Sunday, July 7, 2013

Somnambulating Through Sonoran Summer

Anyone who has lived through a desert summer knows the out-of-time nature of it. Intense light. Intense heat. In Tucson where students and winter residents have left, this whole town becomes more like what it used to be decades ago. Smaller, quiet­. And there is a palpable feeling of camaraderie among those of us who stick around.

Then come the summer rains. In good years there are almost daily downpours.  The sky opens up about four-thirty and dumps for about an hour. Then glorious sunsets are reflected on the under surface of thick yet dissipating clouds. Sometimes the pink or golden glow extends all the way over your head to the eastern horizon. Stunning. Reward for staying with the lizards and braving the parched oven-blast air that slaps you as you emerge from an artificially cooled building.

We’re still waiting for those rains. Last weekend we got a little preview. In an effort to get out of the house, a friend and I went downtown and walked a couple blocks to our dinner destination through hot, somewhat heavy air that draped us like a burka. It was overcast so the sun was an eerie glow in the west and the slanted light was greyish gold. As we ate and chatted we noticed a rise in the mood of our fellow diners and looked outside. It was raining. Soon we emerged into the caress of lush air. Puddles created a cooling effect as we made our way to PorchFest, a first-time event in one of Tucson’s historic neighborhoods. We met a couple more friends and wandered from one porch to the next where musicians played mostly acoustic music. The little bit of water awakened desert neighborhood scents – creosote and cleveland sage, pigeon droppings and warm wet concrete. Music wafted in the luscious air along with the scents and the soft receding light. Really lovely.

That was short-lived though. This week we’ve had a little bit of afternoon rain but for the most part it’s been about 106 outside and a little humid as the monsoon season builds. With the creeping humidity, I’m retreating. Shifting to a more internal life inside my house. There is a lot of reading.  Many hours of reading.  I keep the phone next to me on the off chance someone will call. I don’t want to have to get up from my chair.

Yet I have been slowly making progress on my house projects. These are the conditions I’m facing: I went out earlyish in the morning to measure my front square footage in preparation for ordering crushed rock cover, walking round the edges with a tape measure. It’s only about 400 square feet so we’re not talking a lot of time outside. I came back in and was fine for about a minute. And then sweat burst from my entire body. Which just perpetuates the desire to close the blinds, turn the air conditioning down a couple degrees and dive into a pool of words.

I know it is probably a lot more interesting for all of you if I get out and do things and then report back. But for now I’m kind of hibernating. I’ll let you know if anything dramatic happens. Like, I went outside. And survived.



  1. Great, evocative post, Joan. The biologist in me compels to me to suggest that you are not hibernating but aestivating. Doug T.

  2. Had to look that up of course and oh you are so right, my always-so-knowledgeable friend.

  3. HI, Joan,
    I like the image of the humid heat being a burka. I've read all this year's posts now. I'll go back and read the ones you wrote just after retiring, as that's where I am now. About becoming more descriptive: Do you read Stephen King? I ask because many of my friends are afraid to read him. The man is not one of the world's best-selling authors by accident. Part of what makes Stephen King so compelling is that he begins his books with detailed descriptions of ordinary life. The worlds he creates, especially in the books that have a first-person narrator, are so vivid that I, as the reader, come to completely accept them as real. Then, when the strange things begin happening, I have to accept them as real, too. I often find myself thinking in that narrator's voice. Powerful prose! Less scary trial read: The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. Fondly, Peggy

  4. I also think you don't look that different from your 40ish picture. Peggy