Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Walk with me

I live in a place where it's sunny 300 days per year, on average. This is mostly a wonderful thing. You can do outdoor activities almost every day, even in winter, as long as you take precautions against sunburn. The sun is strong here and summers are very hot. Winters can be surprisingly cold, but the sun's rays temper the cold a great deal.

These sunny climes are a blessing but many people who live here find themselves craving cloudy weather and rain. I know that probably sounds crazy. I know of people who will take the day off from work when the forecast calls for steady rain all day long - they just want to stay in bed and listen to the rain.

In the summer, we have "monsoon season" during July and August, when thunderstorms are likely most afternoons and evenings. Every year, my family waits impatiently for that first big thunderstorm and the sound of rain on the roof and skylights of our home. Sometimes this is the first real rain we'll have had for months.

The small Bears have been known to play in the rain too. Desert children are enthralled by puddles and earthworms. These are not run-of-the-mill things for them. Puddles are especially beloved because they disappear very quickly in this dry climate.

On a recent cloudy day, I felt myself drawn to the outdoors, to take a long walk through my neighborhood, to enjoy the rare cloudy skies and damp-ish air. We'd had a little rain the night before and everything was fresh. One of the best things about rain in the desert is the gorgeous scent it leaves behind. I felt compelled to go out there. Walk with me (and my small Bears) in our neighborhood and see what we see.

Leave the driveway and turn right, toward the west, to take one of the nicest circuits through the neighborhood. Two small Bears will lead the way.

Stop to look at various xeriscaping materials along the way. These can include gravel, tumbled glass, seashells and glass marbles.

Trees are just beginning to bud. If they flower, it will happen in a couple of weeks and all should be in full leaf within the month.

Cacti are budding too. This prickly pear cactus is getting small red leaves now, which will turn green as they grow.

People have very individual styles for their landscaping and yard decorations. One reason I love my neighborhood is because it is mature. The houses are between 30 and 40 years old. Some people have lived here for a long time and it has a very established feel. I like this log bench, tucked away in the corner of the yard under a big tree.

And this neighbor's large piece of driftwood, decorating the front yard in a faux "riverbed" of gravel, which is a popular motif in xeriscaping.

Turn to the right at the corner now, northward. Now you will cross the arroyo. This is a large drainage structure, one of many throughout the city, designed to carry water down to the Rio Grande, which runs through the center of our city. The arroyo system is vast and complicated.

Stand on the "bridge" crossing the arroyo (really a city street running over the top of it) and look eastward toward the mountain. The arroyo continues for miles in each direction, with an exercise trail on the upper side (the left side in the photo). I have to keep the small Bears from climbing too high on the bridge guardrails, and I watch them realize that they could fall if they aren't careful. Explain the water cycle and how run-off and tributaries work. It's a good learning experience if they cooperate.

Desert nightshade grows in abundance down here. This is a weedy area allegedly maintained by the utility company. Nature gets away from them sometimes, I think. The nightshade berries look like tiny tomatoes.

Walk past the power station along the north side of the arroyo. This area is fenced for security and they do a fairly good job of keeping it cleared and planted nicely.

Round the corner back to the residential area. Picture-perfect pine cones litter the ground under a large fir tree. The small Bears pick them up to examine them.

Further up the street, daffodil shoots are clustered, soon to flower.

Hardy pansies planted last fall are blooming again.

Cholla cactus is in bloom too, with chubby yellow flowers.

Puddles are targeted and enjoyed, as expected.

The day may be gray, but there is plenty of color to be enjoyed in gardens along the way.

A large rock features mysterious and colorful lichens. Small Bears are duly impressed. Investigation commences.

It's all so enchanting and verdant. Then you remember that you're actually walking on city streets. But not just any city streets, ones in the high desert, with a mountain nearby.

Head toward home, back across the arroyo, looking west this time.You can see the city spread out toward the mesa in the distance.

Pass the neighbor whose "riverbed" is remarkably realistic and very carefully tended, and whose courtyard is filled with the most interesting Mexican import items. We love to visit his house on Halloween, just to see what new decor he has acquired.

