July 2, 2012

What is it like to discover Tucson in the summer? It's a challenge, for sure.

One of the first hot days back in May, I met my friend Gail and we took a drive up the long, steep winding road to Mt. Lemmon. We stopped once to walk a bit and admire the view; two climbers were winding up their ropes, having just climbed up a daunting rock face.

On the road up Mt. LemmonOn the way up to Mt. Lemmon

At the end of the road, we parked and walked through the woods for awhile. The air was like a balm, so cool, clean and fresh, filled with the sharp scent of the huge Ponderosa pines. Tiny delicate Canada violets carpeted the ground and the red osier dogwood along the trickling stream was covered with clusters of buds.

A bit later, we continued on up Ski Run Road to the Iron Door Restaurant for lunch, sitting in speckled sunlight on the porch, watching hummingbirds at the feeders. The aspen leaves were new and still small, that tender lime green. The food was absolutely delicious so we splurged and shared a blackberry cobbler for dessert.

Mt. Lemmon Ski AreaMt. Lemmon Ski Valley from the Iron Door Restaurant

With temperatures above 100 degrees almost every day now, my efforts to discover Tucson take place as early as possible in the day. After noon, I find things to do inside with the AC keeping things reasonably comfortable.

For seven weeks, I met with a Writers’ Group once a week. One week I discovered Tucson was having a Writers’ Workshop run by Pima Community College over Memorial Day weekend, and immediately signed up. It was wonderful – talks and readings by various published writers, almost all of whom teach graduate writing programs at colleges and universities. I learned so much and got fired up to do more with my writing – I will definitely do it again next year. Of course I also bought several books.

Mexican Bird of ParadiseMexican Bird of Paradise
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The past couple of months have seen major work on my tin house: locks fixed, porch rescreened, gutters cleaned, the kitchen painted, new laminate floor in the living room, roof re-coated, etc. I think I’m through spending money now, at least for the time being.

Mural on 4th AvenueDiscover 4th Avenue

Discover Tucson's Fourth Avenue

One Saturday morning, I went to discover Tucson’s Fourth Avenue shopping district, down near the University, primarily to visit Antigone Books, one of the few independent booksellers left in this area. I got there before stores opened so I could wander around a bit. Fourth Avenue has a big street fair every spring and fall – I went a couple of years ago and it was lots of fun. There are funky little shops, free parking along the streets (except during the fairs), and hitching posts for bicycles.

Fourth Avenue in TucsonFourth Avenue in Tucson

Outside the herbal shop I was asked if I’d like to have my pulse read. It sounded interesting, so I sat down in a chair and a woman put her fingers on three spots on each wrist, corresponding to six different organs, to read my pulse. Her first comment was: “Are you on some kind of medication?” I told her about the chemo and she said that explained the fact that my pulses were all “wiry,” whatever that means – something like confused, I think. It turned out she had had a malignant brain tumor. Is everyone in the world dealing with cancer? It sometimes seems like that.

Goodwill Store on Fourth AvenueGoodwill Store on Fourth Avenue

Saguaros have lost their white blooms and are setting red fruits. The palm trees here at Friendly Village have long fronds covered with tiny white blossoms; they drift down in the breeze like a miniature snowstorm. Yesterday, when I went to swim, landscaping people were way up in the palm trees trimming the lower fronds. With their new haircuts, they look a little silly; the scant shade they provided for the pool is now severely diminished.

There is a wonderful bush covered with red-gold flowers on the corner of my property – I see them everywhere throughout Tucson. It’s called Mexican Bird of Paradise.

There are lots of Gambrel’s quail and white-winged doves in the neighborhood, as well as lizards. I’ve also seen baby cottontails.

The monsoon season is officially upon us; we watch hopefully as clouds build to the East and South. We can see lightning strikes and rain falling in some areas, but for whatever reason, the rain has not fallen on my tin house yet. It will be interesting to discover Tucson's rivers at last.

Welcome to 4th AvenueWelcome to 4th Avenue

Shame the Devil - Debra Brenegan - , an historical novel that tells the true story of Fanny Fern, 1811-1872, one of the 19th century's most successful and popular writers. Hard to put down.

Strength in What Remains - Tracy Kidder. An inspiring, wonderfully written testament to the power of will and second chances.

When Women Were Birds - Terry Tempest Williams. Her dying mother told Terry she was leaving her all her journals, but Terry was not to look at them until after her death. Unaware that her mother had kept journals, Terry was shocked to find three shelves of beautiful cloth-bound books, all of them empty. A meditation on what it means to have a voice.

Looking for Alaska – John Green. I’m so glad I’ve discovered this author – he captures teenagers like no one else.

Modern American Memoirs - an anthology, edited by Annie Dillard and Cort Conley. Excerpts from some of the best memoirs of our times.

Wapiti Wilderness by Margaret & Olaus Murie - wonderful stories of camping/living in Moose, WY in the first half of the 20th C; also Legacy of the Tetons: Homesteading in Jackson Hole, by Candy Moulton - all about Mormon Row, just south of Moose.

These last two books I read as research for a book (that I keep thinking I’ll write some day) about my great aunt who had a ranch just north of Moose. Neither of them had any mention of the Half Moon Ranch, however I learned a great deal about the area that I had not known. Aunt Anita surely knew the Muries.

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As you can see, I get a lot of reading done while hiding out from the heat. Next, I think I’ll do some reading to discover Tucson’s history.

I had a wonderful lunch with friends at the Tohono Chul Park Tea Room last week. I’ve been to the gardens several times and would have liked to visit them again. Unfortunately, it was about 105. Anyone thinking of a trip to discover Tucson (maybe next winter?) should definitely put this on their list.

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New Motorhome Shopping 
Wow, Susan ... the fall-out of your writing workshop really shows in this last entry. Delightful to read. I always love your book recommendations too. …

Taking time to read 
Susan, I'm jealous of your time to read. I can just see you flaked out in a cooled down, comfy spot, totally focused on the words in front of you. I'm …

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Tohono Chul ParkTohono Chul Park Tea Room

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Loved this book since I'm always looking for new places to explore in Arizona.


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