“I’m assuming that if you are selling annuals and perennial right now that this is the correct planting season, right?” A questioned poised to the gardening cashier at Home Depot on a hot October afternoon surrounded by a season of plants flowering, plants exotic, plants for potting. Signed translation as “Plantas anuales.”
“Oh! Yes. Ready for planting,” came the perplexed reply.
“Well, how long will they last then as it’s already October?”
With my ‘East Coast’ head, I’m a little confused and concerned at this plethora of plants after my dismal failure to get anything to grow in my flower boxes all Summer long. Perhaps plants really don’t like sunshine when it constantly arrives at 116˚? But, it was “Summer” and things are supposed to grow. That’s the deal, right? Sun, soil, water, care, attention, therefore grow and grow and grow.
“Well, they’ll grow until it gets too hot again. About next June,” an emphatic reply still confused at this botanic interrogation.
I couldn’t help thinking, ‘Isn’t that sort of upside-down.’ Our Summer is East Coast Winter, a time to stay indoors away from weather, and our Winter is East Coast Summer where everything is enjoyed outdoors. Shouldn’t that cashier’s response have been, “well, until it gets too cold,” or, “certainly until the first frost,” or “perhaps until Thanksgiving,” imitating that miniscule pretend season back East, between Summer’s turn to Winter’s start, when landscapers and garden suppliers believe that they can fob Mums and Pansies on the buying public for a season that ends just as soon as it begins. But, not here in Arizona, or, at least not down here in “the valley” where nature has its own peculiar schedule and ignores climatic calendars, etiquettes and decorums.
These continue to be my situations and observations as a newbie in the land of mostly desert and dry and heat. Everything I have learned over half a century is slightly adjusted, slightly amended, slightly moved off-center. Like the auto warning many months ago at Fletcher’s Auto & Tires that Tickey’s battery was not registering a charge followed with an explanation that desert car batteries don’t last long. “It’s the extreme heat. They often, just fail.” Well, as Tickey hadn’t shown the slightest hesitation at morning starts coming up on her fourth birthday, I wasn’t about to believe a desert mechanic. What do auto mechanics know about cars anyway? So I politely declined a replacement. When the morning starts, three months later and over a five-day period, became arduous, I considered everything except the battery. Must have been that $3.19 bad gas when everyone else was $3.39. Not so, it seems. After Sunday brunch, the point was succinctly made. Not a hint of a spark. I guess this desert driving finally caught up to the Tic and her four-year old battery. Rescued thanks to three ‘a’s. A thirty minute delay, a new battery and a AAA man-with-a-van who does nothing, but run around replacing car batteries that suddenly fail.
And then there are the discoveries that go along with the surprises. Rummaging through a closet drawer, my hand finding and touching then holding up like a rare artifact as if for the first time, gently, cautiously something in some sort of rare fabric, wondering what these earth colored objects are and then trying to remember owning, wearing, needing three, heavy sweatshirt hoodies? I actually wore these once? Actually needed them? How impossible. But, as September heat rolls into October’s less heat, stepping out into a shaded dawn on a South facing patio straight from bed to be stimulated with this odd, skin tingling sensation and momentarily wondering what this rare feeling was and trying to recall? Ah! It’s what cool feels like. A morning chill at 70˚and no longer wrapped in reassuring warm air, I stop rubbing my arms and consider the need for a second layer even if it’s for the few minutes before the sun’s avant-garde rays, now peeking along Piestewa Peak canyons, finally poke over the peak and more familiar temperatures being to return.
But, not all eyes are intrigued, deliberately romanticized or enthralled or delighted to be in ‘Ah, Arizona.’ Jaundiced eyes have a way of creeping into even this sweltering paradise after years of easy living as I observed in a shared front landing conversation, for the first time, with my new neighbor, Donna. Twenty plus years away from New York City and lamenting her life here and finding fault at every turn. My response, “but you have all this,” my right arm drawing a gentle arch that encompassed the chocolate rocks of North Mountain rising behind tall Palms in front of the modern library right across the road, the azure sky, the happy sunshine, the quiet street, the Hispanic children walking two-by-two without a care, the tinny music of the ice cream truck, the incessant song of insistent Mocking Birds, the South view over detention basin now grassy park and Piestewa Peak; “my mountain.” Donna, you have forgotten over heated and over cooled subway trains, dull and crowded commutes, uncommunicative, suspicious neighbors, the perils of real seasons and everything sky-high in price. No, Donna. You really did find paradise.
Gas:- $3.19 per gallon