Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Melting the Ice in the Rillito

It comes upon us all of a sudden.

One day you're wearing short sleeves and crew socks with your sneakers.  You roll down your car window and listen to the beat of the bass from the Jeep beside you.  The breeze blows your hair into your eyes as you stroll down the driveway to retrieve the morning paper. The air feels warm and smells of spring.

The ground squirrels are out in full force, the babies frolicking on the paddles of the prickly pear cacti. Up and over they go, three of them, faster than the larger one (Mom, perhaps?) watching from the edge of their den.  Carefully, one jumps onto a low lying branch of a palo verde.  There are sharp thorns on those branches, but he doesn't seem to mind.  He's creeping, belly low to the wood, nibbling on the teeny leaves trying to bloom.  I can't stop staring.

The quail have hatched, and Mom and Dad are walking the little ones across the street. It's a residential neighborhood, with no access to anywhere but the neighborhood itself.  Cars are few and far between.  Still, Mom leads the way as Dad patrols the rear.  Back and forth, head twitching, he doesn't leave the far side until the last chick is safe in my yard on the other side.  The babies are three inches tall and their feet move so fast they are nothing but a blur. It's like watching Looney Tunes in real life.

The pool is warm enough to be inviting and the air is cool enough to encourage me to keep moving.  I swim-kick-walk for an hour.  It's not too hot and not too cold.  It's just right.

It lasts about three weeks.

Then, one morning, you wake up to a new world.  There's a blanket of heat weighing down your walk to the paper.  The wind is blowing the air around, but it's not  balmy nor refreshing. Rather, it's more opening-the-oven-to-see-how-the-turkey-is-doing.  You can feel all the degrees on every inch of exposed skin.

Atop the saguaro, the doves are louder and the flowers are beginning to bud.  The cacti don't grow arms until they've lived seventy or eighty or one hundred years; the flowers don't bloom until it's really really hot.

The snakes are out and about, too. The gym and the grocery store and the diner are full of people with stories, though.  The dog, the gardener, the meter reader, the husband and son and babysitter have each had encounters which included shrieks, gasps and shovels.  Rather than face the moral dilemma of killing a being who was on the land well before I ever thought of leaving Marin and joining him in the desert, I choose to avoid the situation entirely. I stay out of the yard in the middle of the day, leaving it to the cold blooded types to enjoy.

I sit inside, iced tea and Kindle close at hand, listening to the weatherman predict when we'll break into triple digits. That's when the ice melts in the dry river bed which passes for the Rillito, the river at the north edge of Tucson.

It's a desert thing.

9 comments:

  1. That's when the ice melts?

    I'd like to see that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's Tucson's way of welcoming triple digits, Friko. There's never any water in the river... unless the snow melt is tremendous. It's a dry wash. The ice melting is the weatherman's little joke.... and I'd like to see it, too :)
      a/b

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    2. triple digits? I am glad to have doubles in spring.
      Mind you, you can’t have it all, water in the river and green hillsides as well as triple digits.



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    3. And having just returned from Marin County, just north of San Francisco, I am reminded of the beauty of a Mediterranean climate.
      a/b

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  2. I always heard it called melting the ice in the Santa Cruz but same idea. Macayos used to do a reduced price on that first day, not sure if they still do :) Of all the months in Tucson, June is the one I most hate as it's before the storms arrive but it's so hot and humid. Before we had A/C in the Tucson house, it was totally miserable as the swamp cooler did nothing, of course.

    I was pregnant in 1966 when my husband was finishing up his Master's research before us heading back to Oregon where we wanted our baby to be born. Boy was that miserable to be pregnant, and swamp coolers were all we had then except maybe in stores. Our car didn't have a/c either; so when we headed north in July, us and our cat, we left at night to get out of there before it turned miserable during the day. I still remember stopping at a cafe, kind of truck stop in Gila Bend to get breakfast, screen door swinging as we came in, nothing but a fan, flies and us with the cat in the carrier under our seats with nobody saying a word as it was that kind of place. I don't know that they exist anymore :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I always wondered what would make someone live here before air conditioning. It's not only triple digits, it's the absolute stillness of the air. July is the apex of the heat/dry/still combo. I am having a Bus Stop moment thinking of you in the cafe...
      a/b

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    2. In '66, we had a great set of months before May and the beginning of the hot season. The apartment complex had a pool; so we used that but it was miserable. What I have read from books about those who lived there before a/c is that it was how other regions experience winter-- the quiet season. Homes often were built with adobe and the thicker walls helped. Now people run around all the time-- no real quiet season-- other than the snow birds have gone and a 'little' less traffic ;). I always thought if I lived in Tucson, I'd have a home up in the White Mountains and escape there when this season hit. But then with the fires they sometimes get, that looked less attractive ;)

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  3. I'm not looking forward to the heat, but I like it much better than being cold. It seems the past couple of years, we barely have a spring in DC and go from cold to very hot. Even though I'm not in DC right now, hubby said tomorrow it's supposed to be 90. Last week, it was in the 60s. I'm glad we have four seasons (somewhat).

    Stay cool.


    Megan xxx

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    Replies
    1. We have five seasons, Megan: Winter, Spring, Summer, Monsoon, Fall. Granted, Spring lasts about 3 weeks ... but oh how wonderful those weeks can be!
      a/b

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