Semi-Retired

A close-up of our dog Ellie sleeping beside my Tom Bihn ID laptop bag on our porch at our new house in March 2019

I took this picture a week after we moved to the new house with the intention of it being a light-hearted post about how, like many in Arizona, my laptop bag was living a semi-retired life. I drive to work now and don’t need my laptop there so I no longer sling the bag over my shoulder each day as I used to in Portland when I walked to the train. Instead it keeps my stuff organized beside my couch during the week and on the weekends joined Ellie and I as we went out on the porch after my morning hike. The bag holds my 15″ MacBook Pro, my iPad, my hiking journal, my pens, my headphones, and some field guides as I learn about Arizona’s plants & animals. I held off on posting it, partially because I was so busy and partially because Ellie’s health was declining. Now though it’s a nice reminder of our good times together even as her time was running out.

The Mocking Spot

A view of my photography and hiking gear where I photographed a mockingbird near a mushroom along the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in June 2019

A peek behind the scenes at my setup as I photographed a mockingbird doing its ritual dance this spring, it would perch on a large rock betwixt me and the hillside. I photographed from two locations on three successive mornings right around sunrise, twice from this spot beside the mushroom and once just a bit to the right on the other side of the palo verde. On this morning a thrasher flew in and the mockingbird left off its dance right as the sun started to clear the mountains and bathe the desert in soft red light, so in the quiet moment before the mocker returned I stepped back and took a picture of my gear with my iPhone. You can see the large crack at the base of the mushroom, some day it will fall over but on these mornings it was a steadfast companion as we listened to the mockingbird sing. This mushroom holds the xenolith I photographed back in December, it’s down in the corner behind my backpack. The sign describing it is just to the left, taken on the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

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.

For Loretta

Our black cat Emma lays on her side on the ottoman in my office of our house in Portland, Oregon in August 2013

We didn’t bring my love seat from Portland as the affections of one dog and five cats had taken its toll over the years, especially from Emma (sleeping here on the matching ottoman in August of 2013). My wife also needed a sofa for her office in the den so she started looking while I was at work. We found a nice sofa for my office at a secondhand store and then tried a few other stores before visiting the store with a sofa my wife had seen and liked quite a bit, she wanted to see if I liked it as well.

The woman who helped her was named Loretta, we were introduced and she showed us a few options. She was the sort of salesperson you are lucky to find, she listened to what we wanted and guided us to the furniture they had that would work best for us. Not only did she not try to give us a hard sell to get us into an expensive custom set, she didn’t even give us a soft sell, rather after seeing that we both fit best on a reduced price floor model she happily sold that to us despite of how much less of a commission she must have gotten.

We also wanted an ottoman so she setup an appointment with my wife to go over the options and again, after listening to what we wanted, found one I think we’ll like and helped choose the colors. When they had the wrong phone number for us, because she lived kind of in this direction she stopped by the house to get the right number so there wouldn’t be any confusion or delays.

She was thinking of moving to Portland, her fiancé lives there, and I hoped they would be as happy there as we had been. Sadly it is not to be as we found out she died unexpectedly Thursday night. Given how briefly our lives had touched I was surprised how taken aback I was by the news. Given the past few months I’ve been worn out mentally and physically but she was kind and attentive and made everything so pleasant for both of us.

Here’s to Loretta and all those who are kind to strangers, not because of how much they’ll benefit, but because it’s who they are. If only briefly, I’m thankful we met.

Moving On

My white 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek Limited is parked in front of our rental house in Scottsdale, Arizona

After the movers packed up our belongings, I took a quick picture with my phone before leaving the rental house for the last time. Or almost the last time, I was back yesterday to let the carpet cleaner in. As excited as I am about our new house, I was a little sad pulling away from the rental house as it was a great home for us during our first year in Arizona. That’s my Crosstrek out front, its utility proved itself multiple times both on the move a year ago and in this last move, even if I replace it with something a little better suited to my current commute I will always love this little Subaru.

At the back of the large backyard was this old bird feeder, it provided endless entertainment for both me and the cats during our year there. I saw 30 bird species over the year, many of which fed at or below the feeder. The most surprising visitors were the boisterous rosy-faced lovebirds, they aren’t native but a population has established itself in Scottsdale.

An old metal bird feeder in the backyard of our rental house in Scottsdale, Arizona

Moving Day

Our dog Ellie relaxes on the back porch next to a bottle of Dr. Pepper on the day the movers brought our stuff to our new house

After meeting the movers at the rental house in the morning, I drove to the new house when they were finished and sat with Ellie on the back porch to keep her from “helping” them. My wife had picked up this old school Dr. Pepper, nectar of the gods. It was a beautiful morning, best St. Patrick’s Day ever. I’m worn out from not getting lots of sleep the past couple of days, between looking after Ellie and Boo mewing during the night, but I’m glad we’re home.

Second

My Tom Bihn Guide's Pack backpack with my tripod underneath sits on quartz rocks on the Quartz Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

A week ago I went to a trail near what I expected was going to be my second choice in houses to help cement my opinion. I went further than I’ve gone before, continuing on to the Quartz Trail and wandering up to this outcropping of quartz that looks out over Scottsdale. I had a fun morning and confirmed the other house was my first choice but also that I’d be happy living in the second if we didn’t get the first.