Under the Palo Verde Tree

Under yellow blooms, falling from the green skinned Palo Verde tree, we stood close and quiet enough to feel connected to our surroundings. Harmonious low coos from nature’s song left a buzz on top of the hot Arizona sun. Beams of light cut through the umbrella of branches, painting dabbled light patterns across our bodies. Heat resonated, simmered in a transparent haze above the ground. We were far behind our employer’s house, behind the fence we were building, taking yet another break from swinging the pickax, shoveling the rock, hammering in the posts for another, just one more kiss.

His scent was a mix of sweet pollens and sweat, of the pumpkin seeds he chewed on like tobacco, of the earth he dug. Behind his eyes was a sweeping wind like the ones in fall that make me feel alive. My nose brushed his neck inhaling sweet ginger and carrot under desert creosote bush, the kind that we hacked down all day digging the trench.

Black hair folded across his forehead, hazel eyes gold in the reflective sunlight of the Palo Verde, and though under the care of lengthy black lashes, never closed. Mine never closed. We touched lips, timeless in the spirit of nature, in the spirit of mammal.

Our first kiss, was just a week ago, a wanting test of our affection, warm, risky, but never more real, more long-term, was it true love? We rode our bikes to and from the workplace. We started projects together on the site. He started looking out for me.  On the way home, we wandered down the side streets, riding the trails in the foothills of the Superstition Mountain Range.

We turned down a sandy wash. Mesquites and Palo Verdes lined the edge. It was shade. We dropped our bikes and before falling for a rest, he reached for my arm, drawing me close in one swift lift, picked me up in his arms, and cradled me like a baby. “Oh my…” I whispered, and went to raise my arms, but he quickly tucked them near his chest not letting me move, and teased, “Here, this is what you need. You need to be taken care of.”

“What!” I squirmed, trying to put my feet down, but he gripped tighter.  I couldn’t move and relented under his unbreakable gaze. “There now,” he said full of smiles and antagonizing, “I gotcha right where I want ya.”

“Oh, you’re shameful!” I kicked my leg up and he wrestled me to the ground in a laugh. I opened my mouth to bite, but he stole a kiss.  I said, “Well, how about we take care of each other.” He pressed his weight against me. I had no words. They left me, yep, they were gone. The sand was warm, he was warm. It was golden light under the Palo Verde again, just when their blossoms fell.

The Palo Verde glowed in chartreuse reptile skin. The afternoon was drifting. He lifted himself and energetically asked, “Want to hike up?” tilting his head to the top.

“Yea,” I said. “Let’s go.”

It’s at least an hour across the base to the first real section of elevation gain. We watched each other against the terrain. We spent time absorbing. The great boulders around the base are fun to skirt about when he jumps to the top and back down before I ever come around the trail curve. We laugh.

It was two hours up the flat faces of rock, along the trails, and back country, until a third of the way up, begins a boulder climb. The boulder staircase is lined with wildflowers, succulent groundcover, and every crawling thing. It’s a wild desert museum. The Superstitions are an ancient space of land of the Apache Americans of the indigenous Pima Tribe.

Every step of ground feels secret. Nature sees. I have felt the mountainside have eyes when I was alone and my spirit active. It is full of legend, spiritual connections, even unsolved disappearances. It’s a place that’s said to harbor a gateway to hell. It’s rumored to hide away stone treasures, gold mines, even possess haunting winds and storms.

He and I would climb up the westward facing peak, out to the point, circle the top and run down. Other times, we head in through the north or south edges, work our way along the back valleys. The last hour of this climb, we boulder hop and rock scramble to the top. There was a thin vail of horizon light dissolving into the night, the last kiss of day in the twinkle of a sunset, seeing over the valley lights under all the blackness of sky and stars.  Perhaps, this is one of those separation of worlds, a portal to the supernatural- a view of love. 

I touched his face, “Your eyes are as black as the ground, you are an animal.”

“You’re the animal,” he laughed, “Come on, let’s find a place to lay down for the night, I’ll get a fire going. We’ll eat breakfast in the morning at work.” There was a patch of trees between a few boulders to block the wind. He laid against a rock, I laid against him, and we watched the fire until it kindled coals. I prodded, “I see how you want to love me, you’ll be that passionate for a while, and then all the little things will come, and we both know that it’s just easier to love during those times, than fight to be loved, right?”

He taunted, “No. that’s not how it works with true love. It can work like that, but for us it will always be easier right here, now, being together, choosing us. We can be together in anything. This is the moment we sustain, even when we fight, when we have nothing left to give.”

I knew his words were possible. He claimed to have possessed my heart, and he did. It was easier to be alone, but he reached in the sea and pulled up my soul. That’s how I felt on the mountain, like an exposed soul, even now, he strips me of fear, and in his eyes I am naked.  Sleeping at the top, close to the stars, I consider the next wanning conversation before sleep, “Is it not strange how, and when, and why people fall in love. Have we fallen in love?”

 “Yes, I mistakenly tripped over foot and landed in your lap,” he bantered.

“No, you did this on purpose,” I flirted, one eyebrow up.

“Maybe I did,” he drew near, “You are my choice, my lovely one, my beauty!” he exclaimed in exultation, embarrassing me in front of the trees.    

I turned to him tenderly, “You are mine, my loved one- always.” He snuggled in and said, “When you find true love, it transcends your point of view of all loves, that’s what happened to me. When people say they are in love, even the foolish, the blind, the fallen. I tread easier. We don’t have all the answers on why we love who we do, now do we?”

“I have the answers,” I lifted my nose pointing, “…You.”  

The bosom of the mountain cradles the happenings of faith and love, war, and betrayal. It is in every fiber just as if walls could talk, the mountainside shudders at the falling stars. The bosom of love is a nation of people all understanding heritage, some from places we haven’t connected with for a long time, each having their voice reminding us of who we are, reminding us to try again, to hike, to love, to hold secret the ground we walk, what’s been given us, what landed in our lap.

A year later, we exchanged vows under the Palo Verde tree in our back yard with yellow blooms stuck in my hair. We awaited the first kiss of marriage, back in the moments when love dwarfed the world. Today, our entire universe is love. Nothing exists without, the us, when after deep sacrifices and heroic acts of kindness cause war promises to just somehow make love more secure, when sweet eyes and ease have the power to melt a heart, when we all still choose to love, even when it’s not a choice anymore. It’s our choice to cradle, to sustain each other until love is one of those days under the Palo Verde tree, sunny, lime green, and blue.  

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