I Loved Her Eyes

Our dog Ellie looks to the side while sitting beside me on the couch while I watch football in October 2013

I loved her eyes.

I loved the way they lit up when she stuck her head around the door when I arrived home from work. I loved how much more expressive they became when the gray spread to her eyebrows. I loved the way she looked at me on our walks. Multiple people over the years stopped us to tell me how they loved the way she looked at me, how could I express how much I loved it too?

I loved how they showed the character of the dog beneath.

I loved how she’d look at me, then shift her eyes towards the closet where her treats were, then back to me. I’ve often wondered when she started doing it, how long it was before I realized she was doing it and how much longer before I understood what she wanted. She did it until the very end when I was a little more generous with the charcoal treats she wanted, as she could eat them even when her appetite for regular food was waning. She couldn’t move her legs very well but those eyes never had any trouble darting towards the treats.

Here she’s curled up beside me on the couch in the fall of 2013 as I watched football on a Sunday afternoon, the gray spreading across her face. How old she looked to me then, how young she looks to me now!

Could You Point Me Towards the Latigo Trail?

A soaptree yucca, its flower stalk laden with fruit and leaning over, points towards a saguaro down the connector trail from the Brown's Ranch Trailhead to the Latigo Trail, taken at dawn in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in June 2019

Ah, thanks, much obliged!

(Taken before sunrise near the Brown’s Ranch Trailhead where I start many of my hikes, to give you a flavor of how I start my mornings on the trails, the desert feels magical to me in these moments. The helpful plant is a soaptree yucca with its flower stalk, now laden with fruit, leaning over. The trail winds through the saguaros beyond and is a great place for birdwatching, further down is where I’ve photographed mule deer, javelina, white-winged doves, one of the Harris’s hawk families, one set of Gila woodpecker parents, and lots of other wildlife.)

The High Heat of Summer

Our cats Sam and Trixie sleep face-to-face as they snuggle on my legs in June 2019

As hot as it’s been in Scottsdale, it gets hotter when two furry furnaces are sleeping on your legs. I wouldn’t have it any other way. A quick snap with my iPhone a couple of nights ago, I was going hiking in 5 hours and struggling to join Sam and Trixie in slumber. My two sleep advisors suggested taking a nap in the afternoon and I’ve done that the past three days, an early hike then a swim then a nap. It’s worked out wonderfully but not tomorrow, don’t think they’d appreciate that at work.

Morning Dove

The silhouette of a white-winged dove perched atop a fruiting saguaro on the Latigo Trail in the Brown's Ranch section of McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in June 2019

White-winged doves have been hiding from me all spring (on the trails, we see them regularly at home) but with the arrival of summer and fruit on the saguaros it seemed as though a white-wing was atop every saguaro each morning this weekend.

Am I Forgiven?

A mourning dove perches at the end of a dead tree branch near the Latigo Trail in the Brown's Ranch section of McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in May 2019

The day after Ellie died I thought pruning a dense thicket of bougainvillea would be a welcome respite from endlessly pacing the house, though it was hard looking back at the empty porch. I have no experience with them and was struggling with a section that was growing mostly out of reach on the other side of the fence. I heard a mourning dove making a ruckus and my heart sank when I realized it was nesting in that thicket with a couple of eggs in its nest. I backed away immediately and left off the pruning and thankfully it stayed on the nest.

However the next few times I saw mourning doves on the trails they bolted before I could get pictures and I was afraid word had gotten out about the attempted dove killer. But then this one posed for me on the Latigo Trail in the early morning light, perhaps I had been forgiven.

In the Shadows, In the Light

As the rising sun lights up distant Pinnacle Peak, a white-winged dove perches on a tree in the shadows along the Latigo Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in June 2019

As the rising sun lights up distant Pinnacle Peak, a white-winged dove perches in the shadows. The light soon reached the tips of the tallest saguaros and was a minute or two from reaching the fruiting saguaro this dove was jealously guarding from other doves when suddenly the lights went out. From my vantage point I couldn’t see the sun and saw naught but blue sky before me, but low-lying clouds in the east must have rolled in. Although I missed the first kiss of the soft red light the sun soon returned and I watched this dove and a variety of other birds from that one spot for quite some time, the only downside being I only hiked for a couple of miles that morning.

Breaking 100

A screenshot of the iPhone weather app showing temperatures in Scottsdale above 100 degrees for the next week

The weather isn’t the only thing breaking 100, sometime in the last couple of weeks I took my 100th hike since moving to Arizona and I’ve taken a handful more since. Most of those have been on one of the many trails of McDowell Sonoran Preserve, at over 30,000 acres the largest urban park in the US. Our new house is near the northern and central trailheads, which not coincidentally are my favorites. The commute to work is a bit longer than the other houses we looked at it but it sure is nice to only have a 10 minute drive when you want to be on the trails at a quarter to five in the morning.

This Land Is My Land

A northern mockingbird flares out its wings and tail to arrest its climb during a territorial display along the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in June 2019

Although I grew up with them in the east we didn’t have mockers in Oregon so I’m getting reacquainted after two decades apart. This past week I watched this mockingbird doing its dance on successive mornings, possibly to establish its territory from this high vantage point on a granite boulder where it would have been visible from further distances (I never saw another mockingbird). It would fly up a short distance and do these aerobatic maneuvers, reminding me more of a flycatcher, as it arrested its climb and returned to the rock. In between hops it sang a wide variety of songs, although a thrasher would sometimes fly in and the mockingbird would lay low for a while.

The Morning Submarine

Submarine Rock is bathed in soft red light early on a spring morning on the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in June 2019

Submarine Rock is one of the massive boulders that fell down from the mountains as part of the landslide 500,000 years ago. At first I wasn’t sure which rock was Submarine Rock as at first glance I thought “whale” and there is another large boulder out-of-frame to the left (it’s casting the shadow on the front) that looks to me like a World War II era submarine breaching the surface. Submarine Rock now lies halfway into my hike as it is in the middle of the short loop at the far end of the Marcus Landslide Trail. Normally I can’t get out this far during the soft sunrise light, even if I’m hoofing it, while it was no different on this morning smoke from fires in the distant Superstitions left the light a soft red for longer than normal.