Here’s a little sign seen frequently along freeways, parks, and other public places in Tucson, Arizona.

While vacationing in Tucson last spring, we discovered the Sweetwater Wetlands, a hidden place whose amazing life and beauty depend upon water reclaimed from Tucson’s sewers. The wetlands became our favorite observation spot for wildlife. (See post,

Sweetwater Wetlands

  This year, we found another place that depends upon this recycled water. It’s called Christopher Columbus Park, the centerpiece of which is a  man-made lake with an island and sandy beaches. It is stocked with fish for the local fishermen. The lake is home to several species of ducks and geese, cormorants that perch on the island to dry their wings, and many species of song birds.

Christopher Columbus Park

Some of the reclaimed water is pumped from the Sweetwater treatment facility into deep basins from which it filters down to recharge the water table.  Eventually, it is drawn up through wells and used to irrigate roadside landscaping and other public places. The purple signs show us where this water is used.

Reclamation Pond with Resting Ducks

Earlier generations told their children, “Waste not, want not.” Today we are again learning the value of reclaiming materials we used to discard. Our house’s sturdy deck planking is made from recycled milk cartons. In places, we drive on road surfaces containing ground-up tires. Garbage companies compost food and garden waste to make new soil.

But the most amazing reclamation project of all history got underway when Jesus came to seek and to save those lost in the garbage of sin. He paid a huge price…his own life…for all that refuse. When he burst out of the tomb on Easter morning, he held in his nail-scarred hands the gift of new life for all who believe in him. He’s still offering this gift to all us wrong-turn people who waste and ruin our lives.

He promises to reclaim us and our experiences, good and bad, and help us become who he intended us to be. That’s the Good News of Easter!

Reclaim: Verb
    Retrieve or recover (something previously lost, given, or paid); obtain the return of

    Redeem (someone) from a state of vice; reform.

Sun Power


The entrance to the Desert Sunlight Solar Farm
Behind the white, box-like structures what appears to be blue paving is actually a small portion of the thousands of side-by-side solar panels.

Erecting one of the poles which will carry electricity from the solar farm

   Like all good things, our late-winter interlude in the Southwest had to end. After three weeks of sunshine, interrupted only by starlit nights, we headed toward Los Angeles to return our rented car and board the train for our return to the Northwest’s cool cloudiness. As we drove Highway 10 across Arizona, we delighted in the yellow blooms of brittlebush, drifts of Mexican poppies, and wild blue lupines. But we knew the gorgeous wildflowers would soon dry up in the 90 degree temperatures. If only all that sunlight in the desert’s baking heat could be put to use!
   We crossed into California. and the desert continued up into mountains, highest peaks still snow-crowned. By now, Hank was hungry, so we watched for a restaurant. The map showed a community called Desert Center.  But when we arrived, it contained nothing except a deserted gas station, an empty school, crumbling homes, and the tall, black stems of dead palm trees. We couldn’t imagine a more desolate place.
   For many miles we’d been seeing what looked like dark blue water at the foot of distant hills. As we reached the abandoned community, we saw a road leading off in the direction of the “water” and a green oasis. Maybe that’s where they’d moved the restaurants. So we swung onto the road and headed toward the hills. Deep sand lined both sides of the cracked paving, and signs warned of blowing dust. Across the valley we could see tailings from the Kaiser Steel Eagle Mountain mine, one of the world’s largest open-pit iron mining operations where former inhabitants of Desert Center worked until it closed in the 1980s.
   The oasis turned out to be an over-55 community with a golf course and lush vegetation but no tourist facilities that we could see.
   We noticed workers erecting tall metal power poles, section by section, on one side of the road.  On the other, the “dark blue lake” was actually a vast number of solar panels covering many acres. Outside the fenced complex, a sign read Desert Sunlight Solar Farm. Our Mission: To Create Enduring Value by Enabling a World Powered by Clean, Affordable Solar Electricity.
   So there was a plan to put some of that sunlight to use!
   We found out that a group called First Solar is constructing the 550-megawatt solar farm. The Federal Bureau of Land Management manages the property, which is about six miles north of the abandoned Desert Center community. When finished, the farm is expected to provide enough energy to power about 160,000 homes. The group estimates the project will displace 300,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere each year. That equals taking approximately 60,000 cars off the road.
   Construction began in September of 2011 and is expected to be finished by 2015. Desert Sunlight Solar Farm will help California toward its goal of providing one third of its energy from renewable sources.
   We finally found our restaurant, some miles down the freeway, but we were glad for our serendipitous side trip.
   For more information about the solar project, go to


