Sunrise at Tumamoc Hill, Tucson, AZ. Photo by author.
Mary emerged from the west that night. She traveled the Tucson Mountains, following the dusty hillside paths carved out by mule deer and javelinas. Her sights were set on Tumamoc Hill, a distinctive butte on the western edge of the city. Named for the regal horned lizard in the O’odham language, the hill was now, ironically, crowned with spikey antennae and transmission equipment. In spite of the added eyesores, the hill retained an unmistakable presence. When Mary arrived at the trailhead gate just after midnight, Tumamoc indeed rose like a regal being before her. Mary bowed and whispered the ancient greeting to this old friend.
Tumamoc Hill overlooked the Tucson Basin, a great earthen bowl framed by mountain ranges that hugged the horizon in every direction. Over millions of years, the landforms here had been molded by massive volcanic events and tectonic dances. The basin more aptly might have been named a cauldron or womb, as some of the most unique lifeforms of the Sonoran Desert made their home here. It was precisely in this basin that present-day urban-dwellers sprawled out into the desert city of Tucson. They filled every nook and cranny and even started to build up into the sides of the mountains themselves. As the city-goers hustled and bustled through daily life, ancient memories were still flickering. An old story still unfolding beneath their feet.
So it was that Mary waited that night on the edge of the great basin, by the trailhead gate at the base of Tumamoc Hill. Guadalupe wasn’t here yet. She was late. Across the street shone the brightly-lit hospital complex named after Mary herself. Beyond the reach of the hospital’s glow, the land was blanketed in the rich darkness of the new moon. On a night like tonight, the only way to navigate the climb up the hill was by the subtlety of starlight and the good sense of sure feet.
Mary sat on a boulder. She stretched her arms up and yawned. Her veil dropped to the ground and she shook out her hair. A slender, brown checkered nightsnake dropped from under her garment and landed at her feet. She bent over and affectionately guided the snake onto her right hand. It traveled up and curled around her forearm. Such simple details—veil, hair, snake—but the makeover was dramatic. She went from the classically contained Mother Mary to a Mary who would surely elicit a double- and triple-take from any passerby.
Even before Mary spotted Guadalupe bounding up the sidewalk, she knew what had detained the Madre. No doubt Lupita had walked through all the old barrios, visiting every shrine, every mural, each roadside prayer stop on her way. Who could blame her? This was, after all, the Land of Lupe. How could she not stop at each and every place where the longings gathered?
Guadalupe’s familiar voice broke through the quiet night.
“Ay Cabrona! You couldn’t even wait for me to get started! Mírate! Ya estás practicamente bichi con la víbora vibrando!”
Mary chuckled. In spite of her youthful appearance, Guadalupe cussed like an old crone who just couldn’t be bothered with propriety.
“Hello to you too!” Mary called out. “If you hadn’t noticed, you’re late!”
They both laughed, walked up to each other and embraced. They pressed their foreheads together and lingered here as they breathed in each other’s scents, delighting in the pungency of their different flavors.
“All jokes aside,” Guadalupe explained, “there were a lot of prayers left out for me tonight.”
“I know,” Mary whispered, squeezing Guadalupe’s hand. “I can smell them in you. I can smell them in the air.”
Guadalupe nodded. “The longing is building.”
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