Arizona—it is like living in a foreign land. Much is familiar, and Prescott is a place I have spent quite a bit of time these past few years in the PhD program at Prescott College. Yet, this time around I feel as a voyeur or perhaps through a more academic lens an anthropologist, studying an unfamiliar culture. I walk around the neighborhood where I am staying with a friend, and I can sense that I don’t quite belong.
I am surrounded by sand and stone, quail and lesser goldfinch, and the deepest, impossibly blue sky I have ever seen.
The corner of Prescott where I am staying is easily the most wild and beautiful I have seen in the part of Arizona, yet my neighbors seem overwhelmed by fear and distrust. I wave at passersby, and they look at me incredulously, as if they are thinking, “what is that strange, tiny woman doing waving at me?” Signs on fenced-in properties read:
Beware of dog
Property protected by security
We don’t call 911 (followed by an image of a pistol)
Parking reserved for varmint hunters (what is a varmint?)
It is disheartening to think that I am surrounded by those who would choose to live in such a psychological prison when surrounded by such unfettered, wild beauty. I wonder if they think I am a threat, this strange woman waving and smiling. Will they call the sheriff on me? Is my smile not to be trusted?
Well, I am stubborn, and so I have continued to wave. Just this past week, I have experienced a breakthrough. People have begun returning the gesture, both from automobile and on foot. Amazing! Perhaps, I can ease some tension with a simple motion.