A Quiet Morning in December

A view of Granite Mountain from the Fraesfield area of McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in the early light on December 29, 2020. Original: _CAM8536.arw

A quiet morning in December, looking north to Granite Mountain. The large depression was created decades ago when the giant lizard who had been resting beneath the mountain finally woke, shaking off its slumber and heading west to California and the Pacific Ocean. It was seen swimming in the direction of Tokyo but I don’t know what happened to it after that, hope it had a good life.

The Letter of the Law

Our cat Trixie is visible behind our cat Sam as they sleep in my lap on March 31, 2021. Original: _RAW5871.arw

A couple of days after his surgery as Sam slept high in my lap I judged his mood to determine how close I should let Trixie get. I kept her at arms length which she followed to the letter of the law, sticking out her front paws such that one was resting on her older brother. He didn’t mind so I let it go, though I had to keep a watchful eye as she would try to inch closer to her hero. Thankfully she didn’t try too hard to smother Sam with affection until he was feeling better.

Our cat Trixie sleeps below our cat Sam as they sleep in my lap on March 31, 2021. Original: _RAW5875.arw

Back From Surgery

Our cat Sam looking up while resting on one of the larger cat beds on March 28, 2021. Original: _RAC5859.arw

Sam successfully underwent oral surgery on Monday, the anesthesiologist who is trained to deal with his heart arrhythmia kept him in good shape and the dentists were able to do their work. He charmed them all of course and they gushed over him, I wish I could take credit for his sweetness but that’s all Samwise. He was a bit subdued the first couple of days (as expected) and mostly just slept in my lap but has bounced back to his normal self. I kept Trixie at bay until he was ready as she was eager to curl up with her hero.

It was Boo who got rattled the most, perhaps he thought when we took Sam away for the day that, like when we took Ellie away for the last time, he wasn’t coming back. He recognized Sam when we brought him home and didn’t hiss (sometimes the different smell throws them at first) but kept looking at Sam like he was a ghost. He didn’t eat regularly for a while and wasn’t interested in playing but after a couple of days I got him to chase his favorite toy and he was back sleeping on my legs this morning. He’s still a little off but mostly back to normal as well.

(Un)familiar

A male northern cardinal sings from the top of a saguaro in Scottsdale, Arizona on March 27, 2021. Original: _RAC5792.arw

When the flowers aren’t blooming most of the colors in the desert are subdued but there are notable exceptions. I grew up with cardinals back east but we had to say goodbye when we moved to Oregon decades ago. Here in the desert we’ve been reunited again, we rarely saw them at the rental house but I’d see them more often in the desert proper. At our current house they are frequent visitors and last year brought their fledglings into the backyard to feed. I met this singing male last weekend on a neighborhood walk, a familiar sight from my youth in many ways save for his chosen perch.

Light Breaks Through

A female woodpecker peeks out of the shadows next to a hole in a saguaro in Scottsdale, Arizona on March 27, 2021. Original: _RAC5766.arw

I haven’t gotten up for any sunrise hikes yet this year but I have managed to roll out of bed for a couple of early strolls through the neighborhood, which as yet has enough green spaces that I see many of the same characters I’d see in the parks. Last Saturday was one such morning though I was saddened as I walked past the empty house across the street, we hadn’t seen the nurse who lives there in months and recently learned she died from COVID-19 a while back.

As I continued up the hill past a green space I waited for the rising sun to fall upon the top of Troon Mountain but despite blue skies the light never arrived. A bit confused I continued climbing until I could see the mountains in the east and laughed as yes, the entire sky was blue, save for a thin band of clouds over the mountains blocking the sun. I walked further on until the sun cleared the clouds and soft yellow light wrapped around the saguaro in front of me, falling upon a woodpecker peeking out of the shadows.

My wife and I get our one-jab vaccine on Tuesday. A little light is better than none.

Three Years

Our dog Ellie relaxes on the tile of the rental house right after we arrived in Arizona on March 31, 2018. Original: _DSC5443.arw

I can hardly believe it but it was three years ago we arrived at the rental house after a three day drive from Oregon, a little bedraggled but looking forward to the next stage of our lives. I snapped this quick picture not long after we got out of the car, thankfully Ellie did well on the long trip. As long as we were together she was happy, an attitude I tried to adopt when it felt like we were in a whirlwind as I had but a day to settle in before starting work. I never dreamed we’d get another year with her and that she’d even see us into our new home but we got lucky in so many ways with this sweet pup. I met a black lab the other day on a neighborhood walk, she was straining at the leash to meet me so I knelt down and gave her some much deserved affection. “You’ve made a friend,” her owner said, though I wasn’t sure which one of us she was referring to. I love meeting dogs of all kinds on my walks and hikes but obviously black labs will always hold a special place in my heart.

Twenty

Our cat Scout sits beside the catnip on our back porch in Portland, Oregon on May 6, 2005. Original: IMG_8116.cr2

Twenty years ago a feral cat gave birth under the house of one of my wife’s friends, the mother soon disappeared so the family raised the kittens until they were old enough to adopt out. We were offered one of the last of the litter and named our tiny tuxedo Scout. I’m close to all our pets but even so Scout and I had a deep bond, sadly cancer took her from us after 12 years but I’m thankful for every day we spent together. I’ve been having off-and-on trouble sleeping lately but it was never as hard as when I came back from a long hiking trip, she’d wake me up throughout the night either to reassure her that I was well and truly home or to tell me I was never to leave her side again, I’m not sure which.

She was four in this picture, sitting beside her favorite catnip plant on the back porch.

Right and Almost Right

A male Gila woodpecker brings a moth to his nest in a saguaro on the Latigo Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona on May 28, 2019. Original: _DSC5120.arw

Two years ago I watched a pair of Gila woodpeckers, my favorite desert bird, bringing food to their nest in a saguaro. While all of these pictures are of the male, both parents were relentless in caring for their young. Mostly he was doing the sort of things he should, such as bringing a moth (1st picture), a spider (2nd picture), and clearing out debris made by the growing family (3rd picture). But then he brought a small rock, thankfully he realized his mistake before feeding it to the babies and brought it back out. I suspect he must have grabbed for an insect and picked up the rock in the capture, which left enough of a gap for either the insect to get away or fall out in transport.

A male Gila woodpecker brings a spider to his nest in a saguaro on the Latigo Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona on May 28, 2019. Original: _DSC5337.arw

A male Gila woodpecker removes debris from his nest in a saguaro on the Latigo Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona on May 28, 2019. Original: _DSC5356.arw

A male Gila woodpecker brings a small rock to his nest in a saguaro on the Latigo Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona on May 28, 2019. Original: _DSC5391.arw