Back In Tucson

I refused to even pretend to work when I was in Tucson I knew that when I returned to Massachusetts I would be immediately thrown into a full-time (60-70 hour/week) work situation and I needed some time to wean myself away from the life I had been living. I also needed time with my grandchildren.

One day when Donna was shopping, Caitlin and I went for a hike in Saguaro National Monument, East. This is a favorite hike of ours, where we go to visit the Great Horned owls. Several years ago Steve and Suzan took the Cactus trail in Saguaro East, and, seeing some owls perched in the trees, turned off the trail and walked up a wash to watch them. Shortly after that, Steve and I took the same trail and again the owls were perched in the trees. They would fly off if we approached too closely, but soon we discovered that they were roosting in small alcoves in the mud cliff high above the wash. One time we came here with Robert's family to have a picnic. We all felt a bit disappointed because we hadn't seen the owls. I scanned the alcoves several times without luck. We watched the bees which have a hive high in the wall. As it neared time to start back, I again scanned the alcoves with my binoculars. This time I suddenly put the puzzle together and saw the owl watching us. She must have been watching us the entire time because she certainly hadn't entered while we were there. (I probably should not be that sure of that either! They are extremely silent in flight.) The head appeared to be almost completely turned around; the eye appeared over the back. Perhaps the sun had moved just enough while we were there to illuminate her for me. I have looked many times for owl castings beneath these alcoves and have found none.

Today Caitlin and I walk back to the wash and turn off to the "Owl Wall." We sit in the grass and have a snack. The owls don't seem to be here. In a little while we hear voices and people moving toward us. I sigh, knowing we are losing our quiet time together. A father and his 2 children emerge into the clearing. He says, "Have you seen the owls?" I think, "Oh, great, someone else knows!" and say "No, they haven't shown up today." He said, "But they're right up there in the trees!" I turn around and there they are, in the trees, about 10´ off the ground, watching us! It is truly amazing; they do not move! We all walk slowly toward them. The children are excited. They move almost directly under the owls. Still the owls do not move. For 15 to 20 minutes the children move around, examining the owls from all sides. The owls remain unperturbed. Finally the children have seen enough. The owls are at home; we are the intruders. We leave them to their home and we return to ours. This makes a great story for Caitlin to tell when we get home.

Later that day I receive the measurements of the agave, 10´ long and 9" in diameter. I went to a large home supply store and found the PVC pipe section and located someone to help me. My order is a curious one, 1 10´ length of 9" diameter pipe and 2 end caps, so I tell the story of the agave. Well, he thinks this solution will work, so he cuts 10´ off a 12´ pipe and I get both parts (not much call for a 2´ section of 9" diameter pipe). Now I must deliver it to the hotel. It is definitely less flexible than the agave. We barly got it into the van, hanging between the two front seats. I drove across town with one hand on the pipe and one on the steering wheel. It's a good thing Tucson is a straight-shot kind of town! But I must deal with the hotel. I park in the same place, but it is daylight now. First I manuevered the pipe out of the van, hard enough to do! Then I carried it to the double doors. Have you ever tried to find the balance point of a 10´ length of plastic pipe? I managed that, feeling more than a bit like Charlie Chaplin. Then I got to the doors and couldn't reach the handle. After a moment, I set the back of the pipe down on the ground and worked my way forward, hand over hand, until I reached the door. I opened the door and walked through but the door closed on the pipe. I backed up, pushed the door open wider and slowly fed the pipe in until, holding up the back end, I can close the door while still keeping the pipe under control. Now I found myself in the hotel lobby with 10´ of black PVC pipe, 9" in diameter, (and 2 end caps), so again I find the balance point and walk the pipe over to the registration desk. This evokes a curious reaction. The desk clerk leaned over and peered down the pipe and then looked up quizzically. I asked for Lori but she was not in, so we had to decide what to do with the pipe. He finally decided to lay it along the front wall, under the window on the Speedway side, until Lori came to claim it. I left a note for her that the pipe was there.

Meanwhile Lori had been checking on shipping options. The airlines wouldn't touch it. Neither would UPS. Federal Express, as usual, came through. Straight through to the office, no problem. Lori wrapped the stalk in toilet paper, thanks to the hotel, and slid it down into the pipe and knocked the end caps on. Ready to ship!