Pass this flowerbed planted by a lady neighbor who works very, very hard on her property. She gardens year-round and keeps this little bed in tip-top shape, with every plant carefully marked.

Pass the owl statue which is always remarked upon by small Bears; sometimes it's hated because "its eyes are creepy," and other times, "he's just so beautiful." You're a trouper, Mr. Owl.

We're almost home now. Stop to admire your own marbles in the front flower bed. These marbles came from Taos, where the Bear and I spent a weekend last year to celebrate our tenth anniversary.

Our winter jasmine plants are in full bloom now and very delicately scented. The yellow is especially bright on a gray day. 

But our daffodils have not yet made an appearance. We planted these last fall after removing some overgrown shrubs in this area. Perhaps our bulbs were duds.

Time to go inside and make some lunch. It's also starting to get a little sunny now, which feels like a slight intrusion. The cloudy dampness is coming to an end. Thank you for taking a walk with me on this most rare of mornings.


  1. What a lovely walk, I feel like I was there with you. When you live on an island where it's grey and rainy a lot of the time, it is really strange to think that there are places where rain is a novelty and something to be enjoyed:)

  2. Enjoyed the walk and seeing your sweet little bears and your neighborhood. Thanks for posting.


  3. This is just wonderful. We have the same yearning for sun as you do for cloud! It sounds like a wonderful place to be. I may do something similar with our little town one day xx

  4. Thanks for taking me on a walk with you. I love the pop of color that the flowers bring and the marbles...that is a nice touch! It's sunny and humid where I live. I love rain to cool the air (and snuggle in bed) but then after a few days I miss the sun.

    Have a wonderful day with your little bears.

    Handmade Cuties

  5. I wish that we had 300 days of sunshine, I am so jealous! Your walk looked wonderful, I love going walking with my kids it's a great family activity :)

  6. Really enjoyed that walk, so interesting to hear and see where you live. I love our changing seasons, though it feels like Spring is never coming at the moment :) xx

  7. I loved that post! Really pretty area you live in. I never realized that that type of landscaping was called xeriscaping. I love the second one you showed with the green glass in it. That was so pretty adn it is so much more practical than grass. Enjoy your time off with the little ones!

  8. I loved walking with you and your little bears. What a beautiful landscape you live in.

    Leanne xx

  9. I really enjoyed walking with you. :) This reminds me of my "treasure walks" with my children. We search out treasures most people overlook as they walk along, like tiny pinecones, sparkly rocks and pretty leaves, then we bring them back and place most of them on my little girl's "treasure stump". It's a piece of a stump my husband cut down awhile back, and she's quite proud of her collection. :) Y'all have some very neat things to see, and you took beautiful photographs of it all.

  10. What a beautiful post, I really enjoyed walking with you :) I know how you feel because where I live we can go for months without rain in the summer and I miss it so much. I love this time of year now because we've got the best of both worlds, a little bit of rain, a little but of sun and it's not too cold nor too hot. There is an awards waiting for you over on my blog :) Elisabeth x

  11. Wow, I love the different places I get to visit when blog reading. You're town just couldn't be much more different from mine!

  12. Hi Jennifer
    I just wanted to stop by and say ((THANK YOU)) for the sweet words you often leave for me in the Attic when you visit, I truly appreciate it. Lovely to have a walk with you, sooooo different to my landscape...your streets are so wide! So much space!You have inspired me to take a walk round my neighbourhood and photograph the streets, I think it's wonderful to see houses and streets in different parts of the world.
    Much love to you

  13. Little hints of spring all around us are thrilling me.. can't wait.

  14. I found this so fascinating! Your streets, front gardens, landscape and local area are SO different to mine. I did not know what "xeriscaping" was until I read your blog! Here, cloud is the norm and blue skies are greeted with joy.

    Gillian x

  15. I loved reading this, felt like I was really there! I could get used to a place where the sun shines for 300 days! My only trips "out west" were to CO and AZ. After returning home from a week with the quiet shelter of the mountains in the background, it took me awhile to get used to not being "nestled" anymore. At the sight of my first 10 foot cactus plant, I demanded to jump out of the car and have my picture taken next to it...much to the amusement of the natives as they entered the Cracker Barrel restaurant door I stood next to!


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