phoenix

Vortex, S’mortex

It’s Gratituesday! Today I’m grateful to live in the desert.

I don’t often feel terribly thankful for that. Brutal best describes summers here, and sometimes Spring and Autumn, as well.

Feeling grateful for mild warmth, not blasting heat or mean cold.

Feeling grateful!

But today, while most of the country dug out, or slid around or hunkered down in the onslaught of another polar vortex, we desert rats enjoyed eighty degrees. The windows stayed open all day, a breeze tickled the wind chimes, I watered my garden, walked the grand dog after dark without a sweater on and generally enjoyed perfectly pleasant weather.

I don’t say that to brag or to make others feel jealous. I really, truly do feel thankful that I don’t have to endure the meanness of temperatures in the teens. I couldn’t feel more happy that I’m not digging out a car from a snowdrift, or attempting to navigate roads covered in ice and snow.

Photo By Sage Ross (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Photo By Sage Ross  [CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

I spent a few decades in weather like that and it got old. Sometimes I fantasize about living somewhere with four distinct seasons. And then I visit somewhere that leaves me shivering regardless of how many layers I put on and the fantasy goes away for a while.

The icy chill that runs down my spine as I watch the news and weather reports about the rest of the country reminds me how thin my blood runs now that I’ve lived in the desert nearly twenty years. Once I liked the idea of shoveling for the exercise, or building snowmen, or the muffled sounds when snow falls. Now it simply makes me wince.

I planted radish, carrot and lettuce seeds on Saturday. Tiny green fruits grace the four-foot tall tomato plant in my garden. Jalapeno and green peppers ripen for salsa making. The oranges are just now turning from green to orange. And the flowers, oh my,  seem to double in size and amount almost every day.

A day like today serves as compensation and grand prize for enduring the onslaught of summer’s temper tantrum.  A few months of perfection with a few days of chilly and a Phoenix winter sounds just fine to me. Thank you, Typhoon Nuri, or God, or Mother Nature or all three! I appreciate the sweetness of the desert today.

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Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday, phoenix | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Home Again

After my acrobatic stair performance and subsequent recovery, coupled with a too long battle against Zombie’s taking over my lungs, I’m finally back to my morning walks.  I had missed that quiet time, I just didn’t realize how much I’d missed it until I stepped out of the car and set foot on the trail this morning.

Stunning, yes?

Stunning, yes?

The biggest difference? Twenty degrees cooler! Last time I went for a walk the pre-sunrise temps hovered at eighty-three. This morning? Sixty-three! Glorious! Even once the sun’s southern-leaning rays reached my skin I didn’t feel overly warm or wish for a water bottle. Summer seems almost behind us now. (It still hits ninety-something during the day.)

Other differences I noticed included:

'Shrooms!

‘Shrooms!

Mushrooms? Not normally in the desert! But yeah, two major rainstorms, nearly five inches the first time and two inches the second. A year’s worth of rain in one month did a number on our little dry patch of earth. Fungi popping up all over the place.

Green! More than normal. Every plant seems intent on growing faster and bigger than its neighbor.

Fewer rabbits. Not sure why. Too cold? Coyotes perfecting their hunting technique? They’re sleeping in and waiting for warmer late morning temperatures?

Three little birds…singing a sweet song…a melody pure and true.

Three little birds…singing a sweet song…a melody pure and true.

The birds seemed extra cheerful and more willing to sing out. Maybe that’s just a result of being away so long I’ve forgotten their sounds. I think they’re every bit as happy about the cooler weather as any other desert dweller, human or otherwise.

More night herons out and about. I had wondered all summer long if they’d moved on to other feeding grounds forever, but I saw more this morning than I’ve seen in the past four months combined.

Things that stayed the same:

My coyote friend still frolics in the tall brush of the dry ponds and watches from a distance as I watch back. I’d like to think we share a sort of connection, but I’m not fooling myself with that idea.

Yellow hollered for attention, too.

Yellow hollered for attention, too.

