Arizona Album, February

Early morning hillside

These are a few of the photos we took last month near Tucson, Arizona. Click on the pictures for a larger view.

Spring starts small in the desert

Catalina Mountain Stream

This car was new when its driver ignored a “Do Not Enter if Flooded” sign at a low spot in the road. She escaped with her life but a flash flood washed the vehicle down the mountain.

When the sun goes down, the temperature drops. Time to go home!

How about a hug?

Pottery for sale at a market

Shadow patterns at Sweetwater Wetlands

Shoveler drake and reeds

Granddog, Bella

Rocks of the Texas Canyon formation

Desert cloud patterns

Sign for new tavern on 4th Street, Tucson

Where’s Waldo?

Signs of spring in the shelter of a saquaro cactus
A rainstorm barrels toward Tucson over the Santa Cruz River
Birds find shelter in the saquaros, too.
Fairy dusters in Saquaro National Monument

A chilly roadrunner warms himself by fluffing his feathers and turning his back to the morning sun.

Reusing Wastewater at Sweetwater Wetlands

A secluded corner in the Sweetwater Wetlands

 The Sweetwater Wetland is well known to Tucson’s birders. Located in the midst of an industrial area, between I-10 and the usually dry Santa Cruz River, Sweetwater is a man-made wetland constructed in 1996 to help treat secondary effluent and backwash from the reclaimed water treatment system at adjacent Roger Road Wastewater Treatment Plant. Not only does Sweetwater provide habitat for a wide variety of wildlife, it serves as an environmental education facility.

Away from the rest of the world        

Wide, level paths wind around ponds and streamside habitats, past informational signs and viewing platforms. Twelve-foot tall banks of rushes and cattails, cottonwood trees, and thickets of saltbrush give solitude to wild residents and human visitors alike. In the early morning the air is alive with the calls of birds. Flocks of ducks pattern the sky overhead. Birders with binoculars and cameras try to add rare species to their lists. More than 250 species have been reported at the wetlands, as well as amphibians, insects, and mammals such as bobcats.

A coot preening in the morning sunshine

Large recharging basins at one side of the complex not only attract thousands of waterfowl, they allow treated water to rapidly percolate down to the water table, where it can be recovered by wells and delivered for use in irrigating public spaces such as golf course , lawns, and roadside plantings.In 1940, the area’s water table was at 40’ below the surface. By 1998 it was below 100’. Reusing waste water is an idea whose time has come.

Shoveler ducks
Boat-tailed Grackle

Anna’s Hummingbird

The Spirit of Generosity

    This Christmas will go down in my personal history book as “the best ever.” Not because of the gifts, or the way-too-abundant holiday treats, or the decorations. Not because of the Christmas concerts and other celebrations, or the cards and letters reminding us that we’re important to the far-flung people we love.

    What made it “best ever” was the spirit of generosity that touched us in many ways.

    Every year, somebody hangs giant snowflakes and lighted wreaths along our town’s main street. While out walking the morning after Thanksgiving, we caught them in the act. Stanwood Lions Club volunteers were partnering with a TV cable company to put up snowflakes that sparkled in the fog. The man in charge told us the Lions also hoist the lighted Christmas tree to the top of Stanwood’s icon, the old Hamilton Lumber Mill smokestack, as well as install other symbols for later holidays.

    Another day, we joined a number of senior citizens at Stanwood’s Community and Senior Center for Christmas luncheon. We were all delighted when one hundred fifty children from nearby Cedarhome Elementary School filed in to entertain us with a varied and enthusiastic program of holiday music, some of it original compositions from their teacher, Mr. Rich Crouch. Thanks kids and teacher, for sharing your talent!

Dennis Bunch on his Honda 1300cc

    When we drove to Camano Island to finish our Christmas shopping, we were amused to see Santa Claus sitting by the highway, waving from a bright red Honda motorcycle. We stopped to talk with him and take his picture. Santa (Dennis Bunch) has been sitting on that motorcycle for several hours a day, every Christmas season for six years, because he feels its a way he can bless others.

    Volunteers around Stanwood come by ones, by a few, or by the hundreds. The Warm Beach Lights of Christmas, only four miles from town, is known all over the country for its more than one million lights and its family-friendly activities that go on for twenty nights in December. More than 800 volunteers band together to set up the displays, man the events, and later take it all down again. They make this a happy, well-loved destination for young and old.

    For us, what made this Christmas truly “the best ever” was a generous gesture from one of our sons. His sister lives in the Arizona desert. She’s homesick for the damp green Pacific Northwest at Christmas time and we miss her, too. His gift to all of us was to fly her home for a weekend packed with love and fun.

    What better way to celebrate the birth of One who gave the best gift ever than to imitate his giving spirit? That spirit of generosity is the thread that ties the whole package together.