Posts Tagged With: desert

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

A Certain Angle of Light

photo 3-5 copy 4Moisture pushes ahead of the straggling remnants of hurricanes limping far inland from the Pacific, bumping up against the northern and eastern mountains.

photo 1-5 copy 6A traffic jam of clouds fills the sky with swirling masses of whites, grays and blues.

photo 4-3 copy 10Cloud sculptures twist and swirl while light plays a melody in concert with the sound of distant geese calling out their imminent arrival.

photo 2-4 copy 3Dozens upon dozens of rabbits rush around drawing too much attention to themselves,  making use of the cooler morning hours.

photo 1-6 copy 3Sun breaks through the tangled muss of fluff with bits of light but little color.

photo 2-3 copy 5

Small birds twitter, tap, chatter, sing, peep, mimic, flit, flutter, flap, hum and tweet.

photo 4-5 copyLarger birds sit in silent patience.

photo 3-6 copy

A pair of hawks sweep low and silent along a path searching for the unaware and unwarned.

photo 1-5 copy 6I walk, finding more than animals, birds, sky, water, shades of green.

photo 2-2 copy 22I listen for solace and a different kind of silence.

photo 5 copy 4I look for something within myself as I walk the dawn.

photo 1-4 copy 20Thoughts clarify with each step I travel through this oasis.

photo-24 copy 29I gather courage and hope as I pass the creosote, palo verde and acacia.

photo 4-4 copy 2Each morning I claim sanctuary, and emboldened, face the day.

Categories: Nature, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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

Categories: Nature, Outdoors, phoenix | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Target Practice for Birds

Lovely shade tree with potential messes abounding.

Lovely shade tree with potential messes abounding.

Bird droppings! One of the hazards of a lovely shade tree that covers half of your driveway.  Installing a bird bath with daily fresh water probably adds to the number of birds that visit my yard and tree and consequently, my red vehicle. I know, I know, six months ago I had cleared my garage enough to park my little truck inside it. But we got a different car and MSH (and, yes, I) have once again helped fill up most of the garage, this time with an ancient couch we recently replaced with a newish one.

Looks like a fierce specimen, yes?

Looks like a fierce specimen, yes?

As I was hosing off some bird deposits from my car today, the spray ricocheted off the windshield and gave the cactus a pretty heavy pelting. A small bird head popped up among the spines and gave me the evil yellow eye. Clearly he or she meant to indicate ‘I’m an idiot getting the nest and resulting eggs inside wet and could I move on to doing some other chore.’

Apologizing to the bird, I aimed my hose a different direction. I did my best to avoid disturbing the cactus and said nesting critter while finishing my little chore. After polishing up the windows of the car,  I explored a bit to see if I could get a good view of the nest. On closer approach the bird flew off to a tree two houses down and looked on. Old nests and new nests look the same to my untrained eye and that cactus apparently serves as a roost for many a bird, or it has at some time.

Not sure if this is the current nest or not.

Not sure if this is the current nest or not.

I want to know how they, the birds, manage to fly in and out of that prickly, spiky, spiny spot without getting impaled. Seems downright impossible if you ask me. Do they have special radar or something? Or does getting poked and pierced multiple times a day come with the job description?

Look how sharp those needles are! Ouch!

Look how sharp those needles are! Ouch!

I’m going to avoid sermonizing here. I’m not even going to mention the parenting parallels. No symbolism, nothing at all. I’m simply wondering how birds do it. I guess I could Google it, but that would take away some of the mystery and the magic of nature that I so adore.

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

The Persuasion of a Cool Breeze

It’s Gratituesday! Today I’m grateful to have stepped outside two nights ago and felt actual cool air. I know in most parts of the world that’s a normal occurrence. In the Phoenix area it only happens for about five months of the year. After the summer’s onslaught of daily blast-furnace heat followed by evenings of sweltering baking, a cool breeze in the evening amazes and soothes.

Flower sad

(Photo credit: @Doug88888)

When the cooler weather arrives, a morning walk could happen without a bottle of water as a basic survival tool. The cobwebs get cleared off the front porch swing and long evening chats can happen again.