That creosote and mingled dust smell still permeates the air. Some people don’t care for it, but to me it’s the scent of wildness and quiet. Some days I go out of my way in the car to drive past with my windows open just to get a whiff of one of my favorite places.

Peace abounds and wraps itself around me as I walk. That, more than any other aspect of my morning ritual summarizes best what I missed the most this past month. Lacking a brush with nature, I stumble around off-kilter and unfocused. It’s not something I ought to neglect.

 

 “This early piece of the morning is mine.” 
~Wallace Stegner 

Categories: Nature, Outdoors, phoenix | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

I’m Walking on Sunshine: Going Solar (part 1)

BY JOEL PETT, Herald-Leader Cartoonist, used with permission.

BY JOEL PETT,
Herald-Leader Cartoonist, used with permission.

Sunshine.

It’s everywhere, especially here in Arizona,. The sun shines two hundred ninety-six days of the year. Yes, that’s 296.

By contrast, the Seattle area, where I lived a quarter of a century ago, gets a mere fifty-eight, yes only 58, sunny days a year. Shiver. 

You’d think, with so much sunshine we’d be completely solar friendly in our state. You’d be correct. Following close behind, surprisingly, is Hawaii. And not so surprisingly, Nevada.

Why do I bring this up?

We had solar panels installed recently. The whole back side of the roof full of the things. No, we didn’t win the lottery, or take out a home equity loan. Nor did we inherit money from some long-lost rich relative. (Sigh.) We’re leasing the panels for less than what we pay the Power Company.

Here’s what our roof looks like now…

photo 1-4 copy 19

8 a.m. and the sun is already tickling the panels which face WSW.

I’m not going to try to explain how it all works, because, frankly Scarlett, I don’t give my husband dealt with the business and science part of all this. I signed some paperwork, read a bit of fine print, and cleaned up the side yard enough so the installation guys wouldn’t trip over the mess.

All I know is the sun shines on our roof, those black panels turn it into electricity somehow, and we have all the juice we need to run our little household.

What I’m really interested in involves a reversal. Yup. A reversal.

Whatever we don’t use of our solar generated electricity gets sold to The Power Company.* Does that sound cool, or what?

I think so.

Instead of us receiving electricity from and paying out money to the Electric Company, in vast enough quantities to fund a small nation, they will start paying us with an annual check. Sounds like a great plan to me!

Whether or not it pans out gets me all excited and curious and a little giddy. Okay, maybe not giddy, but definitely curious. I’ll be watching those meters, reading the bills, comparing this year and last year. And instead of feeling forlorn at another in a long series of unending sun-swathed days I’ll feel happier than a pig in mud on a sunny day.

There’s an 85% chance this will work out in our favor. I like that. Those are good odds, don’t you think?

Saving Money? Yes, Please.

Saving money lights up my happy neurons. And yet we’ll still have enough electricity to keep the house cool in these desert nonsense temperatures, run the frillion computers MSH has amassed, keep the oven baking bread and keep the six-body** deep freeze icy cold. If the power goes out, the entire neighborhood can come on over and charge their phones to their heart’s delight.

We’re waiting for an inspection and paperwork and insurance stuff to happen in the next few days. And then, voilà. We’ll be cooking and cooling with solar.

Now I feel all green and tingly and earth friendly. Come September I’ll kick my desert gardening hiney into high gear and get every one of my raised beds planted with happy little vegetable seeds for an even greener sense of self-sustaining karma.

I’ll keep you updated on how it goes. Good or not so good.

Here’s to the sunshine!

 ~~~~~

Here’s some info you can read if you want to:

Not a solar company –  Will Buying Solar Panels Really Save Money?

Also not a solar company – Do Solar Panels Really Save Money?

Or you can do your own research easily enough, right?

~~~

*Well, almost all. MSH tells me that The Powers That Be work a lot of fine print into the contract, but still… looks and sounds great to me. Like I said, I didn’t read the details and I don’t get the math or the science at all. Over a twenty-year span, we come out ahead.

