Sense of Place in the American West

Sugar Loaf Peak

Where we live informs our character. What follows is a collection of essays and haiku that recollect places, spaces, landscapes, and experiences that come together to help inform a sense of what it means to live in this place we call the American West. 

Essays and poems were written by Arizona Western College students in Spring 2013 for the class, Literature in the American West.

Sense of Place: A Rare Rain in the Sonoran Desert

Aug 14, 2013

  Mid-September, monsoons, warm weather, sand and rocks, mountains and me. I step out of my car into the light rain drops falling down from the stormy sky, cool on my skin. My Adidas Kanadia Trail shoes are ready for this hike. I decide to take a different path rather than my usual, today. 

  I take a path that has not been walked by thousands of people. I take a path that is ridden with rocks and cacti, where there is no specific walkway. I begin walking and go in the direction that my heart directs.

Sense of Place : The Day the Burro Sang

Aug 9, 2013

It was a nice spring day, although I am not sure of the year, I do remember that it was clear and warm that day. My parents and I had taken a weekend trip to Laughlin, Nevada for Mom and I to sit and watch the wheels turn in the slot machines, while Dad would take in the sites that were offered by the city of Laughlin for those who did not enjoy dumping their money gambling and spending endless hours enthralled by the lights flashing and hoping for that lucky spin. By Saturday afternoon, my Dad informed us that he was tired of watching Mom and I play the slot machines so, despite a little protest from us, we decided to do some sight seeing.


Sense of Place : El Camino Del Diablo

Aug 9, 2013

If there is any place in the American West that I have a connection with it would be El Camino Del Diablo, The Devil’s Highway. The highway started as a foot path first traversed by Native Americans leading them from water hole to water hole across a vast dry desert. Later, the first Spaniards used this trail to come across the desert to California in search of wealth. The highway was introduced to me by my father when I was a teenager. The part of El Camino Del Diablo I know is from Yuma, Arizona to Lukeville south of Ajo, Arizona, but there is more to the highway than this. The best time to travel it is in the spring. Winter can get below freezing. Fall you don’t know if it will or won’t rain and the summer is too bugging hot to be out there.

Sense of Place : Heaven in the West

Aug 9, 2013

The smell of freshly made beans and the sounds of drums in the air, the beauty of seeing the sun rise in the mountain and seeing it set with all of its glorious colors that captivate the human eye. This is the place in the American West that has connection to me more than anywhere else I have ever been or read about. This is the land of the proudest people I know, and is full of history that one cannot ever stop learning. This is my home, The Kwat’san Tribe Reservation; this is my heaven in the West.

 Audio FileHeaven in the West by Joslyn Van WeyEdit | Remove

Sense of Place : My City, My Home

Aug 9, 2013

Bright lights, busy streets, and a fast pace are all things you would not normally think of when you think of the American West. Well, all of these words describe San Jose, CA to the tee. When I think of the West, I picture lots of dirt, abandoned businesses and cars on main roads, and old plastic bags drifting through the wind. Though that is probably what most of us think of, it is not always the case.

 Audio FileMy City, My Home by Diana San JuanEdit | Remove

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