There’s a lighter quality to the oxygen in the air, a weight of oppression lifting. Hope returns that once again the park will fill up with people playing  games of capture the flag, soccer practices, tag, frisbee and lacrosse.

In a few days the air will begin to fill with the October smells of overseeding for winter lawns. Steer manure is the seed cover of choice around the valley. Things smell like a million head cattle drive moving  through for a few weeks. But after a brief spell of that malodorous scent on the breeze, grasses will green up in a riot of brilliant color. Flowers will burst out in a song of relief. Kids break out of their air-conditioned confines and populate the neighborhoods once more.

The idea of a walk in the moonlight no longer oppresses but instead sounds delightful and romantic.

With cooler air that blue hue in the sky just feels lovely instead of boring and repetitive.

To be honest with you, a few weeks ago I thought about moving. The idea of leaving this wretched heat played with my heartstrings in spite of the people attached to them. Now that the coolness, at least evening coolness, has arrived, I think I can stay.

English: Fishhook Barrel cactus (Ferocactus wi...

I’m pretty sure, in spite of the portent of milder weather and loveliness ahead, that deserts weren’t intended for human habitation. And yet, we as a species continue to insist on living  in them. Why do you think that is?

Is it like the mountain thing? We climb it because it’s there? We live here because we can? Do we always have to pick up the gauntlet when it’s thrown down at our feet? Could we just pick something in-between-ish for a change?

Or is that giving in to something, fence-sitting somehow?

I haven’t figured it out yet. I’m still not sure why I’m here after all these years later. Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad I’ve been here. Mostly. What an incredible sixteen year ride it’s been.

Still I wonder how I’ve managed to get through that many summers. And why I continue to stay.

If I had the choice would I go?

Maybe.

Depends on if the breeze blowing through my cropped hair was a warm one or a cool one.

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday, Nature, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Weather, I Like It or Not

Tornado sirens keep going off in my head.

Nope, I don’t live in Oklahoma anymore.

All the noise and turmoil jostles me from the inside, mostly in my head, but my stomach seems involved as well. This happens sometimes in the summer, at least it does here in the desert.

Maybe my body and brain attempt to hibernate like those frogs from around here that emerge for a brief season and then burrow underground until the next wet season. Unfortunately that’s not an option for we humanoids.

English: cloud and rain, weather forecast symbol

Cloud and rain, weather forecast symbol (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hibernating sounds delightful doesn’t it? Sleep for three to five months while the land bakes, crackles, pulls away from the edges and curls up in tight little fists. I’m certain this climate wasn’t intended for human consumption. Look at how many hoops we have to jump through to make it habitable. Miles of canals, cavernous wells, refrigerated air, draining a river dry before it reaches its final destination.

Clearly the heat plays its games with my neurons, my electrolytes, my sense of well-being. Surely I’m a snow bird with a need to fly north with the spring winds, then waft back on southern breezes during the winter months. Can someone please tell my bank account about my true nature and needs? Being stuck here in 110 plus degrees turns me into a pillar of salt as I look back at all the moderate, temperate, reasonable places we’ve lived. Even twenty below winters sound mild in comparison to this silliness.

I recently spent three weeks up north in cooler country, admittedly mostly indoors. But, it was still gloriously cool in the evenings, reasonable in the daytime, tolerable any time. So, coming back to the desert has thrown my body into conniptions.

I’d forgotten that taking a walk any later than eight in the morning might result in a daylong headache. It had slipped my mind that stepping outdoors for a breath of fresh air might not smell the least bit fresh. Burnt and over baked and ozonated, yes, but fresh, no. I had easily let the hard truth of endless summer filter out of my consciousness.

Stepping off the plane into the physical onslaught of oppressive heat, even in the relative shelter of the temporary hallway from plane to terminal, left me feeling drained of energy and instantly tired. My very cell remembered, even if my head forgot, that desert summers suck the life out of a person. Literally and figuratively.

