Trixie’s Bane

A mix of sand and rain blows towards Tom's Thumb and the McDowell Mountains in Scottsdale, Arizona on July 30, 2022. Original: _Z723715.NEF

In late July a mix of sand and rain blows towards Tom’s Thumb and the McDowell Mountains, meaning there was only one place you’d find Trixie: under the covers of our bed, hiding until the monsoon passes. The second picture was taken at sunset a few days later in more cat-friendly weather. With the arrival of October she’s safe for another year, as the winter rains tend to be a lot more gentle.

The last light of sunset falls on Tom's Thumb and the McDowell Mountainss in Scottsdale, Arizona on August 2, 2022. Original: _Z723751.NEF

Burn Victim

A close-up view of burn damage to a young saguaro on the Go John Trail in Cave Creek Regional Park in Cave Creek, Arizona on February 19, 2022. Originals: _ZFC9308.NEF to _ZFC9320.NEF

A fire had burned through the area, stopping at the trail which must have acted like a firebreak. This young saguaro looked fairly normal as I came down the trail but as I looked back I could see it was badly burned on the other side, and I suspect completely burned on the side I couldn’t see. It’s hard to hike through a burned area, partly because saguaros feel almost human, so I try to take a picture that pays tribute or offers hope. The split on the far right reminded of a wound that had been stitched closed, the burned areoles of gas masks, the green in the pleats of nearly dry riverbeds, the brown of a barren and broken earth. But despite the heavy damage it lived.

This was in February but I’ll go back up to check on it sometime soon now that the weather is cooling, there’s some elevation change in this hike and I’m not willing to risk it in the heat. Here’s hoping this one survived. And that I can find it again, this was my second visit to it and it took me a while to find it as it was further down the trail than I remembered.

Subtle Sunrise

A large boulder and tree light up at sunrise on the Sunset Vista Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona on September 25, 2022. Original: _Z726910.NEF

One of my favorite moments is when the rising sun first sweeps its light across the desert. I’ve played around with different ways of photographing it on days off when I manage to get up before sunrise, which is rare these days. I love simple scenes and when we moved here made a mental note to photograph this one next to the trailhead, only to realize the other day I had never done it. I thought I’d prefer the scene when it was more strongly lit but my favorite three images were over a 40 second span when the rising sun just fell upon the boulder and tree and left the foreground in shadow. At the moment this is my favorite of those three.

Fruiting

A white-winged dove sits on saguaro fruit at George Doc Cavalliere Park in Scottsdale, Arizona on July 4, 2021. Original: _RAC3743.ARW

Taken last year on July 4th with the light fading as the sun slipped below the mountains, a white-winged dove enjoys saguaro fruit before calling it a night. I had planned to focus on saguaro flower and fruit photography this year but life had other plans. I wasn’t able to do much hiking this spring or early summer, and while the saguaro in our front yard blooms it only does so up high and regardless didn’t produce much fruit this year.

Dinner Invitations

An American kestrel grips a rodent in her talons as she perches atop a saguaro on the 118th Street Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona on March 6, 2022. Original: _RAC3004.ARW

This American kestrel invited me over for dinner but I had to make my apologies lest I spoil my appetite. The white streaks running down the saguaro are not damage but rather show she’s been painting a favored perch. I suspect the rodents of the desert will be like the Townsend’s voles of the Pacific Northwest, animals I see but only manage to photograph when something else is eating them.

Relaxing

Our dog Bear relaxes by the swimming pool on August 27, 2022. Original: _Z724694.NEF

Bear relaxes by the pool after a late summer swim. Ellie had her classic spread eagle pose but Bear’s signature sit is to tuck a paw underneath. The other night I went out on the back porch to watch an approaching monsoon, Bear indicated he wanted to join me but I was a little hesitant as I wasn’t sure how he’d feel about the storm. However I also didn’t want to have to put up with the most serious side-eye from the other side of the sliding glass door so I brought him out and had him sit beside me. We watched in silence as lighting constantly lit the mountains until he rolled over and asked for a belly rub. Not much later he fell asleep in the occasional darkness, when the storm finally passed I woke him and we went inside and I had my answer as to how the pup feels about thunder and lightning.

Trixie of course was buried under several layers of blankets in our bed.

The Classroom

Our dog Bear swims in our swimming pool in front of a cactus and other plants on April 10, 2022. Original: _Z721275.NEF

Though most of the same plants are blooming now, this picture is from early April as I haven’t taken many pictures of Bear in the pool since then. It’s not that he hasn’t been in the pool as the pup loves to swim, rather that as soon as the water got warm enough for my delicate sensibilities, I started swimming with him. And that’s when I discovered he seemed uneasy with me in the pool.

As long as I stayed by his side he was OK, if often giving me some side eye, but if I swam out on my own he’d immediately come after me and start tugging on the sleeve of my shirt or gently tugging on my wrist. I got a lesson in just how much it freaked him out when I wanted to get a little exercise so I looped his leash around a deck chair so I could get swim some laps. He dragged the chair across the porch and to the pool’s edge until I got out and assured him I was alright. My wife took him inside but he just stood at the window and barked until she took him out of sight.

So in addition to using our pool time on the weekends to work on his understanding of the Come and Stay commands, and then Drop It and Leave It, I added some exercises to convince him I was a good swimmer and he could just relax and play. By mid-summer he was doing much better, but then there were a few weeks with no swimming when I got sick and then my wife got sick and then a monsoon washed a lot of dirt into the pool.

When the swimming resumed I was fearful of a relapse but the opposite happened, he was now completely at ease with me being in the pool and since then we’ve spent long sessions just goofing around, with me hoping the exercise will tire him out but discovering which one of us has the most energy. Our pool time has become as treasured to me as my long walks with Ellie were, time to forget the stress of the world for a while and revel in the joy of the two of us.

The Disappearing Act

A great horned owl sleeps in a palo verde with saguaros behind it on the Latigo Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona on April 17, 2022. Original: _CAM5131.ARW

Early on a spring morning before my hiking came to a screeching halt, I saw a great horned owl sleeping in a palo verde on my favorite trail. I knew I’d have a better look a little further up but as the trail undulated up the hill my view of the owl was blocked and when I popped out in the spot where I expected to see it again, I could find no owl.

They fly silently but I thought it unlikely it left its perch given its sleepy mood, so I backtracked down to where I first spotted it and immediately relocated it. Back I went up the hill and once more the owl disappeared. This repeated a few times until I was finally able to not only relocate the owl but place it as I had hoped, with saguaros in the background. Thankfully only the owl was witness to my ineptitude and if it noticed it didn’t feel the need to rub it in.