Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Arizona Part II-- Journal

May 5, Wednesday-- Cinco de Mayo
Farm Boss and I arrive at our Tucson home, Casa Espiritu, and happily find it in great shape. Nothing we didn't expect this trip. It's always nice when we open the door and it looks so inviting. Our neighbor, who has always maintained the pool when we aren't here, is now doing all the maintenance required when the house is rented and he has done a wonderful job. It's obvious he takes pride in it and with his help this whole thing is possible. Sharing our desert home has ended up providing me more satisfaction than I imagined when we first got the idea. I like knowing others have enjoyed this little place that has meant so much to me since we bought it over 10 years ago. I like knowing more will be coming to it.

Tucson's cactus are in full bloom. We look forward to driving out to the Tucson Mountain Park for lots of cactus pictures. These kind of outings will have to be mixed with work as we have a lot to do but nothing like the catastrophic kitchen problem we faced last trip; however, one thing we learned after the first renter was that our standards for how we live cannot be how this house will be presented when it's offered for rent to others.

May 6, Thursday
For our second evening walk up Romero Canyon, we take a longer route which requires scrambling over rocks where the creek parallels the trail but which we had never explored. I love desert canyons and especially those with running water and trees. This section won't always have water but it does this late afternoon.

Stopping, I hear the gurgling of the water over rocks, not another human voice, but a few birds calling and now and then the canyon tree frog who lives here. The first time we heard it, many years ago, we thought the sound was from a young mountain sheep. It's a kind of baaing but it comes from this little amphibian with its adaptation to its desert region.

This time we see tadpoles and finally the frogs in the little pools. We take a few moments to take pictures but not with flashes. I don't want to scare them. This is the only world they will ever know and it fascinates me to think about that as I come from a world that is so diverse, that potentially stretches so many different ways (and mine isn't as widespread as many people's). Yet here this little guy will live and die.

As always, I think about those who made the effort to protect and secure this lovely spot for future generations. Arizona is currently closing some of its state parks because of budget woes that were happening before the boycott talk. It's a shame that our generation is dropping the ball and letting natural wonders and historic sites be lost. Do we only value money? Don't bother answering as I know for many people, that's the bottom-line.

I have a few favorite places along the canyon loop trail and this photo is at one of them.

May 7, Friday
With only a few regrets we roll up the Oriental rug that has been in this house since we bought it and lay down the new one on the white living room tiles. I adjust a couple of chairs and the new one, with its beautiful designs and intense colors, looks as though it has always been here. I feel sadness though at seeing the old one go. I liked its aged ambiance, appreciated its worn places. It has seen a lot of living in this house, but it was disintegrating leaving red fiber dust everywhere.

Because it's how I like it, Casa Espiritu is a mix of styles, a bit of Hispanic, some nature, along with Native American, a few antiques, and some modern. Its colors are those of the desert. While this carpet doesn't yet have the collected memories of the old one, soon it will have even more as new people come to this place and make it their own for a week or two or three as I have done with so many other VRBO rentals that I have enjoyed over many years.

When our neighbor, the one who takes care of this house when it has guests, offers to let us throw the old rug into the trailer load he's taking to the dump, I say no way. That rug is going back to Oregon and I hope to once again find a place for it... If I cannot stop its shedding, well it might be buried in the back. No garbage dump for it. I know it's an inanimate object to some, but not to me. It will have a respectful end if that is what it must have. It shares a lot of wonderful and a few bittersweet memories with me.

Otherwise today is mostly one for restocking this or that with more to come as we think of what is needed. We seem to spend a lot of time at stores and this time it's a Home Depot for new plants for the front bed with the hope they will do better than the myriad of others we have tried there.

The ones I choose are lantana which rabbits don't eat as readily. Desert plants have to withstand a lot besides the heat and minimal water. The ones around the patio and swimming pool are lush with lots of blooms. They have even reseeded. I only choose plants for here that are xeriscape but they still need some water to get started and we have a drip system for that.

May 8, Saturday
Hiking up Honeybee Canyon is delightful but a bit of a workout for me because I have been doing so little hiking back in Oregon. I sit down far more than I used to. I am determined to make this trip a change, but it's not easy. A combination of old age, overweight and just not active enough is making each hike a challenge.

The canyon walk starts under a bridge and is in sand which makes it twice the workout as it winds its way up a relatively broad, fairly flat wash. Everything is so green. Birds and their songs are everywhere. Obviously the rains have been kind to the canyon with wildflowers, grasses and trees in full leaf. I love desert washes.