Sorry for being such a downer today. The transition has been a brutal one. And that’s WITH a great air conditioning system.

This time of year the seven-day forecast teasingly shows pictures of clouds with raindrops. Then, in the fine print below the cloud something like “10%” or “20%” shows up. They call that a chance of rain. I call it teasing. I call that false advertising. In fact, it’s downright mean.

English: A example of Cumulus congestus which ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many mornings I wake to billowing cloud formations tinged in pinks and corals with a promise of moisture in the air. I’ve learned not to fall for the ploy. Late afternoons do something similar with huge plumes of clouds over the distant mountains taunting and laughing with the potential of a downpour. The clouds lift to dizzying heights, establish an anvil shape and collapse into a dry, hot wind and then disappear.

I think straight blue sky is easier to take than those pretender clouds. At least with blue you know where you stand. Heat, all day, no matter what.

Sure, someday the cool weather will arrive. Someday after Halloween usually. And by cool I mean high temperatures that don’t breach the one hundred degree Fahrenheit mark.

Kids come out of the woodwork on a day where the temps are under one hundred. It’s the jackpot, the lalapalooza, the signaling of the end of cabin fever days stuck inside with recirculated air and inactivity. I can hardly wait to see frisbees soaring, lacrosse sticks flying, children on the playground, night games in the park and pickup football scrimmages.

Even more I look forward to planting my fall/winter garden.

It’ll happen. Eventually.

Until then I watch.

I wait.

I hope for rain.

Categories: Mental Health, Nature, Outdoors, The World | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Thousand Different Colors in One

Baja California Desert in the Cataviña region,...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once in a while the incessant heat of the desert southwest surprises me. Those incredible dust storms that approach like something out of an apocalyptic movie! Skies that sometimes open up as if Niagara Falls has been rerouted directly overhead! Lightening that flashes then becomes the sound of the earth cracking open and rolling in an ominous wave of booming vibrations.

And there’s sometimes a rare day of soft misty rain that lightens the air and sets the scent of creosote wafting about. Not at all desert-like in its gentleness.

You see, the desert seems made of extremes. Incredibly hot in the daytime, even in the winter, and chill you to the bone coldness at night. Then Summer sends its death rays beating down, threatening any and all. Even summer nights press in and slow bake a person to a parched muddled mess.

20130731-154317.jpg

Desert Sage blooming like gang-busters.

Just lately, in the past day or two, and for a week or more, the desert sends surprise gifts to those who are paying attention. Venturing down almost any road you’ll see bursts of lavender and purple, nearly iridescent and glowing with saturated color. Desert Sage has popped and fills a bush to overflowing masses of tiny buds, almost completely obscuring the green bush it grows from.

Other flowers are blooming, just not in the shouting, hog the limelight way that the sage is doing. The purples act like highlighter on a page, pointing out the good stuff, the memorable, the positive.

Every plant sighs out a breath of beauty, a whisper of hope, a mantra for life.

Seeing such abundance amidst the oppressive center of summer provides an emotional cooling. Amazing what a bit of color can do for the soul.

What colors light up your day? Do you even pay attention to the colors around you? Or is your life all black and white and gray? The unique narrator in Markus Zusak’s YA novel The Book Thief sees life in colors beyond imagining. (Read it and thank me later!)

“People observe the colors of a day only at its beginnings and ends, but to me it’s quite clear

that a day merges through a multitude of shades and intonations with each passing moment.

A single hour can consist of thousands of different colors. Waxy yellows, cloud-spot blues.

Murky darkness. In my line of work, I make it a point to notice them.”— Markus Zusak

Desert Sage Bloom

Desert Sage Bloom (Photo credit: lowjumpingfrog)

I think I need to open my eyes more often to the color and variety of everything around me. It’s easy not to notice. It takes some conscious thought to pay attention and see the extraordinary in the everydayness around us.

“Every hour can consist of a thousand different colors” he says. I’m not sure I could count that many in one hour. Perhaps I, too, need to make it a point to notice them.

The purple will serve as my reminder this week, to open my eyes and really see.

Categories: Nature, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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