Arizona and Ancient Greece are separated by thousands of years and thousands of miles, but there is one task that makes Greek mythology an Arizona reality in this modern age and season.
It is found in an annual duty that takes many new desert dwellers by surprise, fresh from their boasts to friends who remain in colder winter climes.
Be honest… how many times have you taunted friends still living in Chicago, Minneapolis or Omaha with this articulation of the obvious: “We don’t have to shovel sunshine when it’s wintertime in the desert!”
True enough, but another seasonal assertion fails the credibility test.
It goes something like this: “And another thing… we don’t need rakes in the desert because there are no falling autumn leaves.”
But many newcomers soon discover that they need at least one rake… and maybe a few more.
Fall may not bring falling leaves, but summer certainly brings falling pods…at least for homeowners who choose to plant mesquite trees on their property.
And because of that fateful decision, those property owners soon discover that they have sentenced themselves to seemingly ceaseless summer days with rake-in-hand, gathering pods-on-ground.
Age and circumstance provide an interesting paradox in the human condition.
School kids, when engaged in the routine of academic pursuits, find themselves gazing out classroom windows, imagining their post-educational “classroom-free” future. Adults, engaged in age-appropriate “responsible-but-not-enjoyable” tasks, find themselves recalling lessons from their school days, freeing their minds from the physical drudgery in which they’re involved.
Personal experience, amidst the picking-up-of-the-pods, prompted a recollection of the fate of Sisyphus.
If you’re in need of a brief refresher on this particular figure in Greek mythology, here ’tis: Sisyphus was a king and because he cheated death twice, Zeus punished him by forcing Sisyphus to roll a huge boulder up a hill — only to see it roll down each time it neared the top — and to repeat that action for all eternity.
Okay, okay, so picking up mesquite pods isn’t an eternal fate… it only seems that way.
Visitors, be advised: in the Arizona desert, those “lazy, hazy crazy days of summer” aren’t lazy or hazy… but if you have mesquite trees, they will drive you a little crazy.
The above is offered as a “public service” for those considering a move here.
But in research conducted exclusively for this column, a constructive use for mesquite pods has been discovered, which may strike you as a bit cra…ahem…different.
An October 2009 article from the Associated Press, still found on the website of “The Christian Science Monitor,” heralds the culinary value of mesquite pods, saying that in the Southwest, they’re a “tasty treat.” It goes on to claim that they are “now being added to smoothies, breads and pancakes.”
Prominently mentioned in the 2009 AP story is the Tucson-based group, “Desert Harvesters,” or DH, as the organization calls itself.
A visit to the DH website reveals updated language that is certainly palatable to the “politically correct.” While acknowledging the help of area tribes and thanking them for access to traditional homelands, Desert Harvesters also “acknowledges our on-going commitment to un-learn and help change colonial behaviors.”
But apparently no serious effort has been made to “un-learn” the colonial behavior of promoting commerce. A link to the DH virtual store promotes a cookbook for the “pre-order special price” of $35, and also invites the seriously committed to take one-hour “group walks” for up to a dozen people and costing $150.
There are discounts for “nonprofit organizations and indigenous people purchasing for educational purposes.”
The noble purposes of the Desert Harvesters, despite a rhetorical seasoning that is heavily “woke,” may soon receive wider circulation. If supply lines continue to slow and food shortages become a reality in this country, mesquite pods may soon find a use in a kitchen near you.
But if you believe that argument can be advanced while the pods are still falling and store shelves remain fairly well-stocked, you might as well look for beachfront property in Yuma — roll a heavy boulder up a steep hill time and again in truly Sisyphean fashion.