The Aging Heart

Our cat Sam rests atop the cat tree with the TV in the background on January 30, 2021. Original: _CAM9550.arw

Sam needs oral surgery but in preparation they noticed some odd heart behavior so he went to a cardiologist and was diagnosed with heart disease, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), so he’ll get his surgery at a specialist with an anesthesiologist trained for his condition. Then he’ll be on a blood thinner to reduce stroke risk, thankfully I think it’s in pill form as he likes pill pockets but getting liquid down his throat is not for the faint of heart. He’s not showing any symptoms yet so depending on how his condition progresses he might be with us for years to come, he’s to get periodic evaluations every six months and we need to keep a close eye on any symptoms that develop.

The Night Watch

Our cats Trixe and Boo sit behind the wooden shutters of my office window at night on January 30, 2021. Original: _CAM9513.arw

Boo has spent a lot of time with me this winter and at night has been trying to figure out how to open the window shutters after I close them. I suppose he has figured it out since after he starts rattling them I give up and open them enough so he can get behind them. On this night in January Trixie joined him for his watch. A couple of weeks later he sprang off my legs where he had been sleeping and ran to the window, this time I grabbed a flashlight and when I opened the shutters saw the local javelina family was paying us a visit. I went and woke Trixie and Sam and brought them in, Trixie squirmed and protested until she saw why I had disturbed her slumber. Boo had seen them before, not sure about Sam and Trixie, but they all sat transfixed as the family rooted around for mesquite seeds on the other side of the window.

Three Saguaros

The shadow of a saguaro climbs a hill between two other sagauros on the Apache Wash Loop Trail in Phoenix Sonoran Preserve in Phoenix, Arizona on January 2, 2021. Original: _CAM9105.arw

When we first moved to Arizona and I started taking pictures in sunlight I struggled with what to do about my shadow. At first I’d try to compose the picture so my shadow didn’t fall in the image, and sometimes still do, but sometimes now I lean into it and deliberately put my shadow into the frame as a reminder that I’m documenting my life in the desert. On this occasion though as I photographed the damage in the saguaro on the left, as the sun sank low a giant behind me threw its shadow all the way up the hill, allowing me to sidle down the trail and hide within it. That’s not just me throwing up my arms pretending to be a saguaro, though I can’t say the thought has never crossed my mind.

The Shroud of Phoenix

A saguaro has sealed off damage where it's skin has split in multiple places on the Apache Wash Loop Trail in Phoenix Sonoran Preserve in Phoenix, Arizona on January 2, 2021. Original: _RAC3511.arw

When I first saw the pattern of damage in this saguaro I was reminded of the Shroud of Turin, only when I later looked at images of the real shroud I realized my remembrance of it was mistaken, it was far more detailed in actuality than memory. This section of damage reminded me of a head, a torso with crossed arms, and legs below, here shown in the seconds before the sun dipped below the mountains behind me. Perhaps the skin of the saguaro split after it ate too many donuts and it sealed the damage with resin to prevent water loss, but I’m not a biologist.

I Hiked Alone, Surrounded by Friends

A black-throated sparrow perches atop a buckhorn cholla on the new interpretative trail at Fraesfield at McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona on January 24, 2021. Original: _RAC3574.arw

I came across this black-throated sparrow in a mixed flock of sparrows on the new hard-packed interpretative trail at Fraesfield on a rainy winter afternoon. It’s a nice trail if you have mobility issues or need to push a stroller or wheelchair or the like, and is also nice on rainy days when they’d prefer you stay off the regular trails. Even after a few years in the desert I can’t get over how naturally birds land on a cactus with spikes half the size of their bodies, they are more at ease in their dangerous world than I will ever be in mine.

A black-throated sparrow perches in a buckhorn cholla on the new interpretative trail at Fraesfield at McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona on January 24, 2021. Original: _RAC3614.arw

Red Eyed Lady of the Lowlands

A female phainopepla perches on a curved branch on the Latigo Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona on November 28, 2020. Original: _RAC9951.arw

This is what a female phainopepla looks like on our more typical sunny desert days. I heard her cheerful cheeps from the backside of a tree as the trail wound its way up a small hill but I was headed to a particular spot and wasn’t going to try for a photograph. But as she flitted about she hopped onto this ready-made perch right as I approached so I couldn’t resist a quick picture of one of my favorite birds.

I Feel You, Sister

A phainopepla rubs her damp head feathers on a branch on the interpretative trail in the Fraesfield area of McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona on January 24, 2021. Original: _RAC3738.arw

On-again, off-again rain showers left this phainopepla feeling a little bedraggled as she preened her damp feathers to get them back into their normal glorious shape, here gently rubbing her crest on the branch. She was her normal chipper self even if the wet weather seemed to have thrown her a little off her game. I wonder how she felt the next day when it snowed.