The ABCs of Arizona
my home state in 26 letters
A is, of course, for Arizona, an “arid zone” of airports and arachnids. A is for all my adolescence, acne faced boys at AMC theaters, acres and acres of ATV rides, and air conditioned August afternoons.
B is for backflips and cannonballs and dives, for blistered feet and burned-pink bums, beach towels and backyard barbecues and aloe balms to beat the heat.
C is for cactus, coyotes and copper mines, for creosote and citrus orchards and cotton fields, cowboys and cattle farms, and the grandest Canyon of them all.
D is for the desert, dusty and dry but dynamically death defying, and for my Dad, driving down dirt roads and digging up rocks.
F is for our flag, one bright gold star on a deep blue background, striped through like a sunset, cut-and-paste construction paper on a classroom wall.
G is for Gila Monsters, the gentle giants of Arizona’s reptilian world, for gold veins and golden sunsets, for Gabby Giffords and Grand Canyon State generosity and greatness.
H is for heat; fry-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk heat; oven-mitts-in-your-car heat; record breaking, warmer than the Devil’s underpants, heady, sweaty, heat.
I is for the interstates, from I-9 to I-40, blacktop arteries connecting Arizonans to each other, long drives and trucker horns and antelope sightings.
M is for mesas and mountains, monuments of stone, massive megaliths, from McDowell Mountain to the Mogollon Rim, and the monsoons that drench them all when the summer heat breaks.
O is for obsidian, for opaque blades and opalescent carvings, for overflowing truck beds on rock collecting trips and oak cabinets displaying the most outstanding specimens.
P is for poolside popsicles and picnics under the palo verde, for prickly pear candies, peas still frozen and pineapples in packs of ice.
Q is for quail, their quivering lines of babies following quick-skittering mamas and quill-headed papas.
R is for ranchers, for riding horseback over rocky trails, for rodeo grounds and river rafting and railroad robbers.
S is for Saguaro cacti and the Sonoran Desert where they make their home, for scorpions and snakes and sagebrush and for the stewardship of the lands we have been entrusted.
T is for the tastes of the southwest: Tucson's terrific taquerías, tepin chile peppers, tacos and tamales, tortas and tortillas with Tajin on top.
U is for underground, for winding mine shafts and dripping caves, undulating sandstone stripes and unearthed fossils.
V is for vision-blurring vistas and visitors on vacation to vintage villas.
W is for Walapai, for winter snows and winding mountain roads, for Wyatt Earp and the Wild West, woven through our history and whispering into the present.
X is for Saint Francis Xavier, for adobe missions and altarias, tall candles and wooden rosaries and stained glass chapels.
Y is for Yuma, and Yarnell and Yavapai, for local words and ancient tongues, for yellow wildflowers and yucca cactus.
Z is for our one-of-a-kind, only-state-with-the-letter-Z, last-of-the-lower-48-to-join, Zia-records-founding, half-a-dozen-different-bio-zones zaniness.