Full Title: Under Sonoran Skies: Prose and Poetry from the High Desert
Author: Patricia Noble, Larry Sakin, Susan Cosby-Patton, Kay Lesh, Bill Black, Jeanne Burrows-Johnson
Publisher: Self (2011)
Number of Pages: 249
How long it took me to read: 1 month, 1 week, 5 days
Where I got this book: Uncustomary Book Submission
Like a Moth to a Flame
I loved the idea that the core six writers from a writers’ support group in Tucson, Arizona decided to take action and publish a book together. And although I had never heard of the Sonoran Desert, I’m absolutely in love with the dry heated embrace of sandy seas and wanted to experience this one’s personality.
Whittling 14 down to 5…I propose that the top 5 quotes from this book are:
5. “Think what you want
And live as if it already is.” ~Health, Wealth, and Happiness, Patricia Noble (p.111)
4. “When it comes to relationships, men generally bury the hurtful aspects in pockets of the soul until they churn their insides to rage, blowing up like an Improvised Exploding Device, causing heart attacks, strokes, or malevolence against post offices. Women choose a healthier path. As they take the first tricky steps into new relationships, they reveal their anger, disappointment, and imbalance to men in mental and emotional stripteases.” ~Adventures in Middle-Aged Dating, Larry Sakin (p.71)
3. “…the difference between courtship and marriage is the difference between the pictures in the seed catalogue and what actually comes up.” ~Mysteries of Marriage, Patricia Noble (p.86)
2. “A day lily whispers an evening song
While a dandelion sprout hums along,
A little off-pitch, slightly off-key,
Wishing he knew the melody.” ~My Patio, Susan Cosby-Patton (p.30)
…and my pick for the No.1 quote is…
1. “For my angel must be a tested angel,
not for me, a gossamer gowned, untested purist.
Give me a tried angel,
an angel whose silver-stranded, tangled hair
slips beneath a tarnished halo.
Only an angel who has struggled
to reach the heavens can carry us both
when I am too bruised
to remember the prayer.” ~As a Jewel in the Crown, Susan Cosby-Patton (p.173)
Words are wondrous creatures. Put them together and they paint a picture. Rearrange them and the scene changes. But to be able to see what they are saying, we must first know what they mean.
New Word: moribund (adjective)
Definition (Source: WordBook iPhone App): 1) not growing or changing; without force or vitality; 2) being on the point of death; breathing your last
Synonyms: 1) stagnant
Origins: 1721; about to die; from French ‘moribund’ (16c.); from Latin ‘moribundus’ dying; from ‘mori’ to die (see mortal); figurative sense of near an end is from 1837
As in: “We played at the official state theatre, which was a moribund venue with lousy acoustics.” ~Courage, Camille, Larry Sakin (p.20)
New Word: rivulet (noun)
Definition (Source: WordBook iPhone App): a small stream
Synonyms: rill, run, runnel, streamlet
Origins: 1587; from Italian ‘rivoletto’, diminutive of ‘rivolo’; from Latin ‘rivus’ stream, brook
As in: “The channel pathways are rivulets no more…” ~Time’s Shadows, Jeanne Burrows-Johnson (p.58)
New Word: inveterate (adjective)
Definition (Source: WordBook iPhone App): habitual
Origins: 1528; from Latin ‘inveteratus’ of long standing, chronic; past participle of ‘inveterare’ become old in; from ‘in’ in, into + ‘veterare’ to make old; from ‘vetus’ (gen. ‘veteris’) old
As in: “Owners’ names and descriptions of their horses were showcased in advance to curry the interest of participants and the public—especially the town’s inveterate gamblers.” ~Yuletide in Tucson, Jeanne Burrows-Johnson (p.127)
New Word: transmogrified (verb)
Definition (Source: WordBook iPhone App): change completely the nature or appearance of
Synonyms: metamorphose, transfigure
Origins: 1656; apparently a perversion of ‘transmigure’; from transmigrate
As in: “No, this was a DIY project, a last intimate moment with my transmogrified dad.” ~Final Wishes, Larry Sakin (p.133)
New Word: arroyo (noun)
Definition (Source: WordBook iPhone App): a stream or brook
Origins: a waterhouse, dry streambed; 1845; a California word; from American Spanish; from Latin ‘arrugia’ shaft or pit in a gold mine; apparently a compound of ‘ad-’ to + ‘ruga’ wrinkle
As in: “Like a pale bird it gracefully drifts across the naked arroyo.” ~As a Jewel in the Crown, Susan Cosby-Patton (p.173)
Conversation with the Reader
While I read, I write, and as I write, I read. Here’s some of what I wrote while I read this book:
“It’s not easy for me to begin reading a book of poetry. Poetry wastes no time drilling into the depths of the caries I desperately pretend are just stains. It has a way of crippling my defenses and ripping open my heart to the meanings between the letters. It stirs the poet within me whom I keep heavily sedated with a cocktail of denial, refusal and greed. But once I rip through the painful hymen of this artist’s fears, the bondage of the little ‘i’ unravels and I feel myself soaring the heights of my poetic skies. I’ve never been to the Sonoran Desert; I wonder what the skies feel like there.”
“Cosby-Patton’s depiction of whiskered carp madly devouring the stale bread city gawkers toss into the waters for their momentary merriment has made me think about how we tend to push and pull at each other for our share of the stale bread that we’ve somehow convinced ourselves is in finite supply. Why is it so easy to settle for the scraps that make us so miserable that we eventually have no desire to remember how to smile?
