Wednesday, 29 April 2015


Broken only by the occasional haunting chorus of coyote howls, a serene hush has settled over the desert. Mighty saguaros, like giant sentinels, stand dark in silhouette against a diamond-studded nighttime curtain of twinkling stars. Washing over us, balmy night breezes carrying residual warmth from the day caress our faces and whisper desert secrets. On the horizon, a familiar rocky ledge first takes on a dusty blurred texture, then ultimately diminishes to mere shadow.

Shimmering candles illuminate our table. The sole source of light in the lanai, they increase the magic of this Sonoran night. Look at how a single candle can both defy and define darkness.* At first it is as if Jim and I are alone in the universe until one by one lights flit on in distant houses, golden lamplight spilling from their windows onto the desert floor.

Candles flicker; stars twinkle silently. Sometimes the beauty of a moment can be heart-stoppingly intense. I try to carefully store the memory of this magic moment away.

* Anne Frank

Sunday, 26 April 2015


Dry, arid, harsh are descriptions most would associate with the word desert. Hot air and dusty conditions prevail at certain times of the year for sure, but for me these words when used to describe the Sonoran Desert simply don't cut it. Awe inspiring, beautiful, life lessons are the what come to my mind. 

The mighty saguaro cactus, the tallest and largest in Arizona, takes a staggering 15 years to grow a mere foot and 50 to 75 years to grow its first arm. By the time these massive giants tower over the desert trees, they are 100 to 200 years old and have survived droughts, sudden torrential rains, brutal high winds and even snow. Hmmmm? I think. Strength and dignity with age - I somehow find that thought comforting.

Brittle bush, the little flower that dramatically paints the rocky hillsides and flats with its dazzling yellow colour, is just one small Sonoran Desert example of adaptation and survival. Two sets of leaves can grow depending on seasonal conditions. "When the climate is cooler and has more moisture, pale green leaves appear. These leaves are designed to absorb a lot of sunlight. During the intense summer heat, another set of leaves grow. These leaves have a layer of white hairs that act as a sun block to protect the leaves from getting burned".* How many of us, especially as we get older, remain rigid in our beliefs and unable to embrace change? Adapt, is the overwhelming desert message I hear. Adapt. I need to continually remind myself of that persistent little brittle bush.

To hike through the desert in springtime is to enjoy a desert floor decorated in yellow, reds, purples and whites. Adapting to and surviving a harsh climate in no way prevents the desert from displaying its true beauty. I hear you desert. No matter how difficult times and circumstances may be, I need to respond with kindness and understanding, with beauty.

Crazy, you say. The musing of a "retired" mind perhaps, but I find life lessons here. Most of all I find peace. Somehow this Sonoran Desert, this little speck on our vast planet has found its way into my heart. And I love that.

* Desert in Bloom, Smith-Southwestern Inc.

Monday, 20 April 2015


OMG, we're actually in ******! So much to see; so much to do, are words that begin most of our travels and then the insane scurry to see, visit and experience as much as humanly possible commences. Another one of those OMG-trips is in store for Jim and I later this summer, so we changed tack this time in Arizona and decided almost simultaneously to stop and smell the local roses for once.

Are we finished travelling the length and breadth of The Grand Canyon State? No way! On every visit our Arizona love affair grows exponentially. Over the years, Jim and I have explored from Tombstone and Bisbee near the Mexican border, through the Tucson area, the dramatic Apache Trail and kooky Tortilla Flat, up the Mingus Highway (a heart stopping127 turns in 12 miles) to quirky Jerome and down into breathtaking Sedona (at least 5 times), 

twisted our way up Oak Creek Canyon through the majestic aspen stands near Flagstaff and on to the awe inspiring Grand Canyon. Hiking the hair raising 7.4 mile Rim Trail east from Canyon City to Hermit's Rest, for me, was the experience of a lifetime.

All those miles travelled and we have barely scratched the surface of what Arizona has to offer. Our want to see check list grows each year - the slot canyons, a Colorado River trip, and Monument Valley to name a few. But that is, God willing, for upcoming years. This was our year to smell the local roses.

