LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Where The Skies Are Not Cloudy All Day

I’m home from a visit to Tucson, Ariz., where, indeed, the skies are not cloudy all day, just about every single day. I visited lifelong friends, Marilyn and Paul Ohm, who have lived there for a couple of decades.

The sun shines and the sky is blue, and it was already getting quite warm. It was pleasant, but I confess I could not bear the intense heat that is fast approaching, and I need the four seasons such as we enjoy on the Great Plains.

I first knew Marilyn and her son, Paul, when I was growing up in Slope County as Marilyn and her then-husband Durwood ran the funeral home in Bowman, N.D.

Paul and I used to play piano duets at their house and get into any number of silly escapades. There is a special connection between us that has endured for 40 years.

Marilyn is retired, and Paul is the principal at the inspirational Ocotillo Learning Center. Much to my delight, the next evening after my arrival, I was able to attend the annual school carnival with him, where families gathered for fun and food and the warmth and sense of caring that exudes from his school was palpable, so much joy and commitment from everyone there. I participated in the cake walk, something I’m pretty sure I’ve not done since I was about 8, and I won a creme-filled cookie and the giggles of the kids who were playing alongside me.  We were even so goofy as to have our picture taken with the Moana headshot setup.

My friend Paul has a most impressive collection of vinyl and some very fine audio equipment.

The next day, I took my first Lyft cab ride and went on over to the campus of the University of Arizona for my amusement and education. Just like magic, I tapped on the app on my Google Pixel phone and six minutes later a car drove up to transport me to the beautiful campus.

After a career in academia, I’m drawn to college campuses and enjoy the energy found there. Naturally, I went straight to the library, where I had a lookie-lo and then I walked across the patio to the special collections library to peruse an exhibit there called “Visions of Borderlands” and do some of my own research (which I will write about in a forthcoming blog post).

Lunch at the bustling student center and more walking around the campus took me for a visit to the Center for Creative Photography, which displays original prints of the inimitable Ansel Adams and other preeminent photographers.  Finally, I walked to the Arizona State Museum, where I paid $5 and practically had the place to myself.

The museum film was an overview of 10 Native American tribes of Arizona and New Mexico, and the large galleries highlighted each of these tribe’s arts and crafts and lifeways.

While in the Sonoran desert, I was captivated by the succulents, whether in bloom or not, and these were a favorite subject for my photography.

The next day was another Lyft cab to the old Presidio for a walking tour, lunch at a charming Mexican cafe, and Good Friday services at the St. Augustine Cathedral, followed by a welcome swim in the pool back at my host’s.

Saturday, we journeyed to visit nearby Agua Caliente and an enjoyed an Easter meal at a neighbor’s home. The ranch house at Agua Caliente was marvelous and reminded me of the Lyndon Johnson Ranchhouse in Texas.

Easter Sunday found us out for a late brunch and was mostly a rest and relaxation day, savoring each other’s company and the quiet of Paul’s patio.

On Monday, Marilyn and I climbed into Paul’s Honda for a drive west of Tucson to the Tohono O’Odham reservation for a visit to the Tohono O’Odham Museum and Cultural Center near Sells, Ariz. We passed Kitt Peak Observatory and while at the museum, we admired the sacred Boboquivari Peak in the distance.

Tuesday was another drive, this time to Green Valley to see another friend, a retiree living in that area. Together we toured Tumacácori National Historical Park, which sits at the cultural crossroads in the Santa Cruz River Valley and is a wonderful example of a Catholic mission. Here I took some of my personal favorite photographs.

Later it was lunch at the Wisdom Cafe which served excellent margaritas, followed by a stroll through some of the fascinating shops of Tubac.

Turning back toward Tucson, I ended my day with a visit to the breathtaking Mission San Xavier del Balc.

What a wondrous country to explore is the United States and the Southwestern desert is among its treasures.

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