**When MSH brought home the deep freeze (I thought we were buying a small one) it turned out to be this massive monstrosity nearly the same size as our Toyota truck. I like to say it’s big enough to hold six bodies. So really, we could have a bit of a sideline helping out the morgue if needed. Normally, though, we keep ice cream, roasts, a ham, a turkey and freezer jams in there.

Categories: good ideas, phoenix | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

It Pays to Look a Little Closer

What in the world?

What in the world?

I’ve driven past this sculpture countless times in the past few years since it went up,  baffled and only slightly curious. I’ve even walked under or around it in the past few weeks, but that doesn’t mean I really saw it.

It’s about twenty feet off a main road and fronts a canal with its two paved walking/biking trails. A cop parks there some mornings, either for a donut break or to catch speeders. It’s not really a spot that encourages visitors to sit or slow down long enough to pay attention to it.

Weird!

That’s what I’d think to myself. Until yesterday.

Yesterday I slowed down, wandered around it and took a few photos. I also read the inscriptions.

Turns out it’s a representation of an invention drawn up by Leonardo da Vinci called an Airscrew, kind of an early concept of the helicopter. You can read more about it here and here if you want more details.

Leonardo's sketch of a flying machine.

Leonardo’s sketch of a flying machine.

Several quotes encircle the base of the sculpture. A fun spiral word mirror for the “wings” above the inscriptions. To read each quote I had to walk all around the base. An interesting interactive twist, wouldn’t you say? Here are the three masterfully chosen quotes.

“All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered. The point is to discover them.” – Leonardo da Vinci

 ~~~

“The process of scientific discovery is, in effect, a continual flight from wonder.” -Isaac Newton

 ~~~~~

“For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.” – Leonard da Vinci

This Night Heron is about a foot tall.

This Night Heron is about a foot tall.

Did I fail to mention the sculpture also sits at the northeast corner of the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch? That’s an important detail, I suppose, in coming to an understanding. You see, The Rip, as I affectionately call it, is a renowned birding location. Several rare birds hang out there.  I suspect Leonardo’s curiously odd drawing (and now work of art) of a way to achieve flight serves as an homage to the bird refuge that the riparian preserve has become.

Not only that, but I think it serves as an invitation to discovery and wonder. I’ve logged a bunch of miles over the 110 acre plot of land and have never become bored. I’m always seeing something new or in a different light, always surprised, delighted or refreshed as I round each curve in the trail.

Looking up through the sculpture's wings.

Looking up through the sculpture’s wings.

On researching a bit more, I found out that this sculpture is considered “the crown jewel” in the city’s evolving trail system. Meant to provide shade, a place to rest, and a chance to refill a water bottle at the fountain there, it also invites curiosity and contemplation for those willing to take the time to wonder and pay attention.

Draw your own conclusions and metaphors.

I regret that it took me so long to look closer at this work of art. Driving or walking past, this spiral can now remind me of the possibilities waiting for me along my path, wherever that might lead.

 

The attribution, cemented in.

The attribution, cemented in.

 

 

Categories: Outdoors, phoenix, Wondering | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Smell of Hope

 

Nothing.

Nothing surpasses the scent of rain in the desert.

Raindrops meeting ground smell like hope.

Each droplet washes dust from the air.

Those first tentative splashes

hold every scent the sky has held.

Millions of them combine

to baptize a world hazy with heat and baked too long.

Life pours out of the sky

washing

renewing

cooling

calming.

As clouds loosen their purse strings,

Heaven sighs,

Earth relaxes,

and the two settle into each others arms

like a long married couple.

 

Paths fill with every scent washed from the air,

puddles grow and overflow with evaporated life,

temporary ponds hold every drop of love the sky bestows.

And the land

savors this elixir,

love potion extraordinaire.

Flooded water retention basin after a desert rainstorm.

Flooded water retention basin after a desert rainstorm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I created this poem in response to a writing prompt from WordPress: “What’s your favorite smell?”

