I was born in the desert. Well, in a hospital in the desert. My mother jokes that the Sonoran Desert is in my veins, so much more than anyone else in her family. I never cried when the clasp of my seat belt touched my skin when they buckled me in, even though it was burning hot in the summer heat. I would sit on the patio during monsoons, safely covered, but staying out as long as there was no lightning.
When that started I would press my nose to the glass of my grandmother’s front window. Watching it more closely than any TV show.
We moved to California and a beach town when I was 3. Summers rarely strayed about 70 degrees, most mornings were foggy and cool. I went from the gritty sand of a desert, to the gritty sand of our beaches – lots of tiny tiny rocks and shell.
I would sit on the jetties and just listen to the waves. I’d search for tidepools to look for anemones.
And every summer, we’d go to my grandmother’s for a week or two. And I’d inhale the dry air, occasionally feel the humidity that meant a monsoon was coming. I’d soak in what felt like home.
And every summer, when we’d leave my grandmother’s, I could feel the ocean calling me home, even as the desert asked me to stay.
It was 115 degrees during my grandmother’s funeral. Standing at the grave, tears in my eyes, the heat burning my nostrils. But it felt like the desert felt the same pain I did, losing her.
Today I was walking across the hot pavement from the house to the garage. Burning heat under my bare feet, and for a moment it felt like the desert. But the sounds were all wrong. The insects, no rock doves cooing. It didn’t burn my nostrils when I breathed in.
One of the hardest things about the pandemic is that it’s claimed both from me. I can’t make the trip to visit my family, since I’m immunosuppressed. I can’t even make the shorter trip to the beach, because people refuse to get vaccinated or wear masks.
But in moments like today, with the hot pavement, I get the desert for a nanosecond. Same as when I wake up and the marine layer’s made it as far inland as I am, and I can taste that slight bit of salt in the air.
And well, it’ll have to do until things get better. So I can stop being homesick for the desert and sea.