Outside my window in Tucson, Arizona, the Catalina Mountains loom, great giants nine thousand feet high, hovering over my day-to-day existence. Millions of years ago, underground forces pushed through the earth. And now, these mountains stand, ageless as love. Often I lose myself in the beauty of the peaks that poke through the bottom of the clouds. Huge, dark shapes rise up and over tendrils of mist that wind through the vales like mountain music. I watch the Catalinas change as the seasons revolve, turning green, brown, and lavender.
When times are tough, I look to the Catalinas, seeking consolation. When my children have problems, I gaze endlessly into their shadows. When my eighty-eight-year-old mother had a stroke, I told the mountains. When my husband developed cancer, I found solace in the image of a cool place above the heat of the desert, offering a stability that eased my worry. One thing I’ve determined, it would take a lot of tears to wear down a mountain.
I believe that the Catalinas hold their own deep-colored magic. Just as life does. Once, in California, my husband and I visited Ojai, a town that celebrates something called “the Pink Moment.” People stop and watch the sun’s dying shafts light up the mountains, a quick, intense shading that happens when a high range runs east to west. I was told this custom of stopping everything at that first moment of sunset came from Himalayan inhabitants, who’d found their way to Ojai. Reason enough for my husband and me to celebrate our own Shangri-la sunsets in Arizona. For only a few seconds, we connect to others in distant places, who watch as swatches of pink and rose wash the sides of eternal rock faces. And we honor this brief blessing, knowing it will fade in just a few breaths.
I’m a longtime student of “being in the moment” during sunsets. I grew up in South Dakota, and it was my job to wash the supper dishes, a chore I hated. That is, it was until I realized that most of the time the sun was setting just as I dropped my hands into the soapy water. Out the kitchen window the plains stretched on, lit with flaming colors. As I swished and scrubbed, I formed a special alliance with the rhythm of day’s end. You can see my affinity with sunsets has lasted a lifetime.
Every day I try to remember to store up the beauty and strength that comes down to me from the mountains. One never knows about tomorrow. I seek to understand and appreciate the pink moments that shade my life from morning to night.
Georgia O’Keeffe once said, “It’s my mountain. God told me if I painted it often enough, I could have it.” And so I borrow her idea. It is my intention to own the Catalinas, keeping them ever fixed in my mind.
I believe in the power of my mountains to teach me strength and perseverance and give my life a needed perspective. I believe I will be in love with sunsets—and my mountains—forever.