The photo I took earlier this week after far too many months of no rain here in the Phoenix area. Normally, this scene is an open expanse of grass, but after an hour of rain, it became a temporary pond, drawing out every desert dweller in the neighborhood.

 

Categories: Hope, Nature, phoenix | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Color My World

I bring my binoculars out walking lately hoping for some fun sightings. I saw a coyote frolicking in one of the ponds last week, but that was twelve feet away. And I’ve heard there’s a bobcat in the area. That’d be fun to see from a distance. And you never know when some odd or unfamiliar bird will be flitting about.

All of today’s delights were up close and colorful. That’s surprising because the high temperatures have crossed the century mark. I think of summer here in the desert as drab black and white and gray. Even the color of sand seems to bleach out in the heat after a month or two. This morning’s walk through the local riparian preserve proved me wrong.

When I saw these tiny bursts of yellow with their brown buttons looking perky and bright I caught myself smiling.

photo 2-2 copy 9These fuchsia blooms won’t last much more than another day in such heat.

photo 4-4 copyLike pearls on a vine, these puff-balls diffuse the sunlight and capture the eye with a humorous elegance.

photo 1-5 copy 3A smallish black bird with christmas red markings under its wings showed up along the trail, but flew off before I could get my camera focused.

Red Penstemon tempt the hummingbirds and brighten the landscape.

photo-24 copy 2This gray rabbit dug a trench in the gravel and cradled himself in its coolness. His coloring and the rock colors match almost perfectly. If not for his face twitching and his dark distinctive ears I’d have missed him lying there. For all the hundreds of bunnies I see every time I walk here, I’ve never seen this behavior before. Reminded me of how a dog will splay out flat on tile to chill its body down on a warm day.

photo 4-3 copy 3Orange makes it mark among pale greenery, showing off in a concentrated saturation of color.

photo 2-3 copy 3The Saguaro are blooming with bright white flowers, still open even in the bright light of day.

photo 3-4 copy 4And here a tree sports yellow puff-balls, like dollops of paint splattered about by a rambunctious child.

photo 5 copy 2I nearly stumbled into a white Egret looking every bit as angry at being spotted as I delighted in sighting him. He stayed put for my photo, so I figure he must have had his eye on a juicy fish or he’d have flown off the minute I walked along.

photo 3-5 copy 2These brown cattails seem so foreign in a desert environment. But then, I have to remember I’m walking in a riparian area, with an abundant and consistent water supply. What a brilliant and delightful way to reclaim water and refill an aquifer.

photo-23 copy 3Green, of course, plays a dominate role along my entire route. Thank goodness for that. I’m not sure what I’d do without green growing things in my world.

photo 1-4 copy 6I didn’t expect to see blue, except for the sky, while on my walk. Blue flowers just don’t occur very often. But then, wandering down to the water’s edge, two fluorescent blue dragonflies chased each other across the water’s surface. Not much bigger than an inch in length, a photo of them wasn’t a realistic possibility. But, I did capture the scene where they played among the reeds and rocks and water.

Every color I could hope for showed up today as I walked. I’d call that a promising start to my day, wouldn’t you?


“I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes.” ~ e.e. cummings

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A Little Bit of Everything Makes it Nice

It’s Gratituesday! Today I’m grateful for the amazing variety I find in the world.

There's nothing like an Arizona sunset.

There’s nothing like an Arizona sunset.

Yesterday MSH and I took a sunset walk through my favorite local sanctuary, the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch. I’d worried it would be too hot, as the temperatures had been in the nineties all day, but a good breeze kicked in and some clouds danced about keeping things pleasant. Add in the shade inherent in the low angle of the early evening sun and we had perfect conditions for a stroll.

I used to walk here every single day for a year or two. I laid claim to certain aspects of the place. I recognized some of the photographers that regularly wandered about. I noticed differences in duck families and became well acquainted with a gaggle of geese that acted like they owned the place. I knew most of the daytime locations of the night herons, recognized shifting water levels, and avoided visiting at times when crowds would be there.

