Love…Hate…Love!

The Arizona temperatures are cooling down. They now measure in the high 90’s F during the day and 70’s F at night. It still sounds hot, but is a definite improvement.

By about the second week in October, temps will fall out of the 90’s into the 70’s and 80’s during the day for the remainder of the winter. It’s this time of year everyone visits and/or moves to the American Southwest.

At the beginning of every winter I pledge never to leave, and during every summer I can’t bear to spend another day in the heat. Everyone excuses the unbearable summers with ‘at least it’s a dry heat,’ and ‘you don’t have to shovel it!’ But it can kill you. Really.

As the searing desert heat begins to cool, the landscape shows signs of a second spring. Flowers begin to blossom again and desert creatures come out during the day, including humans. It becomes a paradise hard to resist. I am impressed all over again by the abundance of life; blossoms of unbelievable brilliance and flurries of birds of all kinds. 

As the heat becomes yet again a memory, I begin to fall in love with the desert all over again.


‘Canyon Light’ © Wendy Fallon
watercolor

Unexpected Rewards

This past weekend we went adventuring again. My daughter, grandson and I drove from Phoenix north to Prescott to visit a park called Watson Woods. We packed a picnic lunch and expected to find a picnic table in the shade by a small lake around lunch time.

By the time we reached Prescott, 7-year-old Cameron let us know in no uncertain terms that a picnic lunch didn’t hold quite the excitement that a cheese burger did, and after much discussion, we stopped for fast food.

 At that point I didn’t know how much interest ‘nature’ would hold for a contemporary child of his age. I sincerely hoped we would stumble across a snake or a toad.

There are two kinds of outdoor parks. There’s the kind that have shade trees, picnic tables and bathrooms fifty feet from the parking lot and to which you could easily take your Grandmother or toddler. Or there’s the kind with no facilities and you need to carry a bottle of water for each person, and pack your pockets full of bug spray, sun block and toilet paper. Watson Woods turned out to be the second, and we had to pay a fee to park ($2).

It turns out that this park is a hiking trail made from a previous railroad bed. It’s smooth and flat, and although it took us an hour to reach the lake, it was worth every step. Advancing towards the lake from the parking lot, we suddenly broke out of the woods and marshland into pristine rolling hills, wildflowers, and the sight of the entire lake from end to end. With not a cloud in the sky and a variety of wildlife which included gray squirrels, quail, lizards, dragonflies, jumping fish and a mix of water fowl, even Cameron was impressed. We also came across a small family of sleek, healthy and happy cows, with a baby, and two horses, grazing in a private alpine-beautiful field adjacent to the trail. The awe-inspiring scenery made me reach for my camera, which I’d forgotten to bring. 

Getting back to the car took some real effort, and we all agreed it was a good thing we’d stopped to eat before our hike. We would have never been able to carry our cooler all the way to the lake and back! As it was, the picnic lunch was eaten before we reached home, as some of us had worked up quite an appetite.

We’re looking forward to returning, and being much better prepared.

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Saguaro Strength

On most mornings during the summer South Mountain is hazy with heat. It stands rugged against a pale blue early morning sky, its peaks bristling with desert brush and the profiles of stately saguaro cacti.

The monsoons usually come at us from the other side of the mountain. They roll in from the south, up against the south facing crags, over the peaks and ridges, and down the north side and into our backyard.

Every day I recognize the same saguaros along the ridge lines; their profiles firm and strong, storm after storm. Amazingly they live for as many as 100 years, and I realize just how many monsoons they’ve endured and how strong they must be.

Sometimes I wish I was that strong…in the face of my own storms!

Southwest Poppies

The Arizona monsoon season can be violent, destructive and frightening. But the humungous thunderheads that push miles-high and wide walls of dust before them as they barrel across the Valley of the Sun bring much needed rain.

In their wake the flash flood waters soak into the baked earth with amazing and awe-inspiring results. The desert plants have adapted themselves to long dry spells and wait for the monsoon rains to burst into deeply-colored gem-toned blossoms.

One such plant is the Poppy. With large, brilliant orange blossoms composed of 4 to 5 broad petals, I am reminded of Dorothy’s field of poppies in The Wizard of Oz. Such saturated colors seem to be a characteristic of the Southwest in response to the harsh climate.

Daily Sketch 06/12/12 ‘At the Beach’

In past summers we used to vacation away from the Arizona heat and travel to the beach. I’m sure we won’t be the only ones not able to go this year, but that doesn’t prevent this beach baby from dreaming about it!

I was recently asked to create artwork for my High School reunion, which is to be held in 2013…you guessed it…at the beach. With Arizona temperatures already reaching into the 100’s, my mind exploded with a wealth of suppressed visions of beach umbrellas and towels in the sand, the smell of sun block and the steady, soft rhythm of waves.

The mind is a powerful tool and believe it or not, calling up memories of sand and surf actually helps me through the summer Southwest heat!