JUST WEST OF PHOENIX

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The mountains rise, black and forbidding right at the western edge of town.

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From nicely manicured backyards by tidy suburban ranch houses, the jagged peaks soar.

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There are more Saguaro cacti than there were last time we were in the area. They are protected and seem to be thriving.

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You can see huge saguaro everywhere, from the front yards of tract houses to the desert in the shadow of the mountains. Tall, and strong, with impressive spikes, they do not invite you into their territory so much as dare you to come on in.

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I let my camera do the walking.

THE ANXIOUS TRAVELER

My husband and I take a lot of short trips on our boat throughout the summer. I love the trips, but I’m not a “good” traveler. Despite having traveled a lot in my life, going away for two nights still requires two suitcases and days of planning and organizing.

I envy spontaneous people who can decide on a whim to go away to some exotic place. Throw a few things into a suitcase and take off.

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Maybe they don’t have dogs, kids, or plants. Maybe they don’t have as many cosmetics, skin care products, hair equipment, vitamins, and medications, as I do. (Plus the bite plate that I regularly forget).

Maybe they their summer beach clothes are readily accessible in the dead of winter. Maybe they have husbands who can pack for themselves without leaving half their essentials behind.

Whatever the reasons, I am not that person.

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When I travel, my lists have lists. Footnotes, too. I feel like I’m planning the invasion of a small country. “You – feed the dogs and don’t forget their medicines”; “You – water the plants and collect the mail”; “You – handle the UPS delivery on Friday”. The list of all emergency contacts is on the refrigerator, highlighted in three colors!

Packing is a trauma. I try to take the smallest amount of clothes and jewelry, but that just adds to the stress. I always end up packing a large amount anyway. I do loads of laundry to make sure that everything I could possibly want to take is clean. Then I try to find the minimum number of tops that go with the minimum number of pants and skirts.

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I suck at math so this becomes a very stressful exercise as well. Jewelry selection is another major operation. I try to limit my color palette so I can also limit the amount of jewelry and accessories I take, but then I have to make sure that they will be able to mix and match with all the clothes. I also have to make sure that my wardrobe covers everything from poolside casual to dressy evening as well as unseasonal weather, which has caught me off guard many times. You can see that the complexity can be overwhelming.

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Coming home is also stressful. There’s always a lot of laundry in addition to unpacking and catching up on phone calls and errands. If I haven’t been away for at least a week, it feels like deja vu. Wasn’t I just packing all this shit? I usually manage to relax and have a good time when I’m away, especially when I’m on our boat. Only someone with serious issues would have trouble relaxing there. But when the next trip comes up, my first reaction is still, “Oh no! Not again”.

Then I take a deep breath and start making lists.