Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sin Town to Saint Table

We returned to Tombstone this past weekend. We have finally had a weekend where we were all together and the temperature outside was cool and not half a degree cooler than the surface of the sun. We went back to see some of the sites we failed to see on our first visit several months ago. We had the good fortune to have guests along for the trip, Trish and Trish.
Big Trish has been Trish's mother all little Trish's life. We met them the first go around in Arizona through Savannah's soccer team. We had had them over to the house for dinner and Savannah had spent some time with little Trish doing Girl Scout activities. Since we have returned to the valley Trish and Savannah have been running around together. It was nice for Savannah to have a companion and Traci and I had another adult around to chat with.
We booked a hotel in Tucson and drove down to Tombstone, arriving just in time to see the gunfight at the OK Corral. The actors portrayed some of the conflicts leading up to the big shoot out, reminding everyone in the crowd of the debauchery filled and lawless town Tombstone had been. The Earp's shot everyone then we went for dinner.

Just before dinner we toured the Birdcage Theater. The ghosts were not active at that time. There were many bullet holes in the ceiling, walls and bars. The place has been kept in a state of limbo between disrepair and condemnation. Water stains covered the ceiling. Historic artifacts crowded the walls and display cases. It was a little rambled together with interesting items on display showing what it may have been like to be in the middle of a game of faro or poker with Wyatt Earp or Doc Holliday. The Black Moriah, the horse drawn hearse responsible for carrying nearly all of the dead to Boot Hill, was tucked into a corner. The gold leaf slightly peeling and the black curtains around the glass encased truck made the vehicle more ominous, as though it still carried the dead today only wasn't moving.
Dinner would have been better from the microwave in our house. The adults left with turning painful stomachs. The children seemed pleased with the meal. We drove back to Tucson for the night, stopping by Dairy Queen to cleanse the filthy taste of dinner from our not so distinguishing palates.
The next day we ventured out into Sabino Canyon, most likely named for the sabino grasses that grew there at one time and are now extinct. The canyon followed a wash through desert landscape at the base of Mt. Lemmon. A tram took us to the end of the canyon road where we got off to play in the trickling waters of the wash. The rain season in the desert had been light this year laving most of the waterfalls and stream beds to be either dry or pitted with small pools of water. We splashed and swam in these pools with saguaro and prickly pear cactus dotting the dry brown landscape while bright blue skies dotted with puffy white clouds filled in a picturesque backdrop. The kids stripped to their near bare nothings, jumping and chasing each other through the water. Savannah and Trish wandered a little deeper into the canyon and took pictures of their explorations. We hopped on the tram, tired and damp and went back to the car.

After a late lunch we contemplated driving home. Several old Spanish missions were in the area and we decided to drive to the closest one to see if we would have time to tour it. As we left Tucson headed south on I-19 a glowing white building appeared to the west. The unobstructed desert sun shining down on the bright white building made the illusion of the walls of the mission giving off their own light. We were impressed.
We pulled into the parking lot facing the mission with accordion music coming from a nearby building, the smell of frybread, crowds of people and children, and the church, a bright white structure with a beige relief adorning its facade. The bright blue sky with its scattered white clouds added a sense of drama to the scene. A small hill with a white cross at the top drew its own trickle of visitors.
We approached the church with reminders to the children of respect for the many observers of the religious rites practiced in the church. Inside worshippers were seated in pews and a line filed past a statue of Saint Francis laid out on a table and wrapped in a sheet. The people kissing and hugging the saint as they passed and pinning hospital bracelets, rosaries and flowers to the sheet. Traci and I later confessed to each other the statue had the appearance of a mummy from the end of the line at entrance to the sanctuary. We had stepped in line to see the ornate statues and alcoves in the sanctuary only to see this ritual of passing by the saint and offernig blessings to him. At one point a man lifted the statue giving the saint new life, the billowing sheet breathing for the saint. The sanctuary was adorned in colors and statues the saint rested quietly on the table as we passed neither breathing nor offering comfort.
We photographed the building, exploring its museum and various buildings. The mass was starting so we decided to head back to Chandler. We drove through a light sand storm turning the bright blue skies a dusty brown, filtering the sun to a faded orb in the sky. We made it through the storm in time to see the full moon rising in the east. We returned to our home and prepared for the coming week of school and work, having had another great adventure.

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