Petroglyphs add to the enjoyment in this one and I take pictures, pose for pictures and absorb the feeling of being here. There is actually running water. When we came before it was a dry canyon; so the water and lush greenness is a surprise.

It is so peaceful other than one moment of being startled by someone's big dog who comes barking and running toward me but hesitates as I am standing on a bluff a few feet above him. The owners call and he stops and reconsiders coming up to where I am. They say he's friendly. People always say their dogs are friendly.
Back at the house we get an email inquiry about renting our house for a week in July. Is this the first indicator that there won't be a boycott of Arizona rentals at least? Although it may not come through, people usually check out several rentals when they inquire, the interest does mean we have to reconsider what we will do about the air conditioning. Summer is a wonderful time to have a private pool.

I often tell people my favorite month in Tucson is August because of the monsoon storms. You hike in the mornings. In the afternoons sometimes we get the most marvelous lightning and thunder storms which I love turning off anything in the house and sitting watching them move up the valley as they strike the Tucson Mountains.August is not much fun though with only evaporative cooling. A swamp cooler is only effective with low humidity which is most of the year but not June through sometime in September.

May 9, Sunday
The morning walk is out from this house, a direction we had long planned to explore but put off with other things intruding. Basically it's south on a sidewalk, then cutting east on a cement path that follows La Canada del Oro wash.

Walking, I think again how it didn't used to take this long to get past the needing to stop and take a break. I remind myself it takes longer to get in shape at my age, but there is also that excess weight. I am trying to eat more responsibly but weight is harder to lose at my age also.

Every time I get back in shape, I remind myself, don't let it happen again, but I did. I wish I'd just stick with it and walk regularly to make this hard time not necessary. Wishes won't cut it but will power would.

Along the trail, lots of people are walking and it's a friendly group as generally hikers and walkers are as we exchange hellos and sometimes a few words. I am once again impressed with how diverse Tucson is for the people who live together. All of the hassle we might hear in the media about resentments or anger doesn't show up out here along at least the trails I follow.

Plans for going north have been changed as I try to find reservations at Gouldings in Monument Valley. Who would have guessed it would be so popular right now. I don't remember having a problem with reservations last time we stopped there, but it was a different time of the year. Theoretically we could get a room but not the kind we had hoped to find and it would be more expensive than we had budgeted. Time to rethink plans as we continue to get things done here.

Moab, Utah, which had been the plan after Monument Valley, had a really fantastic sounding VRBO rental deep in the red rock, lots of privacy, with solar power, crossing some creeks and needing 4-wheel drive and good clearance to get there. Deep in the canyon and near petroglyphs and hiking trails, it would be the kind of home we'd love except it has been rented through July. Evidently it's the kind of place a lot of people would love.

Make reservations ahead of time. People who like to do things serendipitously have a hard time going some places. For years I have seen this growing as a problem for me. I have never understood how someone can book a vacation a year ahead of time. How would I know I'd like to do it then? I often don't know what I want to do until a few weeks ahead of time, sometimes less time than that. If you don't know a year ahead of time, in many cases, you just won't be able to do it!

May 10, Monday
What a day as a mix of things that don't remotely go together. In the morning we hike at Catalina State park and it's delightful for beauty but once again I feel like a blob who walks the trail and has to stop and catch my breath regularly. Can I blame it on eating breakfast first? I don't think so.

Romero still has running water and small pools. We did not bring a camera this time because we thought it might not have much water and besides, who would carry it?

After we got home, we did something that might belong in the political blog or does it? We drove down to the Arizona Historic Museum which I had missed seeing my last few trips down. Their displays seem very serendipitous about the cultural dynamics of Arizona, particularly with mining but also the communities.

There is a fascinating book put together by school children, on Barrio Viejo, a neighborhood I enjoy visiting whenever I get down that way for its small shrines like el Tiradito. I would like this book, the price sounds reasonable for all the information and photos, but the bookstore at the museum does not know anything about it. I am not sure I will get to anyplace that does have it which is too bad. It would explain the history of the houses down there. I have often driven past them and wondered.

The political emphasis in the museum is on the various groups who built this state. It does not gloss over the unfairness to like the Chinese or Mexican workers who were underpaid and often misused. The cultural dynamics have always been intense in the Southwest from the Native Americans conflicting with the newcomers from Mexico and then from the Europeans with nobody totally getting along but most somehow learning to make the best of it-- when they didn't try to kill each other.

