Sunday, November 29, 2015

My Dear Old Arizona Home

Sabino Canyon, November 27, 2015

Audrey helping make rolls for Thanksgiving
Well, we're officially back in Tucson.  Things are different here, but at the same time familiar. Even though the University of Arizona has 40,000+ students and who knows how many faculty and staff (well, someone must know, but they're sure not advertising it online), I find that I run into people I know a quite lot.  The same is true outside the University - I've returned to the church I attended here in the past, and still know many people, even if their kids are lots older than I remember. I'm sure they're thinking the same thing about my kids. We even run into people we know around town - hiking in Sabino Canyon, even shopping at Target.  And of course we have family here now too, so we've been able to spend a lot of quality time with them (although I'm sure Paul's parents are happy we've now moved into our own place, so they can have some of their space back).

Claire drawing in our work-in-progress living room

We're doing the usual stuff you do when you arrive to a new (old) place - trying to get the house in order, keeping up with school stuff for the girls, thinking about (and rejecting, for now) getting involved in activities - Audrey would love to take gymnastics, but without a stay-at-home parent it becomes an additional burden for grandparents to drive her to and fro - same for dance class for Claire. Or, do it on a Saturday and cut into family  - or free - time for everyone. Running around 5 days a week seems like enough.  In Scotland, we jumped in with both feet, because we knew we'd only be there 2 years - and the adults had as many activities as the kids, trying to get plugged into the community fast.  Here in Tucson, we're more laid back.  We have family.  We have old friends. New friends and networks would be nice, but are not immediately required.
Swimming in Grammie and Grampie's pool (briefly) in October

I am still amazed at how nice the weather is here.  You can pretty much guarantee that most days will be sunny.  I remember moving here in 2001 for graduate school and waking up every morning for the first three months thinking, "Wow, it's sunny and clear!"  And eventually realizing it's ALWAYS sunny and clear. A cloud is weather. Seriously. And in October it was a little chilly to be in the pool, but once the sun warmed it up you could jump in for a quick swim. Try THAT in Scotland in October (or, in fact, anytime...) By the time we acclimated to the hot weather (meaning that when it dropped below 60 degrees, it felt cool) it was hard to even remember how warm the same temperature in Scotland felt in mid-summer. The light is welcome, too - it gets light, even in the winter, at 7 am. This makes a huge difference!

Driving to school

While light and warmth are welcome changes (at least until April, when the balance tips from "nice and warm" to "hellishly hot") some things are not so welcome, like tons of driving.  I didn't drive for two years in the U.K. I did not miss it.  And then suddenly I was the school transportation master in the morning, and this meant 60 minutes in the car every morning.  The commute has shortened somewhat now that we're in our new place, but I used to walk for 30 minutes every morning, taking Audrey up to school and then walking down to work, and now I just drive. And sit. And drive.  I do take advantage of the fact that U of A has a beautiful campus for walking when I can - I try to do circuits around buildings and stairs too, especially now when you can take a lunchtime walk and not melt into a puddle on the sidewalk.

Saguaro on campus

The desert has a different kind of beauty than Scotland, and it can surprise you.  The view includes a lot more blue sky and while there is still green, it's not the rolling green of Scotland. It's the grey-green "Don't get too close, I'm armed!" of cactus and their friends.

We went to visit Sabino Canyon on the day after Thanksgiving.  Sabino is the most "touristy" canyon in Tucson - locals as well as out of town visitors flock there, and you can take a tram up the 3.8 mile paved road to nearly the top of the canyon.  You can connect to more rugged hiking trails, but the basic idea of Sabino Canyon is that it's easy to access.  As such a touristy place, it's a bit hard to feel like you're getting the real Sonoran Desert experience...but at the same time, it's a lot easier to go there with kids. We took the tram (over Paul's protest). The kids loved it. The canyon was beautiful because it's one of the few places in town where there are trees that actually change color for fall.  In most of the city, it's pine trees, palm trees, and cactus (although a friend back in grad school did try to convince a friend of ours from New Jersey that the cactus lost their needles in the winter...she believed him for about a minute).  But Sabino was dotted with yellow and orange trees mixed among the saguaros, and the stream was running high due to recent rain.  It hardly seemed like the desert at all. 

Sabino Canyon, November 27, 2015
And for those of you who are still wondering about the title of this post: it's a Rex Allen song. We included it on our wedding CD years ago, and here's a link to the YouTube version:   

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