“I’ve had my fill of stale bread. I’m starting to experiment with my own recipe for fresh, fragrant, fruitful bread. Best of all, I’m willing to share with you not only a sampling, but the recipe too, so that you’ll never have to worry about not having enough again.”
“Cats are the most vicious creatures. They’re insolent, arrogant, and audacious enough to have shed all fear of humans. The least they could do is be grateful that some (of the crazy) among us haul cat food and poopy sand home from the store on a regular basis. But no, it’s all about them.
“When I was little, I had a cat. I had a shed of cats, actually. There was a big tool shed at the back of the house we moved into on Marlborough Avenue when I was about eight or ten. That was before we moved to Chippendale Crescent. (I’ve always wondered how our childhood addresses mold us into adulthood.) A few hot kitty mammas must have moved in before we did because it seemed like we had a fresh litter of kittens mewing late into the night each month.
“I would pop in every so often to see who was available to play with me. This, of course, was much before the steamy smell of cat pee bothered me. Because I wasn’t allowed to have pets, I would lock little Bob or Petunia out of the house at night and he or she would, I assumed, find the way back to the shed. But the inevitable day came when I fell in love with a particularly petite pussy and adopted him (or her) as my own. That relationship lasted about 3 days, and then the hideous child next door stole my kitten away. I remember walking up to her door, knocking, and having her greet me with my little darling in her arms, all the while denying she’d ripped its tiny skeleton from my sticky embrace.
“I walked home crying, the afternoon sun baking the humidity into the dusty crust on my skin, vowing that that was the last time I would let a feline into my life. A bee stung me a week later, and my relationship with animals just spiraled from then on.
“My grandmother insisted on adopting the neighborhood stray once we moved to stripper lane, but I just couldn’t see past its insistence on shedding and licking itself in inappropriate places. I may or may not have snipped all his whiskers off one day in an attempt to even them out, but I honestly had no idea that meant he would end up walking into walls for weeks after.
“The point is, I can’t walk by a cat without mentally insulting it (only because it insulted me first). And I have publicly hissed at them, but for that I really have no excuse; it’s just my primal response to evil. So Susan, I’m afraid I’m with Kim on this one. He’s actually much more patient than I would ever be if a kitten were hanging from my lower lip with its sharpened claw while I drove down the turnpike. The beast would be learning to fly as soon as my one-touch power window opened wide enough.”
“Is Starbucks really to blame for the diluted state of society? Of course not. But it’s certainly proof that something’s wrong. The aroma of aggressively roasted beans and the dimly lit cherry wood laminate floors used to fill me with the kind of excitement that I’d only feel around the holidays. Now, all I smell is the stale paper cup melting into the soulless brew the indignant barista slides my way. The art of coffee is dying, along with quality TV.
“The worst part about the cheap substitute that is reality TV is that it’s around because we’re keeping it around. It doesn’t create opportunity; it immunizes the imagination. The lazier we become, and the more we convince ourselves we don’t have time to seek out the stuff of life that really touches us deeply, the worse things will get. So Larry, I completely agree with you. We must be living the real life version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers because the only alternative is that we’re to blame, and there’s not enough Starbucks coffee to drown that reality.”
“Oh Kay, how I feel your pain of standing in line at a government office, waiting for a case worker to call out your number. How I understand your sense of helplessness of wanting to aid and advise the impatient and tired around you as their sticky children wail and smack their little hands on chip-encrusted floors. How I remember the cold sweat of fear trickling down my back as I waited in line to take a test to prove I’m ok while clutching a folder of documents that proved I’m real.
“But what I don’t feel is your patriotism. I don’t expect public services to be there for me just because they should be. I don’t find comfort in believing a system is supposed to exist that supports its people in need. I’ve learned a deeper meaning of ‘knowledge is power’ and life’s trained me to be prepared for the crazy around each corner. Sometimes it’s been that unnecessary document or those extra fifteen minutes of reading the instructions over again that has gotten me to the next step in my journey. I’ve learned to speak only when spoken to, to be polite and calm while under scrutiny, and not to say more than what’s needed when asked a question. I’ve learned, in my own way, what ‘country’ means, and what ‘humanity’ represents, and how to reconcile the two for long enough to remember that it all works out in the end.”
“How many Bessie Lincolnfelters are there in this world? I have a feeling quite a few. A few of them are in their 90s, some more in their 80s, but most are probably somewhere in their 30s. For those of you who haven’t met Bessie, she spent her whole life doing the right thing for her family, while struggling to earn a college degree so that the ‘Real World’ would accept her. She finally earned her diploma, only to realize that it was no longer relevant to the ‘Real World.’
“I don’t know what school teaches us, except about how to follow the herd. If you’re part of the herd, then that’s not such a bad thing. But when you can’t stomach the thought of becoming part of routine protocol and you won’t spend more than a few months wading through the expensive mindlessness of standardization, what’s a Bessie to do?
“It’s one thing to have a dream and work your whole life to achieve it. It’s quite another to drop out of the cafeteria line of life and resolve to do more. There are days when I put on my Bessie Lincolnfelder costume, but the more times I forget to wear it, the more uncomfortable it gets when I zip it up again. Maybe it’s all of those ‘Real World’ calories.”