away from those roots, your moving in allows those roots to stay connected to the family. I love you being there and hope those trees, aloes, and berries will be as healing for you as they were for me.