Desert Springtime

Greening desert above Tucson in the valley

Fairy dusters blooming in the desert

It’s almost mid-March. We’re inside our vacation rental here in Tucson on a lovely spring afternoon, looking out through “blackout shades”, a tinted mesh that filters out the blinding brightness of the sun and much of the heat. The desert wildflowers are popping up almost fast enough to see them grow and leafless trees are greening fast. Inside, it’s a pleasant 70 degrees. It’s supposed to be 84 outside, but the direct rays feel hot enough to cook exposed flesh. We’re here to soak up the sunshine, but this afternoon there’ll be no soaking…it’s sizzle and shrivel for anyone who doesn’t seek the shade.

A week ago, we sat by this same window watching black rain clouds chase each other across the hills. They swept the desert with downpours and dumped snow on the mountaintops. We bundled up in coats over sweaters to go out between showers, walking fast to stay warm.

Such contrasts in the desert! Delicate wildflowers bloom and go to seed in a period of days, covering the sand and gravel with a haze of green. Tall saquaros grow plump with spring rains, turning themselves into reservoirs of moisture that will nourish each cactus through a long, burning summer. Shrubs and trees put out a mist of tiny leaves that camouflage protective spines. It’s beautiful. For a while, the desert seems a friendly place.

But it’s a hard place to live for people and animals. People, too, must learn to adapt. Today, we’re adapting by staying inside until late afternoon brings cooler temperatures.

Night sky over Flagstaff, Arizona
courtesy of
From my blogpost, Night Skies, at

“Growing up years ago in a Cascade Mountain rain forest, hemmed in by tall trees and cloud cover, we didn’t often see the stars.  But on an occasional clear night, we’d go outside, tip our heads back and gaze up in awe at the Milky Way’s glowing path of stardust winding through a billion distant suns. Only the dim gas lamp shining through the living room window competed with the brilliance above. We seldom saw a plane pass over in daytime and never at night. Man had not yet been to the moon or fired a rocket into space.

 I was pleased this week to receive a message from Lauren Nilson, who’d read this blogpost and wished to share a video she’d helped create. It was filmed on the night streets of Seattle, and is all about the hidden costs of light pollution. The short video is an eye-opener, worth watching several times. Here’s the link:

This is the video transcript, from the website. Brief, but thought-provoking.

“It’s more than one billion cars burning 2 billion headlights It’s argon gas and less than an inch of tungsten metal swinging naked from the ceiling. It’s beautiful at a distance and blinding the rest of the time. It’s sealed glass tubes, mercury, phosphor powder, free electrons and ions bumping and vibrating and dully humming. It’s 1898 to 1959 the discovery of neon to the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign. It’s the las vegas strip. It’s the sunset strip. It’s strip clubs and stadiums . It’s streetlights and streetcars. It’s malls. It’s your work. It’s outside your bedroom window keeping you from sleeping. It’s insomnia. It’s the slow extinction of animals and insects dependent on darkness for migration and mating. It’s the device you obsessively check as you walk down the street raising your dopamine levels while reducing your melatonin. It’s a carcinogen. It’s one of the reasons women in developed nations are five times more likely to have breast cancer. It’s looking down instead of up. It’s 2 thirds of the global population, 5 billion people, unable to truly see the night sky. It’s the indifferent blinking out of 200 billion stars.”

What can you and I do to minimize light pollution? We can choose low wattage bulbs whenever possible. We can choose outdoor fixtures that direct light downward. We can turn our lights off when not using them. If we want to learn more, we can get involved with the International Dark-Sky Association.

Thanks, Lauren!