On Robert's day off, he, Donna, Caitlin, Devin and I went for a hike in Sabino Canyon. The evidence of last year's heavy flooding was everywhere. The roads were washed out; debris was hanging high off the ground in the trees. We walked in to a small dam that had been built many years ago. We could sit in deep shade beside the pond formed by the dam, amid very lush vegetation compared to that in the surrounding desert, and drew in the wet sand. We had to watch Devin so that he did not take a nosedive into the water, but everyone had a great time. On the walk back, Devin did take a tumble and a short stop was necessary to make quick repairs to a skinned appendage. Nonetheless the day was a great success overall. Memories can be short at that age, fortunately.

I had hoped to have the entire Tucson family get together for a trip to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum for another tour and a lunch at their new restaurant but somehow we weren't able to get everyone organized to be at the same place at the same time for this excursion. We did manage to arrange a picnic to be held at the East section of Saguaro National Monument, for the last evening that we were in town. If we are there at the right time, we can watch, and especially listen to, the Gambel's quail families go to bed in the shrubs, calling to each other to make sure they are all there.

Lori and I got bagels and cream cheese and arrived in time to take the one-way loop through the park and still reach the picnic ground before anyone else. Robert and Donna must explain to the ranger that we are waiting for them at the picnic ground in order to be allowed in. No one is allowed to begin the loop drive at the time they arrive at the entrance. Rob and Hannah must do the same. Julie stayed home with Emily who was apparently misbehaving in some way, so there are 3 grandchildren, 3 parents, 1 grandparent and one friend together at sunset for a picnic. The kids have trouble getting organized to eat something before we all go for a short hike to the top of the hill behind our table and then back down. Every small hole in the ground must be examined. The kids must be kept clear of the spines on the cactus and bushes. Then the kids explore the immediate neighborhood of the picnic table. One of them found 3 low flat(ish) rocks side by side and they all held hands and walked over to sit down together on the rocks, in order of age. All the parents were beaming and no one had a camera. Finally it got so dark we were forced to leave.

Tomorrow Lori would fly to Texas and I would return to Massachusetts. this magical trip would truly end. I said goodbye to my grandchildren and we all went home.

Recommend this website to a friend!

Visit The Sonoran Desert 5000 square miles of silence.

Books About Tucson

Tucson: The Life and Times of an American City, Charles L. Sonnichsen , Univ. Oklahoma Press.
A Frontier Documentary: Sonora and Tucson 1821-1848, Kieran McCarty (Editor), Univ. Arizona Press.
High Tide in Tucson: Essays from Now or Never, Barbara Kingsolver, Harperperennial Library.
Fighting Sprawl and City Hall: Resistance to Urban Growth in the Southwest,
Michael F. Logan, Univ. Arizona Press. (Hardcover)
Citysmart Guidebook Tucson, James Reel, John Muir Pub.
The Insiders' Guide to Tucson, Chris Howell, Rita Connelly, Insiders Pub.
Discovering Tucson: A Guide to the Old Pueblo . . . and Beyond,
Carolyn Grossman, Suzanne Myal, Univ. Arizona Press. (Hardcover)
El Charro Cafe: The Tastes and Traditions of Tucson, Carlotta Flores, Fisher Books.
Corazon Contento: Sonoran Recipes and Stories from the Heart,
Mary Tate Engels, Madeline Gallego Thorpe, Patricia Preciado Martin , Texas Tech Univ. Press.
Tucson's Mexican Restaurants: Repasts, Recipes, and Remembrances,
Suzanne Myal, Univ. Arizona Press.
Tucson to Tombstone: A Guide to Southeastern Arizona, Tom Dollar, Arizona Highways.
Tucson Hiking Guide, Betty Leavengood, Pruett Pub.
Arizona Day Hikes : A Guide to the Best Trails from Tucson to the Grand Canyon, Dave Ganci, Sierra Club Press.
Historical Atlas of Arizona, Henry P Walker, Don Bufkin, Univ. Oklahoma Press.

Look for books on the Tohono O'odham Tribe.

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© 1994 - 2008 Karen M. Strom

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