Tuesday, May 27, 2008


finch snacking on wildflower seeds

One of the greatest pleasures of living in the desert outside of the city is sharing one's home with a plethora of wildlife. Sometimes the wildlife is mildy annoying -- woodpeckers who drill into the wood planks that extend out over the patios and startle us awake at 5 a.m. -- and sometimes it's an outright hassle -- packrats who gnaw on the electrical wires of my hybrid, causing $200 worth of damage (and thank goodness only that!) But mostly it's an adventure in observing how the non-human animals on this planet get by on a daily basis. We are witnesses to mating rituals and the hunt (or battle) for food, alerts and lullabies, playful antics, and leisure time snoozing in the shade. Every time I look out the windows, I am startled by something moving just outside: a giant lizard on the wall doing "push-ups," a family of quail foraging for bugs and seeds, an owl perched on top of a saguaro at dusk calling to his mate, hummingbirds diving out of nowhere and hovering beside the lipstick bushes as they suck out the nectar. I love that our home has so many windows and it takes so little to be "out there" in nature, away from the noises of the city that keep most animals out of sight.

When I see critters outside doing what they do, I try to grab my little 4 megapixel camera and capture what I can from a safe distance. . .I don't want to scare them away. So far, the baby quail and their parents have successfully eluded my electronic eye. Following are some of the many shots I have taken of the critters around our home.

baby ground squirrels sticking close to home

wild bobcat stopping by for a drink

baby rattlesnake pretending to nap

cottontail bunny lounging on the patio awaiting his mojito

mule deer keeping the hedges trimmed in the driveway

frog warming himself by the patio light at night

Friday, May 23, 2008


One Saturday morning , I was browsing through the real estate section of the newspaper and saw this ad. I showed it to Michael.

"We have to go check this place out," I said to him as I pointed to it in the paper.

He looked at it and said, "It's out of our price range but it looks weird. Let's go!"

One of our shared hobbies is looking at interesting real estate. We love to see old houses--restored or not--and modern houses with unusual designs. We skip the tract houses and houses that have no character. We like to see how houses are situated on a property, how they are designed and the details that go into making them unique.

After breakfast, we pulled out our Tucson Street Index and headed up Catalina Highway to the road that the house was on. We passed three "For Sale" signs before we found one that had the realtors' names on it. We pulled onto a dirt driveway and wound our way to the front of the house. The first thing I saw was the weird little spire of a chimney which reminded me of something out of a Dr. Seuss book. It was cylindrical and slightly misshapen, like it had been hand-sculpted from clay. Our eyes widened as we took in the great curve of the house, the gray cement, the tall windows and front door. Michael hadn't yet stopped the car and I was already out of it, scrambling towards the entrance. He quickly followed.

We were both quiet at first, then gushing with excitement. This house was stunning. And exactly like something Michael would build, if he had thought of it. We had been married only three months and Michael was already drawing up plans for our dream house. Not being an architect, he had spent weeks looking online for house plans that would reflect our tastes. He found something he could work with and began modifying the rooms, trying to create roundness amidst all the square shapes. I especially wanted a round kitchen, which we occasionally saw in magazines. He already owned an acre lot in town that we could build on, though it wasn't ideal; it was too close to a major road, there were two houses on a hill overlooking the lot, and any view of the mountains was ruined by massive power lines cutting across the foreground. Now we were standing before a house that was one great crescent. As we walked around it, peering into every window possible, we saw only more curves inside. It had a round kitchen. It was perfect.

Michael immediately called the realtor to see if she could show us the house. She couldn't come that day, so we made an appointment for the following afternoon.

From the moment we saw it, I think we both knew this was it. We had been looking for a "dump in the desert" that we could get for a good price and fix up on our own. Though it was more than we had hoped to pay, we couldn't not buy it. Michael did some financial finagling and we made an offer.

From that day on, we acted as if it were already ours. We would go there on the weekends with wine and cheese and crackers and picnic in the backyard. Michael brought a ladder on the fourth of July and we watched the distant fireworks from the roof. We made plans. Two months later, it was ours.