Life

Desert Appreciation: This Ridiculous Heat

Apparently even the national news has picked up on how friggin hot Arizona is right now. I mean, it’s typical for June to see temps above 105, even 110, but we just broke a record: 115, making yesterday the third hottest day on record.

Go us.

But for real, though: as atrocious as this heat is, it makes the rest of the year that much sweeter, and turns the arrival of monsoon season into a welcome relief instead of a humid slog. June is a harsh month, when the temps can jump from 80 to 90 to 110 within a few days and stepping outside is equivalent to stepping into an oven. But it’s only a month.

Without June, we wouldn’t have monsoons. I’m not 100% sure how the meteorology works, but the building heat somehow draws in the moisture that turns into thunderclouds and rain in July. It helps knowing this, as well as knowing we only have to endure for a few more weeks. Staying inside and running the a/c also helps. Keeping a sense of humor about the whole thing makes it even easier.

For this particularly hot day, I decided it was time to take advantage of the heat. I also wanted to bake, but without having to use our oven in the middle of the day. Why not use the heat for baking? Thus, car-broiled cookies were born.

 

Four: It’s A Dry Heat

 

Carbroiled Cookies
Step 1) Take your average chocolate chip cookie recipe and spice it up with a rainbow of colors.

 

Carbroiled Cookies
Step 2) Insert cookie dough into pre-heated car.

 

<Carbroiled Cookies
Step 3) Let bake for 3-4 hours.

 

Carbroiled Cookies
Step 4) Remove (with oven mitts!!) and enjoy! Inside. Preferably.
 

Life

Desert Appreciation: Monsoon

I grew up in Florida. I know about thunderstorms. Throughout the summer, we’d get them every day around 3-5pm like clockwork. Small bursts that would congregate and dispense rain like sudden, divine punishment before slipping away to the next block. You could look out one side of the house and see sunlight and blue sky, only to go to another side and find darkness and rain. Larger storms that would stretch into the night, rain drumming louder than a rock concert.

Then there were, of course, the hurricanes. Tropical depressions, tropical storms, cat 1, cat 2, and time-to-evacuate cat 3.

I thought I was ready for monsoon season. Rain? Check. Heavy rain? Check check. Rain so thick you can’t see the hand in front of your face? Checkity check check. Gimme some hail and some close calls with lightning and it’ll feel just like home.

I was ready – for the rain. But not for the desert side of things. The way you could watch a storm approach from miles and miles away. The way clouds bubbled and boiled and burst above the mountains before spilling over in a frightening rage. The way the riverbed, always dry, suddenly filled with churning water, sweeping along anything and everything in its path. The way day turned to night and lightning streaked from one side of the horizon to the other.

And the aftermath. When a Florida storm passes, it leaves little more than wet concrete and steaming asphalt. When a desert storm passes, the world is changed. The oppressive heat is broken, cut down from its dizzying heights to something more livable, breathable. The desert perks up, cacti swelling with the rain and brush bursting with green. The crisp, tangy smells of ozone and creosote permeates everything. Toads quark loudly in the mud, emerging from their months-long hibernation only for the rain.

In Florida, rain is at worst a nuisance, at best a time to set your watch. In the desert, rain is at worst a flash flood that rips down streets and drowns cars, at best – life. The only way this barren, dusty landscape becomes livable.

 

Three: The Majesty of Monsoon

 

Microburst over Oro Valley

 

Afternoon sunshower

 

Rain on glass

 

Gathering storm

 

Monsoon over mountains and hills

 

Monsoon, Part: Approaching from Over the Lake

 

Storm rolling across mountains

 

During the storm

 

Water under Campbell Bridge

 

Water in the Rillito

 

Rainbows after a storm

 

Stormy Sunset

Life

Desert Appreciation: Bats

When we moved to the desert, we picked an apartment on the waterless river within walking distance of a grocery store. It was perfect. We could walk along the river path to the store, cross under a bridge for a busy road, and never having to wait at lights or attempt a game of live-action Frogger.

Because we arrived in summer, the best time to hit up the grocery store was in the evening, when the blisteringly hot sun was finally going down. So it was no surprise that we quickly found out that the bridge was harboring a secret: bats upon bats. We had inadvertently picked a home near the busiest, battiest bridge in all of Tucson.

I love it. The bats are semi-migratory, so there are far fewer in winter than summer, making Watching the Bats Come Out one of the few reasons to venture outside when it’s 110+ degrees. I will remember many a sticky night spent swatting mosquitoes, sweat streaming down my back, leaning over a metal rail, and watching the bats swarm and dart and finally flow free.

 

Two: The Splendor of a Bat Explosion

 

Campbell Bridge Bats

 

DITL May 17th

 

 

DITL May 17th

 

DITL May 17th

 

DITL May 17th

 

DITL May 17th

 

An Eruption of Bats

 

A Snake of Bats

Life

Desert Appreciation: Spring Blooms

As we near both the bleakness of summer and our move-outta-town date (oh yeah, did I mention we’re moving to Michigan??), I’m going to do a series of photo posts about the desert, Arizona, and our time here. It has truly been worldview-shifting and an amazing experience that I never could have anticipated. To be honest, when we were making the choice between grad schools way back six years ago, I really wanted to move to Oregon. But I am so, so glad we came here instead.

Let me count the ways.

 

One: The Glory That is a Desert Spring

 

april-25

I grew up in Florida and never really experienced spring. Because it never quite froze during the winter, plants kept their leaves and weren’t rushed to bud and bloom as soon as it warmed up. After all, they had 11 months to do all that.

 

Spring Blooms in the Desert

Then we moved to Seattle and I watched the leaves fluoresce orange, yellow, red, before giving way to cold and dark and brittleness, and then suddenly blossoming again with bright-bright green buds come spring. My favorite part were the daffodils and crocuses that popped out of the snow, brilliant bits of color in an otherwise stark landscape.

 

may-97

But Seattle has nothing on the desert.

For about two months out of the year, the drab brown is awash in yellow and orange and pink and white. Mostly yellow: the palo verdes go to town, blanketing streets and backyards in yellow blossoms and pollen. An allergy-sufferer’s nightmare, true, but worth it.

 

Spring Flowers

The plants don’t have much time to get in as much growing/blossoming as possible before the temp spikes over a hundred and what little moisture we got over the winter is all gone. So they go all out and it’s epic.

 

Spring Flowers

 

Ocotillo Blossom

 

april-6

 

april-2

I’m definitely going to miss this time of ecstatic bloom.