Then life happened and my visits there dropped to almost never. Once every three months or less. Last night I realized I hardly recognized the place, particularly with its late spring green rush making everything so bright and perky.

My walks used to happen in the early morning hours, before the sun even broke across the horizon, so seeing it all in early evening very literally made me see things in a different light.

I couldn’t seem to snap enough photos. From the pink Prickly Pear cactus, to the rare leaves and flowers on an Ocotillo, the variety stood out. Take a look and you’ll see what I mean. Plenty to be grateful for around here, as far as I can see!

The world continues to surprise me with its resilience, beauty and variety. Even in the desert, as the temperatures hover near one hundred, nature delights me with her wonders.

“Variety’s the very spice of life, that gives it all its flavor.” ~ William Cowper

 

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday, Nature, phoenix | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Lizard Breath

We’re gearing up for the onslaught of summer’s heat here in Phoenix. Not a fun prospect, but ways do exist to survive and thrive or at least laugh a little about it.

For instance I snapped this photo last week of a little wall lizard on the outside of my screen door. (I’m sure they have an actual name but I don’t know what it is.)

"Let me in, I'm melting, I'm melting!"

“Let me in, I’m melting, I’m melting!”

 

These little guys are out in force during the summer. From what I can tell they feed on crickets, mostly around the brick walls that encircle and isolate homes in the suburbs.

They don't hold still very long. I was lucky to snap this shot at all.

They don’t hold still very long. I was lucky to snap this shot at all.

My favorite thing to see them do, besides scurrying about is push ups. Yes, they do push ups a la Jack Lalanne. I’m sure it has something to do with heat regulation, or optimizing the shade their bodies create or maybe they’re just into physical fitness. I’ll try to get some video one of these days. Until then you’ll have to rely on your imagination.

The lizards are quite small. Nose to tail they’re only about five inches long.

There are, from a quick google search, approximately sixty lizard species in Arizona. As far as I can tell, I’ve seen one kind. Not so sure I want to meet any of the other kinds. A little too Jurassic Park if you ask me.

What a friendly face.

What a friendly face.

The Geico gecko sounds like a good conversationalist with some wit and snark and might be fun to do lunch with. I’m pretty sure he’s a California lizard, although his accent is tough to pinpoint. You know those Hollywood types…

Speaking of talking lizards, here’s a lizard joke for you. (Laughter is one of our ‘extreme heat’ coping mechanisms around here.)

The devout cowboy lost his favorite Bible while he was mending fences out on the range. Three weeks later, a lizard walked up to him carrying the Bible in its mouth. The cowboy couldn’t believe his eyes. He took the precious book out of the lizard’s mouth, raised his eyes heavenward and exclaimed, “It’s a miracle!” “Not really,” said the lizard. “Your name is written inside the cover.” ~ jokes4us

Did you know lizards can regrow their tails? Yup. It’s a fact. I suppose that’s handy when your tail is as long as your body and tends to drag a bit. Cats, kids and birds all want to grab at you and they’re most likely going to snatch at your tail. That’s gotta sting a bit when it snaps off. I’m sure there’s some amazing biology involved in that whole process.

funny-lizard-bungee-jump

Don’t try this at home.

 

Sometimes I wonder if my cathartic laughter isn’t actually a little maniacal. The heat here wears on a person. Just the thought of the upcoming incessant thrumming of above one hundred five degree temperatures gives me a headache and makes me thirsty.

We haven’t hit the century mark yet, so I’m getting ahead of myself. Seventeen years here and I still haven’t figured out how to do the snow bird thing. That’d be nice. Or boring. Who wants the same weather year round anyway? Oh yeah, Floridians, Californians, Arizonans. Aliens.

randall

Have you ever wondered why so many aliens and monsters are depicted as lizards? Makes me go hmmmm.