Jim and I promised ourselves to remain active and that we have thus far accomplished. Lengthy early morning hikes in the desert and walks in beautiful Terravita and charming Old Scottsdale have allowed us to truly enjoy not just the desert vistas but the diverse floral and animal life that exist within. I have been able to indulge myself with my camera. The Sonoran Desert is truly at its most beautiful in April and we have had the time to savour every stunning moment. 

Golf games on exquisite local golf courses, time spent with good friends, and much too much southwestern food and drink. I'll pay for that later. Grrrrr!

Fascinating museums relating the west's history, glorious Indian art galleries, shows and markets, even the famous (or should I say infamous) Cave Creek Town Dump...we've been busy....and locally!

With the exception of dinner in three restaurants without patio dining, every dinner and evening has been spent outside, enjoying blazing Arizona sunsets followed by starry desert skies, cooling desert breezes and NO BUGS. ( Did you hear that Ontario?) To say that we live outside is an understatement.

As I proofread my musings, I realize that my desire to relate how rewarding it is to stop and smell the roses has morphed into a love letter to Arizona. So be it!

Thursday, 9 April 2015


Golfing devotees may pooh-pah me. Cheaping out, eh? You can't even play a full round? Bring on the guffaws, but sorry everyone, I make absolutely no apologies. I have dreamed for a full year of once again playing twilight golf at my favourite course - the breathtaking Rancho Mañana.

For the clarification of non-golfers, twilight golf is named as such because rounds begin after 3:30 in the afternoon; as many holes as possible are played until the sun sets and twilight's darkness descends or, as happened to us yesterday evening, the powerful sprinkler systems chillingly spew forth. Cheaper? Of course, because completion of a full eighteen holes is impossible. Do I like twilight golf because of the reduced cost? Not really. I love twilight golf for all of the wrong non-golfing reasons. There! I admitted it.

Twilight golf, for me, is all about good friends and sensations. Ascending the golf cart paths into the hills, one immediately feels welcome late afternoon breezes dissipate the day's heat. I lift my face to the cool air and sweet desert scents.

Shadow and light contrasts afford stunning views over the gorgeous Sonoran Desert. Every object on the course, sand traps and water hazards alike, are enhanced by the lowering sun. Mountains, in the background, soften and mute their daytime colours, creating a dramatic shadowy backdrop.

Slanting Rays cast elongated shadows of golfers, green's flags and saguaros alike. Perhaps my game would improve is my arms were actually as long as those possessed by my shadow persona. I can dream, can't I?

It is usually by the ninth hole, when I can finally enjoy the privilege of witnessing daytime's mighty sun as it balances on Black Mountain's rim creating a glowing finale to another Sonoran Desert day before bowing off to descending twilight.

Does it end there? Well, the golf perhaps, but not the experience. Now is time to enjoy a meal at Rancho Mañana's charming Tonto Bar and Grill. Overlooking the tenth fairway and green, torches pierce the darkness, heaters reduce the desert's nighttime chill, golfers chatter and laugh, a glass of wine is savoured with good friends and another twilight game of golf is complete. Yup! Twilight golf, for me, is all about friendship and sensations and I love it!

Thursday, 2 April 2015


Quietly sliding the door open, I step outside onto our patio, breathe my first dose of cool, sweet Arizona morning air, and look towards the glowing morning horizon. Wispy, muted, water-colour like hues take on a daytime vibrancy as the rising sun shoots the Sonoran palette with pulsing Rays of golden light.

Don't move,  I order myself. Listen. Breathe. Savour the peace.

Almost imperceptibly at first, life begins to stir. Gentle desert breezes rustle the undergrowth. As if taking their first stretch of the day, majestic saguaro cacti mimic the gentle sway. Soaring on early morning thermals, a giant red hawk swoops and dives in search of breakfast. Alert to the swoosh of threatening wings, a long-eared jackrabbit stands statue-still, camouflaging himself beside the faded paddles of a prickly pear. Unwilling to chance capture, a road runner spins off in a cloud of dust towards the safety of tall desert grasses. The startling, raucous cry of a cactus wren suddenly pierces the early morning stillness and the Sonoran Desert comes fully alive for another day.

I bid good morning to the beautiful Sonoran Desert, good morning to my desert tonic. Life is good.