In the afternoon our son calls. As a favor to us, he has gone out to the farm to check the sheep and cats. The new feeder that was supposed to let so much alfalfa down as they ate ended up being a trap for one of the more adventurous ewes. She got up in there but could not get out. Do not remotely ask me how she could have gotten in there as it didn't seem there was near enough room to even get her head in, let alone wiggle in. Obviously there was but not to get back out. Anyway he tore the thing apart to get her out and she did walk off. We owe him big time as without his going, she'd have died there. Sheep can find ways to die that positively amaze a person.

You know that political ad where the politician shows another politician as a wolf in sheep's clothing. She is not flattering her potential supporters with suggesting they are sheep anymore than that her opponent is a demonic wolf type creature.

Anyway this whole thing makes us more aware of changes we must make living out as far as we do, finding it so difficult to pay someone to really look after the place. We have to cut the numbers of livestock way back. I do want to be free to leave sometimes, and it's getting harder and harder to do it. There simply aren't people to hire who are able to work say one day every other week with more work when we are gone which I understand; but leaving it becomes very difficult.

May 11, Tuesday
It took most of the day, but the repairman came out and we have refrigerated air conditioning again-- not that we will use it at this time of the year. He did it at a price we could afford.

The company that had installed it was a major disappointment as we weren't here a lot but when we were, we would report trouble; they would supposedly fix it with a lot of freon added and then back to it not working. About the time one of them discovered the real problem, the warranty was almost up. But not quite. We had gotten to it a few weeks ahead of it... Except there was no way to reach the company. They had no number and the installer denied their responsibility which took us to this week.

The guy who fixed it came out of a recommendation from our neighbor. He not only did excellent work, but he charged us much less than he had originally estimated because Farm Boss worked with him the whole time (also learned a lot about how these systems work). There are honorable people in business, and it makes a person feel very good when you come across one of them. I would recommend him to anybody in the Oro Valley area who needs air conditioning work. He said word of mouth is how he gets his jobs.

May 12, Wednesday
Last time I was in Tucson I had heard of an interesting place to buy plants called Desert Survivors. Because when we had called then, they did not have palo verde from our region, we didn't drive out. This time we just drove over to see what they might have and there was a lovely palo verde for an excellent price and a perfect size to get a start here and join its big brothers (or sisters) further to the back of the property). We had decided to plant one where the old ironwood had died.

Ironwood are beautiful trees, but nobody would deliberately plant one next to a patio who knew anything about them. I would guess that one had been here from before the house was built in the 70s. They can live to be a hundred; but we also had a recent spell that caused a lot to die from sort of blight; so not sure if ours reached its life span (it was huge) or had something else go wrong. The thing is they drop fine needle like fronds, leaves? I don't know what they are but they end up everywhere and are almost impossible to find or get out of skin but not to feel.

The nursery was delightful and its purpose excellent as you can see if you read the link. We bought two trees, several shrubs and some smaller wildflowers that I have seen on the desert, all native to this region of the desert. I try to determine which ones look tasty to rabbits but it's hard to be sure given some are apparently bitter but look like they'd make a rabbit salad. We learned when we first bought this place how short the lives are of plants rabbits find tasty.

When we got back to the house, Farm Boss had his work cut out for him in planting them and extending the drip system to the new ones.

May13, Thursday
I walk into the salon down here where I generally get my hair done for a trim and permanent. This is a grit my teeth type of thing that I don't enjoy but it makes my hair so much easier to deal with that I put up with the loss of 2 or 3 hours to someone else doing my hair. I have never had manicures or pedicures, never had my hair set and styled and I mean never, not even for my own wedding. I trust myself generally the most but box home perms are no match for what a salon can do and so I make the time for it while I *sigh*

The salon is a luxury one with a spa alongside where I did have a massage several years back. It's kind of fun to watch the other women with whatever they are deciding to do and my time goes faster than usual as my stylist is chatty and very good at what she does. I learn little things about her life as well as enjoy discussing a lot of light topics. Having a stylist who is good at chatting definitely makes the time go faster. She lives in a house in downtown Tucson which has been in her family for over 100 years. That is a very special thing as those old neighborhoods are quite interesting. How many families keep a house like that through the generations? She says it's a house that will have to stay in their family.

