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.

A Love Affair with Arizona

A desert sunrise
In the Saguaro National Monument

When I was young, the gorgeous desert and canyon photographs in Arizona Highways magazine enticed me. I was also fascinated by the lovely art of the indigenous peoples of the desert. If only I could leave behind the drab, wet Northwest winters to experience for myself the light and warmth of exotic Arizona!

God loves to give his children the desires of their hearts. When we’re young, we may find that hard to believe. Sometimes we want things badly. Not getting them leads to disappointment. We don’t realize that what we want may be bad for us, or that we must learn to wait for what we want.  Sometimes, getting what we think we want turns into disillusionment.  But often, God delights us by eventually giving us what we desire, and more.

An opportunity to fulfill my desert wish came after I had graduated from college and taught school for four years in Washington State. I sent resumes to various Southwest cities, eager to experience life in the land I dreamed about. My sister and I set out for Arizona, stopping for an interview in California. There I learned that, due to a misunderstanding, I had not been released from my previous job.

Major disappointment!  We turned around and drove back to Washington, never even seeing Arizona, and I went back to my former position. A few weeks after school started, I met Bob Biggar, a young man from Alaska. Six months later, we married. We moved to Alaska. I’d never thought of living there, but I loved it. While we raised our family, I started a writing career, and we made lifelong friends. (More heart’s desires fulfilled!)

When my husband’s health began to fail, doctors told him he needed a warmer climate. We returned to Washington, and one winter we decided to take our travel trailer to Arizona. We enjoyed a month of exploring fascinating places while I did research for a young adult book set in Arizona. Then our insurance company cancelled our auto coverage. The only way to resolve the problem was to return to Washington. I did finish my research, though I still wanted to experience more of the Grand Canyon State.

A while later, Bob died. After six years, I married Hank (a good gift from God which is another story.) My daughter, Lenora, received her heart’s desire when she married Steve.  Then she and Steve moved from Seattle to live in Arizona year-round.

I missed Lenora terribly, but now we had an excuse to travel to Arizona every winter. This year we’ve rented a vacation apartment, and we’re staying a month. I’ve come to realize through my daughter’s experience that I’m wimpy about hot weather. I really don’t want to live here year around. But God has given me the chance to enjoy the desert and its denizens up close and personal during the best time of year, and also to spend time with loved ones. All because God knows our heart’s desires and he loves to fulfill them.

Lenora, Steve and Bella with Hank, after an evening walk in the desert