In Our Own Backyard…Warm weather is a world awayWe awoke to the sound of doves cooing conversationally outside our window. The soft “whup, whup, whup” of the ceiling fan stirred the thin percale sheet that lay over us. And as I slid out of bed and into my sandals, I could already sense the heat of the day. By evening, we were stuck in the driveway....
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
We awoke to the sound of doves cooing conversationally outside our window. The soft “whup, whup, whup” of the ceiling fan stirred the thin percale sheet that lay over us. And as I slid out of bed and into my sandals, I could already sense the heat of the day.
By evening, we were stuck in the driveway….
It was the cold reality of returning from a vacation in Arizona to the harsh reality of a Minnesota winter. I’ve generally felt sorry for folks who take off for warmer climates at this point in the year because more often than not, they leave behind the first enchanting days of spring. Last year the temperatures in mid-March reached the 60s and 70s, and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
This year, however, we decided to take a leap of faith and head to Arizona for a little R & R. The winter had grown overly long, and since there didn’t appear to be any end in sight we felt secure in the fact that we wouldn’t be missing the advent of spring while we were away.
We flew out on a Thursday — the one clear day in a week filled with freezing rain, snowfall and blizzard warnings. We knew luck was on our side. As we made our way to Minneapolis and then to Tucson, we could feel the stress and pent-up energy of the winter begin to seep out of our pores, soon to be replaced by the restorative powers of the Arizona sunshine. It had been a long time since we’d headed south in the wintertime, and we realized immediately that we’d made the right decision.
Along with the good friends who accompanied us, we rambled around Tucson and took in the sights like any good tourists. But it wasn’t the usual tourist attractions that made our time there so special.
In the long run, it was the simple things — things like watching a tiny hummingbird sitting on her nest of downy feathers bound together by spider webs.
It was watching a pair of vultures swoop almost at eye level from the top of a mountain (hoping we weren’t destined to become their next meal!).
It was witnessing one of the most spectacular sunsets ever, rimming the distant peaks as the four of us sat atop a giant boulder aglow with the sun’s parting rays.
It was heading out after dark as the waxing crescent moon sliced the rim of the sky, spotting at last the Comet PANSTARRS through our binoculars as it blazed through the sky like an otherworldly specter.
It was soaking our feet in a mountain stream so cold it made our teeth ache after an afternoon of hiking along the side of a wildflower-strewn canyon in blazing heat.
It was the familiar feel of a horse beneath me as we headed down a trail through the saguaros.
It was the sight of an old dog lying in the sunny courtyard outside an ancient white mission.
It was the sweet smell of something we couldn’t quite identify blooming in the desert.
It was the bright garnet hue of prickly pear syrup on French toast in the morning.
It was the sound of the quail calling beckoningly to each other from all ends of the desert outside our patio door.
And yes, it was driving out of the sand, cactus and sweltering 95-degree heat, far enough up the mountain until we reached pine trees and snow…..just like at home in Minnesota!
It shouldn’t have been such a shock, then, that when our plane landed in Duluth there was snow blowing sideways on the runway. It sliced through our thin jackets as we walked down the jet way and we knew for a fact we were home.
But the cruelest blow of all was when we arrived back at our house. One of the neighbors had plowed the shared driveway, leaving an icy ridge over the entryway to our yard. We backed into the drive so we could unload our luggage from the trunk — and got hung up on the snowdrift. The next half hour was spent shoveling, snow blowing, scattering kitty litter under our tires and rocking the car back and forth until we at long last got it unstuck.
The next morning we thought longingly of the balmy desert morning we’d left behind. We stashed away our sandals and suntan lotion and did the only thing we could do — we went cross country skiing.