She mentions the unpleasant side of their neighborhood with homeless people nearby due to meth houses and assorted other services. It leads to them walking on their street, loitering and sometimes involved in petty thefts if they can get into a house. It has led to her decision to get a dog of enough size and bark to dissuade lingering by outsiders. She has a four year old daughter and knows, because of the requirement to post locations where they live, that there are three convicted sexual predators also in her neighborhood. Two of them in one of the shelters. I applaud her proactive choice to be aware of what's around her as a way, of not being paranoid, but protective of her child. I tell her she needs to be protective of herself also as she is a very beautiful young woman.

In the evening, when more of the work is finished, I ask Farm Boss to take some photos of me around the pool with my curlier hair. I want 'glamor' shots which we used to do more of when I was younger and found it easier to get such shots. Not sure what's gone wrong with cameras these days!

A few of them come out interesting with the bougainvillea, but it was a bit dark which leaves them grainy and less clear. With my permanent still in its can't wash or set it stage, not sure how much I liked that either.

I had bought an inexpensive, knit sundress which I love wearing in the evenings. I have always been a person who likes to change into something loose fitting and comfortable when the day is over and before bed. As Farm Boss took some photos, I got an idea of an angle that I want to try using. It would be about angles and curves. The diving board, the rounded edge of the pool, the water, the fence behind and the curves and angles of a woman's body. We might try it again if we get the light right.

The abstract quality of trying to get photos that depict something whether it's glamor or nature but just something beyond the person sitting or standing there is always interesting to me whether I am taking them or the catalyst to make them happen as the model. I always think of it as not me because it's the only way it works, and, of course, it's not me. It's just a reflection.

May 14, Friday
Not unusual for being here in the spring when so much is blooming, but allergies are getting to me. After all my natural remedies, like Zicam, saline spray, boiling water, aren't totally taking care of the sinus headache. I finally give up and take some benadryl which I hate but it does help even as it leaves me feeling depressed and flat. I will try to work around it as there are still things to be done. We are winding down though and talking more about how we might head north.

We have lunch at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum where we have had a membership for over thirty years. Even in the years we could not make it to Tucson, we kept it up because we believe in what they do as they show the desert and its animals in as natural an environment as possible.

This trip I wanted the most time with the hummingbirds and we got a few photos, nothing spectacular and none nesting this time. I felt so sad with how much they seemed to want to fly out of the enclosure. There are parts of zoos that I really hate even though I know many of the animals there could not survive elsewhere. The hummingbirds could. It's not pleasurable to see the tiny birds looking up to the sky. It wasn't hard to see what they were feeling.

We got quite a testimonial to the beauty of South Africa as a place to see birds and wildlife from an older gentleman enjoying the birds with his family.

This afternoon when I start to help with using the power washer to clean off the front porch area of old paint, preparatory to repainting it, I get a migraine while the power washer gets a glitch and refuses to work. Whee, I am off the hook for the moment but leaving Farm Boss grousing as he cleans out this and that to get it started again. After a convenient break for the repairs, I am back to using it with better results this time. Repainting will be this week-end.

Looking at our new desert mallow plant, I am at first shocked and then laugh as I call Farm Boss to take a look. While there are stems left with a few leaves and a tiny blossom on top, the rabbits have decided to have salad with their seed block. Greedy creatures. They determine a lot of which plants can be here. If we lived behind walls, we'd have more options but I do not want to live behind walls. I like my visitors, but this wildflower must be screened if it is to have any chance to bloom again.

It's odd about the desert mallow as I see them out in the desert, which is why I thought it would work here; but those are not living in bunny heaven. Definitely the bunnies prosper more in open neighborhoods like ours where the desert freely flows between the homes. I love that about this setting. Sometimes things must be fenced, like the pool, or my flower and vegetable garden at the farm; but except for when it's required, I don't want fences. I want to watch the quail families as they come to the seed block.

May 15, Saturday
The morning air starts out pleasant but the heat builds as we walk up the creek at Catalina State Park. We leave the main trail below steps that would make a loop out of it. This is one of my favorite things to do when possible as we take a small trail up the canyon which crosses the creek two places to reach a favorite little canyon that sees few visitors-- of our species anyway.

We have two bottles of water with us, which I didn't imagine we would need, but we do as the day grows hotter. We spend quite a bit of time back in what used to be an area of waist deep pools before a flood tore through removing trees and rearranging the creek and rocks. There is nothing like a desert stream for reminding one of the power of nature.