I still consider myself a temporary transplant. One of these days I’m packing up and heading for a different climate. Until then, I’ll laugh a bunch and make the best of it here.

And I’ll keep a lookout for aliens, er, lizards.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Fun, Humor, phoenix | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Recipe for Spring

We didn’t get much of a winter around Phoenix this year. I think I covered plants to protect them from freezing one time. I’m not complaining. Flowers still bloom and in fact thrive from last fall’s plantings.

Today’s post is in homage to spring, or what few weeks we have left of it here. It’s not long before the heat locksteps itself into its summer encampment. So I’m reveling in what I can.

If you’re still cabin-bound with snow and ice and freezing temps, maybe this can give you hope of things to come.

Here’s this year’s version of my recipe for Spring.

To one small plot of ground add the following:

photo 2-2 copy 8

Fresh jalapeno’s

Fresh jalapeno’s,

Cilantro

Cilantro

Cilantro

Tomato plants. (These have some petunias nearby for a dash of color and interest.)

Tomato plants. (These have some petunias nearby for a dash of color and interest.)

Tomato plants

Basil, comes in handy for more recipes than this one.

Basil, comes in handy for more recipes than this one.

And don’t forget Basil

I used Romaine, but any will do.

I used Romaine, but any will do.

Newborn tiny lettuces, which hopefully grow quickly before the heat makes them bolt could liven up the flavor of your spring.

Newborn flowers, also known as seedlings if you forget what kind you planted there.

Newborn flowers, also known as seedlings if you forget what kind you planted there.

Add some newborn flowers of various types. (Hopefully, unlike me, you mark which kind you planted where so you know what they are when they sprout.)

Time, patience, kindness, love, they're interchangeable, really.

Time, patience, kindness, love, they’re interchangeable, really.

Mix well and water often and gently.

Bake for a little bit of time and with some patience thrown in for good measure.

Grapefruit, still a few unpicked on the tree, and  their blossoms, bring a particular sweetness to this recipe.

Grapefruit, still a few unpicked on the tree, and their blossoms, bring a particular sweetness to this recipe.

Top off with some fragrance as well, like grapefruit blossoms, which in the evening become particularly intoxicating on the cool air.

photo 4-2 copy 5

Serve on a platter of surprising wildflowers, this pink one showed up among the yellows and oranges, all by itself and makes a sweet addition.

Gnome 1

Gnome 1

What garden is complete without a gnome?

Gnome 2 (they won't tell me their names)

Gnome 2 (they won’t tell me their names)

I added two as a nice garnish.

Bird. This one's pretty quiet.

Bird. This one’s pretty quiet.

Although real birds will visit, I also garnish with a little bird of my own.

Some new leaves on a tree add a nice touch.

Some new leaves on a tree add a nice touch.

Serve alongside anything else you might want to add: new leaves, penstemon, or even a bird bath.

Penstemon comes in many colors, choose your favorite.

Penstemon comes in many colors, choose your favorite.

I think you’ll enjoy this recipe, or any variation you decide to make of it.

Note the bird bath in the corner, attracts birds and toddlers alike.

A bird bath attracts birds and toddlers alike.

You can never go wrong with Spring. It’s fresh, lively, invigorating, and full of hope.

Dig in and enjoy as soon you can!

Categories: Gardening, Hope, Nature, Outdoors, phoenix | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

My Cousin Went Completely Bonkers This Weekend

Last year my cousin ran the Phoenix half-marathon. Which, according to a bumper sticker I bought her, made her only half crazy. You can read my version and/or her version. They’re both entertaining, even if I do say so myself.

This year, she ran the full marathon. That’s 26.2 miles if you were wondering. And, she did it in under five hours!

Pretty impressive! Or full-on crazy.

Training, Training, and Training

Just another early morning for her. We left for the race at 3:45 a.m.

Just another early morning for her. We left for the race at 3:45 a.m.

She logged a boatload of miles while training for this run. There were twenty-mile training runs, eighteen mile training runs, six-mile training runs, all sorts of running happened frequently outdoors and indoors. Imagine running for three hours on a treadmill. Can you say mind-numbing?

