I inch my way north on Mesa Dr., repressing the urge to plow through the orange cones blocking an empty lane. If you're an AZ resident you know that the never ending road construction makes you want to jam a tranquilizer into your inner left thigh. But I usually say no to drugs (except for Ambien at girls camp), and treat my road rage with a natural dose of happy place distraction.
I look away from the red F-350 ahead of me, whose bumper sticker reads "God Bless John Wayne," whose driver I want to strangle for driving like a student driver, whose driver has, in the last two minutes, slammed on the brakes more times than the number of stars in the sky. Happy Place. Happy Place. I remind myself as I look to the east side of the street.
On the corner of Glade, a woman is standing small against the broiling sun, her onyx hair neatly coiled into a bun, which rests against the white rag hanging from her neck. I glance at my car's thermostat, 109 degrees. Then I look to the woman and watch her stretching to prune the top of her bougainvillea. One by one, the fuchsia blooms fall to the ground, quivering against the heat rising from the busy street.
The red truck ahead of me moves forward, and I follow it. Now I can see the backside of the woman and the rest of her yard. There's a sky blue Cadillac resting on cinder blocks, and oil smears across her driveway like black mascara after a good cry. The hay-like grass has grown barren from the heat, from years of neglect, from life. The woman and her bougainvillea are the only things thriving in this yard. Everything else rests six feet under.
The two of them look radiant together. She prunes, and the bougainvillea takes on a sleeker silhouette. Then I think: God will never let her bougainvillea die. Everything else may be dead in this woman's life, but not her bougainvillea. Like Moses and his burning bush, God talks to her while she prunes. And every time she looks at the flowers reaching upward, she's reminded that He is there, waiting for her to take in His love.
I look in my rear view mirror and all three of my homies are fast asleep, sweat beading on the tips of their noses, their heads resting on the next one's shoulder. Head shoulder. Head shoulder. The pattern repeats, forming a perfect row. We are still heading north on Mesa Dr. and a black Subaru has replaced the red truck. We're almost to 1st Ave when I'm startled by a loud "ding-dong." My heart is pounding as I remember, for the bazillionth time, that years ago my sister-in-law programmed the Mesa temple's location into the car's navigation system. Every time we pass the temple, we hear a resounding "ding-dong," and I always forget it's coming.
One of my homies awakens, and like a Pavlovian reaction he blurts, "The temple, Mom!" and I watch as his head slumps back against the headrest, his cherubic face relaxing as sleep escorts him back to his afternoon nap. "Yes," I say. "There's the temple," quietly thanking God for this beautiful life.