Little by little the trees and shrubs are coming back and the canyon is beginning to look like it did when I first saw it. The Arizona-Sonora Desert is remarkably vital when it has water.

Far from the hiker I used to be, I need still breaks in the shade, but it is getting better. It could be old age. I am after all more than ten years older than when I first hiked these trails, but that's combined with the twenty pounds I have put on since then.

I want to lose weight but I also want one of those pizzas that we can only have delivered when in Tucson. Conflicting goals keep me from moving ahead.

It is an old old story for me. Where part of me wants to be a woman who has discipline, who denies herself pleasures for greater values, who exercises her body regularly and has the muscles to show it. Part of me wants to be a woman of hearty appetites, who does what feels good at the time, who savors what she wants from life knowing that she will pay a price someday, but she wants to taste it all...

Of course, if a taste was all I wanted, I could have both those goals-- well maybe not the regular exercise.

In the afternoon two days have passed and finally I can shampoo, and use hot rollers on my hair without losing that permanent. As I brush it out and see the result, I am satisfied. It looks shorter but that had to be to shape it up and with more curl. Someday I might cut it shorter yet but not this time. I like the freedom to pin it up or twist it back.

It looks like our main goal to the north will no longer be Monument Valley or Moab. We learned you can only hike one trail in Monument Valley because it is, of course Navajo reservation and to go elsewhere you must take a Navajo guide at a cost. We have driven the loop road for photographing and probably gotten as good of photos as we would get this trip. We had hoped to do more walking but without hiking the whole thing is not so appealing.

So we are studying other possibilities before we head for the tall pines. One is the Mogollon Rim country. This is where [Zane Grey, the prolific western writer and sportsman], had a cabin. The original is no longer there but they evidently rebuilt a replica of what it looked like in Payson at the museum there. I am not sure I care to see it. If we went that way, I'd like to drive back to the area where the cabin had been. It is a firm memory in my mind as I had been there twice when the house still stood and once after the big fire.

The year was 1972 or '73. Farm boss, our two small children, and I had driven up from the campground below to see the cabin only to find the road blocked, washouts or something. I was determined I was not going to get that close to the cabin, where Zane Grey wrote books I liked so much, and not see it. I was wearing bright pink stretch pants, colorful print halter top with bare back, and sturdy sandals. Still not much of an outfit for hiking up a gravel road but I was young.

We knew the walk would be several miles but we figured we could make it when two rangers came along with a pickup and no canopy on the back. They offered us a lift.
Looking back in hindsight, I would guess those two young rangers appreciated my outfit, likely didn't see many like it up there, heck anywhere as I had sewn it all; although maybe they just felt sorry for us with the small kids. I also would guess it was against the rules to give us a lift in the back of their pickup but we were grateful.

Once we got to the cabin, I was excited to see it, glad that the caretaker was there and we could go inside. I had grown up reading his books and bought several of the paperbacks there just because they would
be from there. The cabin was nothing fancy, set in the tall pines, a long porch in front, fireplace, just one room, some memorabilia, movie posters, and overlooked a ranch below with open pastures and very old west buildings. I could live in that ranch below. Yes, I could-- not that anyone invited me to do so.

Grey, who had built the cabin for hunting in the early '20s, rarely slept in it when there but preferred to sleep in a tent outside. In 1929, he became enraged at the state of Arizona for not granting his hunting party special permission to hunt bear out of season. He said he'd never return and he never did. What can I say except Arizona does have its independent, not bending for anybody ways.

In 1981, we made one more trip up to the cabin, that time able to drive all the way up, but no caretaker and we could only look through the windows. In 1990, trips to the cabin were forever ended when the Dude fire raged over the mountain behind it. I think I read caretakers were able to get some of the memorabilia out before the cabin was totally destroyed. The last time we drove up to the area (not sure what year) and saw the burned mountainside, and that the ranch below had been saved. It wasn't sitting back in the trees the same way.

Arizona and Oregon are both Zane Grey country although he based his first book in the East telling the story of his own family (true characters but events fictionalized) in the settling of this country. Grey had another cabin on the Rogue River in Oregon where he also based a book. But you know it didn't matter so much where he lived as he captured the feel of the West. He knew the trails, the creeks, described them beautifully, and wrote stories that took the reader into a fantasy land of strong women and tough men where maybe it wasn't real but for the length of the book, you hoped it was.