Keep in mind that my cousin holds down a full-time job and does volunteer work as well. She woke long before most of us even begin to drop into dream number three for the night. For months she did this! Her dedication and perseverance astound me.

Cheering from the sidelines took on a different feel this year. For logistical reasons I didn’t even show up at the side of the road until mile twelve. Last year at that point she’d be nearly finished with the race. This year it wasn’t quite the half-way mark. I arrived a bit early to stake some semi-permanent one-word signs in the ground. “Breathe” “Smile” and “Stroganoff.”

Stroganoff?

Yes. A story she told me about a friend of hers she often and unintentionally ended up eating stroganoff with. She suggested that before the race my cousin should write “Stroganoff” in Sharpie marker on her arm to remind her of her friend who’d be cheering her on in spirit. So I figured, if I included the word “Stroganoff” in a sign, she’d know the little series of three signs came from me. She said it worked.

I had a fresh water bottle waiting for her and a backpack filled with possible items she might need. The forecast had called for one hundred percent rain, which changes a race you thought would be warm and sunny, into a different animal altogether. Luckily, it only sprinkled a bit a couple of times. The deluge came later, raining out the Cubs spring training game, filling up water retention ponds and raining on various “parades.” But that’s another story.

One of several signs I'd whipped up for the occasion.

One of several signs I’d whipped up for the occasion.  Next time, I’d post some in the ground ahead of time.

I stood with my sign, and a whirligig. Yes, a whirligig. So my cousin would notice me among the crowd. My first sign said “YES YOU CAN.” Many runners say “thank you” when they read an encouraging sign. A couple of runners said, “Yes! I can!” And one said, “Boy, did I need that reminder.”

I made eye contact with some, others were focused, moving forward without notice of anything going on around them. Every face told a story. Some spoke louder than others.

Mile Eighteen

Once my cousin found me and got her fresh water bottle, I got back in my car and headed to our next agreed upon meeting spot, at mile eighteen. Navigating streets blocked off by a race this big takes some planning and luck and some good parking spots. I did better this year than last year.

Many of the same runners ran past that I’d seen at mile twelve. Makes sense if you think about it. The stories on their faces had changed a bit with eight more miles to go. More of them were walking, running slower or at least looked more worn.

The ones that really intrigued me still had smiles on their faces. I’d like to get their stories!

Familiar Faces

I was glad to see familiar faces and relieved to see them progressing. I was caring about these total strangers again, just like last year. Wish I understood that better.

My cousin ran by without needing any water, so she got my cheering and hopes.

Not much past that point she said it got really hard. Walking didn’t help, so she just kept running. I’m hoping she’ll write about her experience and let me post it here. I think her telling this story makes the most sense.

That's here in the pink jersey. Notice the clouds? Not normal weather around here.

That’s here in the pink jersey. Notice the clouds? Not normal weather around here.

I  hustled to get to my next stop near the finish line. I missed her crossing that line last year. Bad planning, heavy traffic, lots of closures.

26.2 Miles

This year I watched eagerly, not just for my cousin, but for the woman in the burka head covering, and the older woman who ran with such conviction and determination it nearly hurt to watch her move. And the woman who ran with a smile. There was a dad whose three young kids joined him for the last hundred yards. Some nearly burst into tears as they rounded the corner and saw the finish line so close.

I wanted to cry and cheer for all of them. What an accomplishment!

That last stretch looked like it hurt. My cousin wasn’t interested in seeing me there. Her focus zoomed in entirely on that finish line and getting her body across it. She managed to give the official camera a thumbs up and a smile as she crossed.

Simply being on the sidelines is an honor. Witnessing such a feat feels like something almost intimate and privileged.

Completing a marathon is an act of devotion and dedication, one involving the heart in more ways than we know. That’s something my cousin has a ton of.

Congratulations, Kettie!

Categories: Exercise, phoenix | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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