A Hidden Gem

On the East side of Tucson is a hidden gem of a park called Agua Caliente. It’s got a great history of families who lived there, changes they made, both brilliant and not so brilliant, and peaceful home to birds, critters, and water inhabitants.

It’s green, and lush with a spring-fed and city water reinforced pond providing a healthy habitat for turtles and little fishies. A favorite walking and picnic spot for couples, families, school groups, and solitary walkers. When we go for a lunch time picnic and walk there’s usually a large group under one of the huge trees with coolers of food, little kids running around and reaching for snacks, tablecloths on the picnic tables and balloons tied to branches proclaiming “This is a superb party spot.” 

Walking back through what I call the cloisters arch of mesquite trees the park changes abruptly. It opens up to two sandy ponds-still popular with turtles whose heads pop up like small dark corks as they navigate over to the water’s edge where we sit on a bench.

The Surprise

Out of the corner of my eye I see a blur of colors moving steadily around the pond. It’s a little hilly so the swirl rises up and down. When I turn to focus I see a young, very slender girl, probably about eleven, at that awkward growing stage, but moving with a certain grace. Attached to her long skinny arms are gossamer butterfly wings, really big and a rainbow of colors outlined on the edges in black. Her arms go up and down as she takes long strides enhanced by glittery silver sneakers. Right now they’re on feet too big for her body, but I know she’ll emerge a beauty. Long straight brown hair almost to her waist lifts and swings at the ends as she moves. Bless you, mother or father who let that hair grow and grow and didn’t give her the short haircut that’s “easier to care for.” My eyes, head, and body turn and track Butterfly as she flies all along one side of the pond before she slows and then stops, the hair, arms, and wings gradually obeying the law of gravity. Then she walks on and out of sight. She was a gangly girl with a hint of grace. 

Later she walks back past us sans wings.  “Hey, what happened to your wings?” I call.  

“Took ’em off,” she replies, kinda sassily, as she turns and looks right at me – gray eyes straight at me. But when she turns away, her hair swings gracefully just a bit down her back before it settles up against her girly blue t-shirt again. The butterfly will emerge at just the right time.

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s retired from professional writing gigs after 30 years of teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. In retirement she writes to inspire, to connect with folks, and for the pure enjoyment of it. Ethel enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Zoom gatherings, and anywhere there’s a Zoom mic.