My daughter became a fan of his writing, and actually a lot of romance writers of today also are. He captured the passion of the people and the land in his writing. For his stories, it's not about sex but higher values of love and duty. True it was a different era, not very politically correct in some ways, but it lifted the reader to high standards, something a lot of writing today doesn't even try to do.

May 16, Sunday
Good thing I wasn't doing an actual blog with all these entries because just like with life, I have no idea where we will go when we leave here or when we will leave. Our plans keep being rearranged and not by any outside events. Just our own thinking what if we did this or that-- Monument Valley, Canyonlands, Bryce Canyon, Moab, Sedona, Betatakin, Flagstaff? I am not sure we will go to any of them as we might spend the extra time right here finishing up a few more jobs, and head directly north when we leave. I am missing my cats.

This morning I paint the front porch. We had blown most of the loose paint off, but this time instead of painting it a color like the house, we decide on a brick orangish red color like the back patio. It's delightful, matches the roof tiles above, and adds to the feeling at the entry.

Step by step the house tells us what it needs. When I feel that kind of vibe, like hey this is what I want, I relish the connection to be part of its identity. It's as though it has a spirit. I am so proud of this house and piece of land that really all owns itself.

Tonight we swim for the first time in the pool which seems absolutely crazy given how warm it's been, but we have had a lot to do and often by evening we weren't in the mood to take a swim or if we had energy, we preferred heading up to the hills for a hike. Now I regret all the missed opportunities but will make sure I don't miss more until we have to leave. Being a private pool we can often skinny dip but tonight there is a possibility the neighbor would stop by and so suits are in order.

The water feels so good, cool but not too cool, the flowers around the pool colorful and even the little plants look like they are settling in. I am really thinking what if we skip all the extra vacation plans and just make the most of extra time here when we could actually act like we were on vacation. Well it's not like we couldn't if we wanted when the house is finished... Of course, one more job just reared its head when the shower head broke in the small bathroom...

May 17, Monday
Today means a trip to the landfill, a brief discussion with the neighbor who is overseeing the house for changes we made that he needs to know about. His family will be using it, graitis, of course, for two days in June that weren't rented and that will help them as their family gathers for a college graduation.

His family is another of those who have lived in Arizona for generations. He says he doesn't think that the immigration issue will really dissuade visitors from coming as its beauty and climate offer so much. He adds he doesn't think the rest of the country knows what it's been like down here. I agree with him on people not being aware of anything the media doesn't tell them, but am still not sure about the boycott's effectiveness.

I tell him I don't know if it will impact renters coming to our house but do believe one thing-- it was the right to do something now even if it has to be tweaked to make it work fairly for those people who are here legally. The media has ignored the reason for the law-- the many (and the numbers have been increasing) who come here illegally.

For city dwellers, it doesn't matter so much, unless they live in Hispanic neighborhoods, but hiking out on the desert, especially down toward the Huachucas, has changed. We now have to take into consideration who we might run into on those trails or even the roads; and it's not unlikely that person will be heavily armed. Sure, when we go down that way, we also carry a weapon, but you are at a big disadvantage when you are an honest person as you don't shoot first. They might. While I know most are innocent workers coming up for jobs, the media is lying to Americans to pretend that's all of who is there.

For anybody who hikes wilderness areas anywhere, there is always the knowledge there can be predators (and when I am at the farm, that includes my backyard), but down here the human ones are coming because of a failure from our government and us, as a people, who have not demanded better. Too often 'we' get the government we deserve. Suck on that for awhile!

There is no way our nation should continue with this uncontrolled influx of people who have no legal right to be here. It's unhealthy and with the knowledge I now have that those people often do qualify for benefits while they don't necessarily pay taxes, how can we afford it? It is time to do what is honest and upfront; and if we personally, with our little rental, have to pay a price for it, so be it. Sometimes doing the right thing does have a cost involved.

I hope Arizona doesn't back off on this over possible boycott losses and the, so often bottom-line, almighty dollar. If there is a better way to stop workers coming illegally, fine but deal with it-- do not profit from it. There is a more important bottom-line-- doing what is right. It is possible the federal government will block the enforcement of the Constitutional law, but if they do, what will be their solution?

And this conversation was with a very nice person who is not remotely a bigot and who knows the situation down here a lot better than some from the northern states who haven't a clue except what they are being told by the media anger machines. Well enough of that-- not really, a lot more is in the companion political blog to this one!

