Awe and Fear – An Introduction

I’m here! I made it to Tucson.  After a slight hiccup in which we had to deplane and replane a different plane in Minneapolis, I have arrived.

Last night, before we all crashed from travel exhaustion, we drove up to the Tucson Mountains to scramble up a field of rocks and watch the sky change and the clouds roll in as darkness settled over the desert.

I was not expecting to be as excited and exhilarated by the landscape here.  Imagining the harshness of the desert made me nervous.  I’m used to my relatively wet, relatively cold East Coast mountains which roll into each other and confuse my friends from Colorado who can’t figure out the difference between what we call a mountain and what we call a hill, and don’t think our mountains qualify as mountains anyway.  I’m used to feeling nested between mountains, contained by them.  Here, the mountains seem to punctuate the vast openness.  They jut up out of the flat plane, and when you go up to the top, you look down the other side at more vast openness.

I sat there, perched amidst red mountains and cacti, watching purple rainclouds meet pink sunset clouds, and then one of our teachers said, “Good thoughts to all those who are trying to cross the desert tonight.”

While preparing to come here, I had a difficult time with the paradox that kept presenting itself as people constantly told me about how beautiful it is here at the same time as I read about how many people die trying to get here.  I was particularly struck by that last night, as I found myself caught up in the joy and awe of seeing this landscape, while also trying to imagine what it must look like to embark across it on foot, without the shelter of an air conditioned building with a running tap to retreat to.

I think this is going to be a semester of paradoxes.  Let the grappling begin.


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