Barreling along

barrel cactus

This is a commercially planted group of golden barrel cactus, also known as mother-in-law cushions. I know this because no self-respecting barrel would choose to grow this close to another, just like a wise mother-in-law (without the thorns)!

Barrels have a single blossom in the spring. You can see the remains here. What I like is their representation of both the short-term represented by the fading blossoms and the long-term potential of life. Living beings often grow slowly in the desert, taking time to put down roots. Under the right conditions, barrels live to be over a hundred years old.

These cacti remind me that we do not need a reason to exist–sometimes it is okay to just sit there and look beautiful.

Observe the space between your thoughts.
Then observe the observer.
~ Hamilton Bordeaux

Roots and wings

roots and wings

It was a sweltering hot afternoon when I encountered this pond in the midst of the Arizona desert.

What a delight, this surprise of the water where there shouldn’t be any. I valued the clarity of the mirrored reflection in the water where I received the gift of two mountain views, one pointing toward the heavens, the other diving into the watery depths.

Our lives and dreams present such a dichotomy to us. If we only pay attention, there are always two sides to every story–whether we hear or in this case, see, it.

Good ideas need landing gear as well as wings.
~ C. D. Jackson ~

 

 

The waters of the Verde Valley

Clear Creek Verde Valley Arizona

Clear Creek at flood stage

Although Arizona has a desert climate, much of the Verde Valley is a riparian zone with creeks such as Oak, Sycamore, Clear, Wet and Dry Beaver Creeks and even a river, The Verde.

Blood in Tavasci Marsh

 

 

The Verde Valley has also marshes. I used Tavasci Marsh as the setting of my second mystery, Blood in Tavasci Marsh.

It has lakes and ponds. Montezuma’s Well became the location of Fire in Broken Water.

 

 

Water is valued in Arizona, and especially in the Verde Valley because it is so precious and life giving. But it can come in floods and sheets of downpour that tax the ability of the red, sandy soil to absorb it.

On a walk in the aftermath of a particularly heavy rainstorm, the damp clung to my shoulders. Chain saws cut down swathes of broken limbs and the city street sweepers made the roads passable—at least until that afternoon when the storms were predicted to roll in again.

The neighbors were out kibitzing about the storm damage. “I like the rain, but not so much,” said one. Another groused, “You ought to see my backyard—it’s a mess!” “It just whooshed down, all at once!” said a third.

A friend of mine likes to do his own bit terraforming with this gift from nature. Each morning after a good storm he is out with his pickup truck “harvesting” the red dirt drying in rippled patches across the hillside roads. In this way he both keeps the roads passable for others and is gradually building up his hillside in terraced plots bathed in sunset colors of ochre and terra cotta.

I once knew a man who lived on the edge of Wet Beaver Creek near Rimrock. He came into a bit of money and decided to improve a property at the edge of the creek. For weeks the ‘dozers plowed and shifted and mounded the soil just so, building a fine peninsula in the creek for his house to rest upon.

It was lovely little cottage, really, with wonderful sweeping 360 degree views. But it was an unusually wet season that year, and each storm undercut the newly formed bank a little more. Finally one day the mother of all storms hit, with two inches of rain in less than an hour.

The last I saw of that house, it was sailing merrily down a flood-swollen torrent of red muddy water. He never did rebuild, and the last I heard, the land was up for auction to another unsuspecting tourist wanting a piece of red rock country.

Bell Rock Sedona ArizonaThose same sunset colors of pink and red and orange give depth and movement to the rock formations in rainy weather. After a storm, the Bell Rock sandstone formation is transformed by the water. The rock turns ominously dark, soaking up the moisture. When the storm is over, the rock releases the moisture in a cascade of short-term waterfalls that reflect the turquoise blue of the rain-washed skies overhead.

The trees also look cleaner after a storm, more green. A texture of pine cones and gray-green juniper berries drop after the rains to form windrows on the road surface. They skitter under the tires of passing cars and make walking uncertain at best.

Rocks wash down on the road, softball-sized pieces of rock that roll across the roads in crests of storm-driven water.

The drive up Oak Creek, from Pump House Wash to the canyon rim can be particularly treacherous as boulders as big as washing machines are undercut by the rains, and drop suddenly down on the road. They create sudden roadblocks to unwary drivers, cracking windshields and crushing fenders.

In red rock country, weather warrants our close attention. It is a shift of energy, a reminder of our human helplessness in the face of chaos. We can try to stand up against it, but water has its own way.