In the cool of the morning I give the porch a second coat which looks great, kind of like sandstone from the Sedona area. Then I give the patio table a third coat of Varathane and the swinging bench out front a renewed coat of stain.

As Farm Boss fills the back of the truck with the load for the landfill, I think how great this place looks right now. We had more fun doing it this time too as less big big repairs and more tweaks. It needs more but we are running out of time.

I feel it always looks its best just as we are going to have to leave it. Maybe so we will want to return? Can I come sometime and have it look like this from the start with nothing to do except enjoy it? When I first arrive, the house is always filled with boxes and tools. It takes awhile for it to get back to normal. Actually, it would be fun to be one of our own renters.

Few people come to the desert in the summer but it's a wonderful time and August is my personal favorite month in Tucson. A lot of people are gone, even many native Tucsonians take vacations to get out of the intense heat. August is when you hike in the early mornings, and I mean at first light, come back for breakfast, do whatever chores you need to get done and then wait for the possible thunderstorms that roll in by afternoon.

There is nothing like the way a storm marches along the Tucson mountains. From here I can watch the lightning strike across the valley with multiple prongs, others hitting much closer. When I see the flash, I count to 7 often not making it before the thunder crashes, sometimes almost deafening. It's a little frightening but that is part of its appeal.

I have watched lightning storms a lot of places, usually with the doors and windows open so I can feel it all, hear the rain as it begins, but ideally without being out in those storms. When I am down here in August, I keep my hiking to the mornings. Such storms sometimes come up fast and being out in one is asking for trouble. Hiking in a desert canyon puts you at risk of flash floods too.

They say if you have to be out in one to squat down low, arms around your knees but don't sit or lie on the ground, keep a low profile, and wait it out. I try to never have to do that. I also always unplug the computer, television, microwave although we have underground utilities to the house. Usually the storms take an hour or so to roll through the valley while the wind and rain come in torrents and then it's gone leaving washes full of water, some roads blocked, and clean up to begin. Those sunsets when it's all over, well there just aren't any more dramatic.

I won't see any like that this trip but they are in my memory. This house is full of such memories. It was my dream house and still is.

In the evening we watch a VHS film we have had down here for quite awhile, maybe since we bought the house but for some reason I had never seen-- 1996's The Mirror has Two Faces. It stars Barbra Streisand, Jeff Bridges, and Lauren Bacall with an excellent supporting cast.

Kay from Kay's Thinking Cap had told me I'd like it and she was right on. It's a great romance but much more than that as it explores what relationships are, what love is, and even what beauty is. It does it all without being preachy although it's helped by the two lead characters being teachers and their lectures serve as spin offs to the deeper ideas.

Striesand's character grows in the film as she realizes she has been settling for only part of who she can be. As she expands in new ways, it is threatening to Bridges' character as he is trying to keep everything in a box he can control. Except, to fully live, it cannot be in boxes, not those that others use to categorize us nor ones we have created for ourselves for some sense of security. Both of these characters had let fear have too big a role in their choices and how they saw themselves.

I will want to watch it again as it really did present, in a pleasurable way, a lot to chew on.

May 18, Tuesday
We are still debating when to head north and which way to go. I feel relaxed about it whichever way it goes. There are bits of this or that left to do.

When Parapluie and I chat on Messenger in the morning, she mentions a slide show she has been working on and the Central American female artists that have inspired her to make it. One of them has a painting she called Secret Lover. I ask if it was a real lover or a fantasy. She isn't sure.

I think of the movie we watched last night and something I thought with my waking thoughts this morning that what I want to get back is me, the me I was 10 years ago. I had done so much by then, felt so positive about myself. I understand that going back isn't possible physically but could I perhaps believe in myself again the same way. These last ten years have been ones of more change than I had seen since my pre-teens. What I feel capable of now versus what I felt then has changed so much and physically it had to happen, but emotionally, haven't I lost a lot there that wasn't needful?

What Parapluie has said expands my idea. The real secret lover for us all (at any age) has to be ourselves. Maybe it seems a little crazy, but it's not only us loving ourselves but something more. The Mirror has Two Faces illustrated how it works. The person we want to be, that's our ultimate creation.

