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Dear Governor Ducey,

As you know, I grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah. I left for Reed College in Portland, Oregon, and stayed there for a couple years after I graduated. I returned to Utah for PhD school which is where I met my husband Erik and had my daughter Zoe. My first professor job was for two years in Michigan, then I took the job here in Flagstaff. Except for Utah, I’ve lived in Arizona the longest. I compare Arizona and Utah often. Is Utah more beautiful or Arizona? I just came from the middle of Utah where I hiked along Calf Creek, Carcass Creek and Sand Creek. There are creeks in Arizona, but the closest one to me is Oak Creek, and it’s too crowded to walk along for very long. We did just backpack along a creek in Arizona over spring break, so maybe it’s not a competition between state beauty so much as a competition of which creek occupies my short-term memory.

But compare I do, especially in this particularly droughty time. I would argue that Torrey, Utah, is drier than Flagstaff, even with its many creeks. It must have snowed more thoroughly in Utah to make the creeks run as fully as they did, but the minute the snow evaporated so too did every other ounce of humidity. It was hard to breathe, it was so dry. My nose was stuffy. My throat hurt. I drank five Mason jars full of water on Saturday and still went to bed thirsty. We went to Torrey because the forests in Coconino County are closed, even the forest behind our house. I knew I depended on the forests for dog-running and hiking but also just for the feeling of living in the forest. Flagstaff seems extra small when it’s circumscribed by “Do Not Enter” signs.

In Torrey, we could run the dogs wherever we wanted, even though there aren’t enough Hydroflasks in the world to keep our thirst quenched. The corners of my mouth are cracked. The skin around my eyes is dry. My feet have turned hobbit. Still, the forests aren’t closed, so it doesn’t feel as dire as it does at home.

Whether Utah or Arizona, either is used to dry. Utah’s the second driest state in the country, next to Nevada. Arizona is only wetter because of predictable monsoon storms. As we get closer and closer to that climate model that says the U.S. Southwest will suffer megadroughts and may even some day become uninhabitable, I think to the Portland I used to live in and dream of so much abundant water.

In Portland, the constant rain was the thing to complain about. People love to complain about the weather and, of course, people live in the Southwest for the abundant sunshine. We love what we hate and vice versa.

So it’s true of government. I was just thinking how some people don’t mind what’s happening in the presidency because they see it as a sign that the government was stupid and a waste of time and money anyway. I, as indicated by these letters, although on the other side of the stupid-government argument, am not entirely happy with government, especially as it is in Arizona, or Utah for that matter.

It’s petition season, and a man approached me in the parking lot to ask if I’d sign his petition asking to put on the ballot no new taxes. I told him I like taxes. See that school over there? That road? The clean air? Tax me more! I tried to send around a petition that asked for more taxes on the super wealthy to add more funding to our schools. Some people brush me off. They don’t want anyone to pay more taxes and, therefore, they like the government that prevents people from paying taxes.

This love-hate relationship with the government is like our relationship with the weather. We love the thing that troubles us the most.

I don’t quite believe the rhetoric that we need to be a less divided country if we’re going to ever have effective government. I don’t feel very generous to people like you who are gutting our education system and separating kids from their parents at the border. And yet, I do think we have it in us, just like we have it in us to live in extreme weather. I’m back in Flagstaff. It’s a beautiful day today. And yet, I still hope for rain.

Nicole Walker is an associate professor at Northern Arizona University, and is the author of Quench Your Thirst with Salt and a collection of poems, This Noisy Egg. She edited, with Margot Singer, Bending Genre: Essays on Creative Nonfiction, and is the recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment from the Arts. The thoughts expressed here are hers alone and not necessarily those of her employer. For more letters, visit


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