Southwestern Exposure -

A single phone call transported me from my Beacon Street loft apartment in Back Bay, Boston, to the wilds of Flagstaff, Arizona, the "gateway to the Grand Canyon." In those realms, the Painted Desert unfolds in translucent layers of pink, blue, yellow, and lime into the horizon; the sublime Ravine beckons, the pine forests shelter coyotes, moose, wolves. National Parks proffer suggestions regarding what you might do should you encounter a mountain lion. The town featured a ruddy sandstone and brick Victorian hotel with a circa 1950's lounge, and the University sat at the foot of the San Francisco Peaks, blue or pristine

 white as the seasons changed. A formidable railroad bisected the town with its lonely night whistle. The skies were huge, and the stars closer than they'd ever been. Having braved a terrifying plane trip, Quentin experienced some newfound freedom on the hillock outside the pink-and-purple apartment complex, and fiercely maintained his patch of land against any hapless prowlers who might have misguidedly wandered over to hunt an insect.

As you descend from Flagstaff toward warmer climes, heading toward Tucson, the landscape starts to transmute into an otherworldly zone of red stone and cacti: giant green cacti bristling with spikes, small, fat cacti erupting in bouquets of bright flowers, prickly pears, the favored cuisines of the wild javalinas. A far cry from Newbury Street and Kenmore Square! It was a magical place. However, like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz or Dr. Joel Fleischman, I knew that one day I would return home.