“Beneath the surface of the mud…” August 8, 2015

… there’s more mud here. Surprise.”

~ Crosby, Still, and Nash

On my first trip to Arizona, I was amused by the signs out in the middle of dry flat ranges that cautioned drivers to not drive through water on the road. I found it comical to see the name of rivers and creeks that were home to scrub and pine. But I had been warned.

Still, storms in the desert are something else.

August 7, 2015 More mud

… and then the rains began…

Hello, Friends and Relations,

Today is Friday, August 8, 2015. And what a day it has been!
My first week of work/school has come and gone. I have an unusual schedule, in that I teach four days, and have off on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The days are somewhat long, as we have to arrive early to meet the students arriving on the first bus from Reservation, and we stay late so the second bus can come and pick them up. Some of the students are on the road by 5:30 a.m., and don’t get home until maybe 5:30 or 6:00 p.m. – and that doesn’t include the kids on a sport team.

Anyway, the days are long, and the dogs have convinced me I absolutely have to take them for a morning walk. Otherwise, they just don’t make it through the day. This is a fine idea, except that Hannah, being the Ever-on-Guard Dog, tends to work the night shift. She thinks bedtime is closer to midnight, or thereafter, and puts up quite a fuss when I get her up at 4:30 or 5:00 a.m. Of course, turn about is fair play – I have probably spent the night before trying to convince her I need to get to sleep EARLY.
We need to work on this.

The kids are great. Most of them suffer through school, having tolerated already a host of teachers who may have just pushed them along, or “spoon-fed” them, so they could at least earn a D-, and the school could say they did their best. This superintendent, and the new building principal have made it clear, students will not be pushed through just to meet the graduation numbers; they actually have to learn something.
We spent Thursday initiating Thank You Thursdays. Their homework is to thank someone for helping them be a better person/student/etc. It was remarkable how many of them confessed to being the one others made fun of because they are stupid and/or intelligent. The person those kids might have to thank is themselves. We will be working with each other to ensure mutual success. One student’s current goal is to get at least three of the vocab words on Monday’s test of ten words correct.

I teach 8th grade, and too many of my students do not know how to use a dictionary, or access the glossary at the back of their other texts. I have the commission and support from our administration to follow the current curriculum as closely as possible, and at the same time “back fill” the areas where students are lacking. We’re gonna be a busy bunch. But I really think this is going to be one of the best years of my life.

A word or two about life on the range….

I came home at dusk on Wednesday, and passed one of our local coyotes. S/He was just crossing the road to go up the wash (Think: dry brook) that borders the property where I live. I haven’t heard any of them singing at night, but it was nice to see such a healthy looking coyote. So many in the Northeast were scrawny. This one looked like s/he eats very well. I understand they like cats and small dogs.

I used some deadly Ortho pesticide a couple weeks ago, and haven’t seen any scorpions since. I’ll be spraying again in a couple weeks. Whatever I put down is causing a fair number of other deaths as well. Daily I find a beetle or bee, legs up, somewhere in the house. The moths are surviving, and so are the ants – three separate species and sizes – and some of them have really big teeth!

Last night we had a chance to meet the local tarantula, the first one we’ve seen since returning to Arizona. This one had a lighter body than the ones we lived near in Cibecue. Same number of hairy legs. Very, very social. I said hello, from the safety of the porch, as she ambled along. Didn’t the darn thing turn, and start ambling over toward me! I inched back – not trying to be rude, or anything, but, yes, I ended up behind the sliding glass door, chatting with it as it tried to climb the steps (it didn’t make it), and then crawl toward the hole under the porch. Ducky.

This morning, there was a lovely lizard doing push ups on the porch. Love the stance, and the rolling eyes. I learned later that lizards do push ups to get warm. Hmmm… just what do they mean by “warm”? It was probably close to 80 degrees before breakfast this morning.

A little later, a larger lizard showed up. This one looked a lot like an oblong toad with a tail. He was very cool about letting me pass him as I went to and fro from the car. But the dogs were too much to deal with. Turns out they squeak when they get scared. Who knew?

There is a bird that lives in the I Don’t Know What It’s Called tree out front who sounds like a frog: “ribbet, ribbet”. Between the winged vocalized frog, and the oblong-with-tail frog-type lizard, I have been revising my understanding of animal evolution. That, and the pterydactyl-size yellow bees, gives a person something to consider.

Speaking of trees, we do also have a Lorax tree between the trailer and the road. Very cool, if you ask me. I thought Dr. Seuss just made them up. Nope. They are indigenous to the Arizona high desert.

Today has been quite a day. I had to stick close to home this morning so the technician from the gas company could come out and turn on the natural gas. I’ve been taking “cold” showers for the past two weeks. Arizona water doesn’t get cold. It  was not at all like taking a cold New England shower – where the water is always a degree or three above freezing.

No problem with staying close to home. I got a lot accomplished, then went back to bed – my favorite way to spend a day “off”. Thunder woke me up around 11 a.m. Sunshine streamed in the bedroom window, so I went outside to have a look around. Holy Mary in the Clouds! ‘Looked like we were in for a Storm of the Century, coming at us from the East.

The rain started around 1. (This delay between thunder and rain is something to adapt to. One day last week, we had thunder and lightning on one day, and the rain didn’t come until the next. Messes with the head.)

The rain started, and then didn’t stop… and it didn’t stop… and then, it didn’t stop some more. I learned there is an occasional waterfall across the driveway. And, the water collects along the porch as it inches its way up to the level of the first step. Along the road down the driveway, a lake appeared. And it kept raining.

The power went out. I kept an eye on the hill above the house. If it started to move, I figured, I’d have about thirty seconds to drag all of us into the bathtub and hope for the best.

The tech came and we had a lovely chat about many things. And, no kidding, he trains dogs. Pitts and Heelers. So I told him about my dream… Of course he trains dogs. I’m only meeting people who are part of the Humane Society or train dogs.

He left, and, this being Friday, I thought I’d head into town and attend to all that In Town stuff I can only get done on a Friday. Good Idea, expect, it had been raining down the road, too – and I mean that literally – it had rained DOWN the road. Several inches/feet of lovely Arizona mud were being pushed off the tarmac by heavy moving equipment. And as the mud moved, so did the water coming down the hill. “I got a river of life flowing out of me” came to mind. Mud. Silt. More Mud. Water. And this is a desert….

The tech pulled up. I suggested he go out the other way. Made me feel like I knew something useful about my new home. There are two ways to get on and off of our neighborhood. Good thing, too. I also turned around and went into town. I did get a lot of those In Town chores done – except the post office was locked by 4:05, not 5:00, as advertised. (The post office is open until 5, except when it isn’t. And they’re not open Saturday or Sunday.)

Xavier! I have a package for you. And when I get to the UPS or FedEx store, I’ll send it! Hope you get it before Christmas.

I got my shopping done, met some fun folks in the stores I went to, and eventually headed back home.
As I was turning into the driveway, I noticed our resident skunk was out and about. Ok. Scorpions. Tarantulas. Lizards. Oops. I almost forgot the coyote. And striped skunks.

The power was still out, so I was very, very cautious about unpacking the car, and letting out the dogs. Hannah started sneezing. She didn’t get a direct hit, but the girl is very sensitive. Skunks smell the same, New England, Pennsylvania, Arizona.

And it’s raining again.

What a day.

More later!

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