Monday, March 17, 2014

The Desert Picks you

In 1981 my mom was transferred to Phoenix Arizona.

It took some time for desert vegetation to grow on me.
Outdoor lockers, walking to school in 100+ degree heat, and every house had a swimming pool.  This was my first glimpse of desert life.                                 I quickly scampered back to Michigan, to my old school, the one with my friends and indoor lockers, where I could continue to hide my lack of swimming abilities, disguised during the months of snow.

Fast Forward.  I have been living in Arizona since 1985.  It wasn't love at first sight.  I think, at best it's a love-hate relationship. 

The mountains that surround the Valley of the Sun change colors and shape based on the time of day and season, providing some of the most amazing, burning sunsets you'll ever encounter.  You should know, to drive anywhere, you have to go through those shape shifting mountains.  For people like me who are faint of heart, and worry about falling off the edge of a twisty mountain road to their fiery death, this is a problem.  I'm essentially trapped in the Valley of the Sun, which sounds like paradise, poor girl.

Sunsets san Snow....keeps me happy

Snakes, lizards, scorpians, tarantulas, giant poisenous frogs, gila monsters, owls, vultures, bobcats, javelinas, coyotes and mountain lions.  Yes, mountain lions.  All are alive and well in Arizona.  I would love to take a naturalist's view on this wildlife, they were here first, and we can all live together in peace.  VETO, I've had personal experience with ALL the creatures listed.  Yes, three encounters with mountain lions.  I will tell you, a lion that is not behind a zoo wall is never a comforting experience.

Gila  Monster, appropriately named.  I've had the "lucky" opportunity to meet one.

Three up close and personal experiences with a mountain lion.

The vegetation takes time to get used to.  Quickly replace lush green lawns with desertscape, that is the environmentally correct choice in the desert.  Rocks of all colors are available to adorn your yard.  Cacti is the shrub of choice. If you are ever lucky enough to have over 15 mature mesquite trees in your yard, you will understand the pain of "many seasons of crap," that fall from these trees.  Not to mention, the pods will attract small animals, which attract larger animals and you too can witness the circle of life- JOY

A whole new skill set needed for yardwork.  How to weed?

These Prickly Pear paddles are sold in the produce section at the grocery store.

Back to school in August.  This means inside recess for over the first month as temperatures max out at 120 degrees. Parents melt outside in the pick-up line waiting for their children to be released at the hottest part of the day.  Plus, the irony of summer colds due to the confined children.

True, you can bake cookies on your dashboard in your car.

It's also important to illustrate something I learned while in college.  Anyone who has/had a parking pass to lot 59 at ASU will appreciate this piece of information.  Your Keds will melt straight through and the bottoms of your feet will blister as you walk across this enormous parking lot of bubbling, molten tar.

Living in the Mohave desert has been a challenge. Somewhat different than those who experience months of shoveling snow to get to your car.  We too, have learned to co-exist with our extreme temperatures. 

I now know to seek shade in parking lots.  How important air conditioning is.  Sunscreen is not a suggestion.  Taking a cooler with you to the grocery store (five minutes from your house,) is necessary if you're buying ice cream.  Never pull off the road during a flash flood or a haboob.  Hydrate, hydrate and hydrate. Don't buy chocolate from May-September.  All outdoor activities in warm month's happen before 8:00a.m. or after 6:00p.m.

Swimming pools are a must have (even if you don't swim.)  Bringing your body temperature down, during the summer, is serious business. To do so, requires a quick dip into the water a number of times each day.  Bugging out to SoCal each summer is what Zonies do.

With the above information, it's clear that no one would choose to live here.  Where temperatures can melt the shoes you wear, crazy prehistoric looking animals wait to eat you, and no one is native here. (Correction... MY daughter is native)  It becomes clear that the desert picks you. 
Arizona Indigenous Creature, quite adaptive to her environment.

I have built a beautiful life in Arizona, one that competes with the majesty of the Grand Canyon.  Laughter filled days with friends and family at spring training, hiking amazing trails, southwest culture, sporting events, vineyards, museums, and every imaginal activity.

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