Monday, September 7, 2009

There's a change in the air

Things change around this time in the desert, even though Fall is still over two weeks away. Our days are shortening as the sun's trajectory lowers. The high temperatures still flirt with the century mark, but that's way different from edging up on 110. As our seriously insufficient monsoon staggers to a close, the humidity will vaporize and cool will return to our nights, allowing for open windows and the symphony of sounds of the nocturnal desert will once again color our dreams.

The animals are behaving differently. It's been many days since quail parents have put their adolescents through their paces in our garden. The mated pairs are splitting up, reforming into coveys until spring drives them back into coupledom. The white winged doves have, for the most part, headed south though I did see one straggler barreling across the back yard yesterday, headed for the sheltering shade of a big mesquite. Tarantulas are out and about, looking for love. This male (you can tell by the black legs) was waiting for me on my front doormat when I headed to the mailbox. I assumed he was looking for some other blond (females are a dark blond color), but he hung around the courtyard for a few days and then we found him crumpled and dead. Older than many people's pets, male tarantulas breed at about eleven years old and die shortly thereafter. A day after he lay motionless, we found him pecked into bits -- a furry leg here, a carapace there -- the circle of life. A road runner on the hunt for lizards in our yard dropped into an odd crouch before walking up the leaning mesquite trunk and onto the wall, dropping to the other side. A collared lizard chilled in comfort on a cushion still in the shade in my barrio garden.

Plants are beginning to rally, ready for their second spring. While much of the rest of the country's vegetation is beginning to shut down for the Big Sleep, ours is getting its second wind!
Plants that hunkered down for mere survival over the summer are now finding the energy for a first or second bloom.

We took a hike up King Canyon this morning on the west side of the Tucson Mountains. Resurrection fern was green and limberbushes were leafed out. Ocotillos exploded from the ground like huge green pipe cleaners, leafed out from what rain we've had over the past few weeks. At 9 AM it was already quite warm and still humid from the remnant moisture from recent hurricane that hit Baja California, but there was plenty of shade in the canyon and we took it slow, enjoying being outside again in full daylight.
Not that the gorgeous walk up the canyon isn't its own reward, there are walls of petroglyphs along the way, images pecked in the desert varnish of the rocks over a thousand years ago by Native American Indians. The hike back to the trail head on an old mining road rimming the canyon, cooled by a nice breeze, was over all too soon.

Despite feeling that Mother Nature has been behaving a lot like Lucy with the football -- we've watched longingly as huge storms have drifted by us, leaving us dry but putting on a good light show -- we are becoming friends again with the desert and are impatient to be once again fully immersed in our love affair with this place.