Of all the relationships we want, the dreams we want to fulfill, the ultimate one is of and to ourselves and it's being all we can be-- not settling. That is not selfishness. It's the basis of us at any age. When we put that one off for other things, for doing this or that, when we avoid being who we can be, often it's done from fear or to avoid ourselves. It's an easy trap to fall into. Be busy elsewhere and not have to deal with us but we are our secret lover.

Parapluie says it would make a good painting and I hope she is inspired to paint it as I'd love to see how she depicts the concept as I agree it would make a good painting.

This is a low key day with a little of this or that for Farm Boss (replacing the light in the carport, some fence work, screening) but not a lot for me other than photo editing, changing some bedding, a bit of cleaning, and mostly whatever I want to do.

In the afternoon, I spend time sitting on the patio with the telephoto lens trying to get more pictures of the quail families (that's my excuse and I am sticking to it) although I end up with more shots of the little ground squirrels and other birds. The quail parents with tiny babies are too wary for me. Did that chit chit chit means watch out, she's up there! Don't trust her! They make so many diverse sounds which sound like a combination of-- here I am, where are you? wow look at this, and watch out!

In the evening we try again for one of those photos of the diving board, pool and a woman in a black dress with bare legs. The lighting is as good as it will get given the reflections, the tree and the sun going down. It's always a challenge to get the angles, the colors, the whole mood to depict what I thought of in my head-- especially when I am posing for it, not taking the photo.

It's frustrating as I try to sit the way I visualize but it doesn't work or the lighting doesn't or something. I find the same problem when I am doing a painting. I might do a blog about this whole process how nothing comes out exactly as I had imagined in my head. If the legs are right, the head is not or the lighting is off, and so it goes. Angles and curves come up against reality.

Fortunately Farm Boss is patient with the whole thing as it's not so much his vision as his trying to capture mine. The one here is the last one of many that came out 'not quite right' but for different reasons. Understand, it's not about flattering pictures but about them saying what I had visualized.

May 19, Wednesday
As usual, I wake with first light which means about 5 AM. Leaving today isn't happening as we decided last night there were a few more jobs to finish if we really want to have done it all. (We will never really do it all.) Besides we hear it's raining in Oregon, snowing on the way back there, and so nice here. After checking that all was still okay at the farm, we will do more tweaking of this and that.

Delaying our start means we won't take a lot of time driving home, no driving into national parks (probably) but will head north through Flagstaff, Arizona (maybe some time there at some Sinagua ruins and then north to Kanab, Utah before taking a road across the hills and into Nevada where the highways are unbelievably straight across broad valleys with sometimes not another car to be seen. Off in the distance you might see a ranch house but it is a sparsely populated land of antelope, cattle, sagebrush, and in a few places wild horses and burros.

Thinking of antelope reminds me of our drive down here through northern California before we entered Nevada and were traveling through another piece of country that is mostly sagebrush, tall pines, and antelope. With another car approaching us, from seemingly out of nowhere a large buck antelope leaped across the road between the two vehicles. It was as though he materialized at the edge of the road and fortunately for him and both vehicles, he made it across but with inches between him and our truck's front fender.

I don't think that antelope had been playing a suicidal game as I have seen some squirrels apparently do to spice up their lives-- or end them. But maybe he had been sleeping in the sage beside the road and suddenly realized there were cars approaching. Whatever the case, it was his (and our) lucky day.

In the early morning, before breakfast and when it's still not hot, I paint the edge around the back patio while Farm Boss drives to Home Depot to buy more concrete stain to paint the rest of it with a roller.

The sounds of the quail keep me company as I work. They do communicate with their varying calls. I am not sure what each call means but they are different and you can feel the emotion from the tones. My favorite is the mama and daddy quail as they shepherd their chicks away from the patio and possible danger as in me.

With that job done, I wash windows which is something I haven't had time to do before but it is pleasing to see them sparkling clean displaying that wonderful desert view. There is one thing left to do and that's painting fence between the carport and house in the pool area. We will be well ready to leave tomorrow morning and likely back home by Sunday. The weather forecast for driving through northern Nevada is mixed with a possibility of snow; so we'll see how it goes as we head north.

In the evening we see the baby quail again and they are beginning to feather out, their little top knots are showing and they have quail personalities. They parrot their parents' strides. I got more photos but they move so fast that most have some blur. I think these babies will make it, and I am glad I got to see them again before I had to leave.

There are more photos in a Picasa folder which worked, then didn't work and then did. Who knows what it will do now but you can try it out if you would like: Tucson in May 2010.

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