Clouds are rare in the gridded, desert cities near Phoenix. Parched dirt alleys between backyards rimmed by concrete block walls transform our little single-domicile plots into our own castles or prisons, depending on your viewpoint.
It thrills me every time I glimpse the roadrunner who frequents the pebbled front yard. Here among brittlebushes, aloe, cacti, desert marigolds and a treasured ironwood tree, a small elephant tree thrives. I admire its superhero plant ability to photosynthesize through its own peeling bark during tough times, when its leaves drop. When present, elephant trees’ foliage emits a pungent scent both pickles and lime. Here in our Tempe neighborhood I spotted a jackrabbit 12 times over a two-year period. Lizards, Anna’s hummingbirds, verdins, Abert’s towhees, and Inca doves — these feel like the core of the place. Truth and wild desert denizens call me, fueling both curiosity and contentment.
Summers we lightly bake for three months until August when we broil. At some point each of us tires of the heat. Although unrelenting heat supplies conversation starters and a sweet challenge for how to speak of atmospheric infernos originally, at some point the baking takes a physical and emotional toll on almost everyone.
I respect this intensity as another mark of what is wild.
My husband tends a green patch of our backyard, watering and nurturing a smudge of grass along with fig and orange trees, chili peppers, and tomato plants. Sunflowers, mint and volunteer basil mooch off the watering and add color through our summer, sometimes the only colorful relief for eyes more used to sandy tones.
The green fortifies our perseverance. We can endure this oven. The brilliant blue-skied amazing fall days will be here for a reunion soon.
Not too far past the upcoming equinox, maybe our just-planted small pumpkin patch will flourish and the backyard garden will shift to broccoli, chard and other greens for dinner. The birds will continue to find refuge in the backyard and delight my little boy with their twittering flying performances. Most of all, may we continue to pay attention to what is here.