Phoenix 1994

I hated Phoenix.

I hated everything about it with the fiery white intensity of a thousand suns – which, not so coincidentally, felt like exact temperature of my car steering wheel after it baked in the 120-degree July heat for eight hours while I typed in a cubicle. (I had to wear oven mitts to drive home.)

I hated the cactus-and-rock yards. I hated the miles of pink stucco houses with red tile roofs. I hated the flatness of the terrain. I hated the way the sun glinted off the cars in the midday sun. I hated that the thermometer rarely dipped below 95, even at night.

Most of all, I hated the dry barrenness of the desert. I grew up in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. My favorite t-shirt proclaimed, “Water is life.” And I lived it. I spent every free minute of the summer swimming and water-skiing and diving and boating in the cool, clean lakes around my home. I loved taking a nap on the floating raft on Lake Johanna and waking up to the sound of boat motors and cottonwood leaves dancing on the breeze. My world was blue and green.

Until my new husband and I accepted a job relocation to Arizona. Then my world was orange and red and brown. No green. No blue.

Just a smear of ugly.

Friends who grew up in Phoenix tried to convince me of the dessert’s beauty. They took me to Sedona. “Isn’t it beautiful?” they would sigh as we drove past grotesque mounds of exposed rock.

No. To me, it looked dead and hellish and like God threw the leftovers of sin here and let them rot.

They took me to Pleasant Lake, a man-made reservoir north of Phoenix, hoping to assuage my desperate thirst for water. I found a muddy brown puddle set in the middle of more cactus and scrub bushes, with dead trees on the shores. It was neither a lake nor pleasant.

To be fair, this was my first real time moving away from home. I wasn’t just dealing with a new climate. I was trying to cope with a new marriage and a new job and a new life, even as I mourned the loss of family and friends and familiarity. And water.

I didn’t see how I would ever find comfort in the desolation. How could this be home? How could I relate to people who planted saguaro in their front yard on purpose? How could I cope with being inside all summer due to the blistering heat, with the thought that I would be wearing flip-flops and tank tops and still sweating in October, with the blisters on my thighs from those sneaky sizzling seatbelt buckles?

And then we moved. Eight months after we moved to Phoenix, Corey’s company offered him another job relocation – this time, to (blessed, green, temperate, seaside) San Diego.

I wish I had known Phoenix was only a season. Maybe I wouldn’t have complained so much. Maybe I would have enjoyed the adventure. Maybe I would have looked for God in the desert instead of always and only looking at me.



  1. This post CRACKED me up!! This is where I live. I grew up about 45 minutes from downtown Phoenix so the dry desert is home for me. A job transfer to me and my husband to Minnesota. So it was the opposite for me. Having snow in May - YIKES!

    Hope you are feeling well - time is coming soon to meet your new wonder :-)


  2. Mauritania was like this for me, except without the AC. It was a really rough transition from Oregon. We lived there nearly 6 years, and I did sort of get used to it, but never entirely. But I had great friends there. People made it worth it.

  3. You need to save this to read one snowy March day!

  4. My parents have a house in Tucson (snow birds). I love the desert for a time. It does have a beauty all its own, just like the Midwest has its own beauty. I love to feel the dry warm air when I get off the plane, just like I love the smell and feel of the coolish/balmyish smell-of-the-ocean air when getting out of the San Diego airport.

    My grandparents had a house there first (also snow birds) and they did plant a saguaro in their front yard on purpose.

  5. I grew up in the desert on the CO/UT border, sandstone heaven. We had scorpions, lizards, Indian Paintbrush, twisty cedars, and single digit humidity.

    I miss that environment desperately. There is something almost hyper-spiritual in the stark, wind-carved landscape of monoliths and canyons.

  6. I cringed when I read this! It sounds horrible and I probably would have hated it as much as you did! But what a lesson learned!

  7. I remember when I visited you there. I read an article in the newspaper one morning about how a boy had fallen on his ashfalt driveway and gotten third-degree burns.

  8. You and me, we're the same. I would've wilted in Phoenix as well. My Phoenix 1994 equivalent was Wichita Falls TX 1996. I wished it away. It only lasted 4 months & I knew it was temporary--which I think fed my unwillingness to find one thing about it that I liked.

    It's actually encouraging though to look back 15 years and realize I've come (by God's grace) a long way on the path toward contentment & have learned to enjoy the gifts when (& where!) they come.