That’s Mr. Tarantulasaurus Rex to you

by Lorin Michel Saturday, September 10, 2016 9:02 PM

We grow ‘em big out here. By ‘em I mean, well, everything especially bugs. Our flies are twice the size, ditto wasps. We have crickets that are enormous; grasshoppers, too. Spiders are large. It’s not uncommon to see scorpions that are several inches long, whipping their nasty, stinging tails in the air to warn off predators. They are never a match for my shoes. I stomp them and then stomp them again, even though they’re outside. In fact, they’re all outside with the exception of the occasional wall spider. I kill those, too. I am not, by nature, a violent person. But I don’t think that scorpions deserve to live anywhere, even outside. As for spiders, I have no trouble with them outside. It’s when they’re prowling my walls in the bedroom that I find fault. 

These spiders, flat wall spiders, are usually an inch and a half to two inches wide. They’re probably harmless. Still. 

We’ve had centipedes, giant redheads they’re called, that are six to eight inches long. They’re blonde and scaly with two red pinchers on each end and a thousand feet in between. They’re ugly, a little scary and huge.

Like I said, we grow ‘em big out here. 

Witness what was in the portico this morning. Meet one Mr. Tarantulasaurus Rex. A tarantula. He was probably about three inches or so wide, from one hairy leg to the tip of the other seven. It’s our version of the T-Rex. They are terribly unattractive. I am not a fan though I admit to being completely intrigued by them. I know some people keep them for pets. I can’t imagine, in much the same way I can’t imagine keeping a snake for a pet. Some creatures are just not supposed to be cuddled. 

The tarantula, known by Aphonpelma chalcodes, is very common here in the desert. It tends to come out most during monsoon season – we are fast nearing the end of that – and into early fall. They dig holes in the desert that are about the size of a quarter where they nest. If a hole has silk in or over it, it’s an active tarantula nest. Females tend to hang pretty close to their hole while males are often hot footing it around the ‘hood trolling for a date. 

This creature is primitive, just like so many other creatures here in the desert, and has evolved little in terms of appearance in their some 350 million years on earth. Females tend to be light brown while males are darker. They’re furry, supposedly using their hair to sense vibrations which might indicate a predator or prey. They can also flick their hairs at an attacker. These hairs are barbed and irritating though not poisonous, at least not to humans. Neither is their venom. In fact, tarantulas are very docile and only bite when truly provoked. 

Females can live up to 25 years but males usually only live one year past sexual maturity which happens between 8 and 12. They don’t like water, which is interesting considering they come out in monsoon season, only drink occasionally, and in the winter, become dormant. Essentially they crawl into their holes and cover themselves up with silk and soil to wait for the cold to pass. 

They’re gruesome looking but they’re slow and steady and almost always outside. We’ve yet to see one inside. Thank dog.

So there he was, this guy in the portico. It really wasn’t a good place for him to be if only because I didn’t want to look at him. Armed with a long-handled dustpan and the broom, I walked out, swept him up and carried him out to the desert. It was part of the tarantula-relocation program. We run several such programs here including the toad-relocation program, and the Gila monster relocation program. They all get new identities and a new lease on life. In this case, I named our new friend Tarantulasaurus Rex. That’s Mr. T to you. A new friend to celebrate?

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So about that door

by Lorin Michel Monday, July 18, 2016 8:59 PM

When we built the house, our goal was to make it completely our own. Everything was chosen or designed by us, with the exception, obviously, of the actual house. For that, we hired an architect. He was also a builder, which was a big selling point for us. We told him from the beginning, when we were in the process of designing, that we wanted to be completely involved. At his request, we sent images that we found online, of houses, colors, tile, stone, cabinets, bathrooms, everything so that he could get to know our taste. And then we had countless discussions over the phone. Months later, he called and came to LA for an afternoon, armed with designs. He spread them out on our dining room table, and we were amazed. There it was. Our house. We were speechless. 

Years later, when we finally decided to build, we had more meetings, in person this time. We went over the budget, and armed with the knowledge of what we needed to find and buy, off we went. Every weekend we roamed through tile stores. We were on a first name basis with the kitchen cabinet guy and the granite countertop guy. Ditto the appliance guy.

Everything in the house had to work together. The tile and the stone, the interior doors. All warmer, earthier colors. Deep rusts, bronzes, golds, coppers. That was the vision.

We chose sinks and faucets, bathtubs, and tile. We chose cabinet hardware and appliances. We chose a grill for the deck. After much discussion we settled on an exterior color for the stucco and an interior color for all the walls, accents to come later. We chose garage doors and pavers for the driveway. We chose rock for the fireplaces and columns. We chose light fixtures and railings; we chose doors. 

Except for the front door. We didn’t know what we wanted to do for the front door other than to a) have one and b) have it made of iron. We didn’t want one of the newly popular pivot doors. I hate the way they open and I think they’re terribly heavy. We wanted iron and glass, a single door, with two side windows on either side to expand its look. We had a budget for it, just like we did for everything else. 

We went to several places and ended up at First Impressions. They do gorgeous doors, in a variety of “colors,” of you want to call them that. Black, brown, iron, rust, bronze and different variations and combinations on iron. We looked at their designs and didn’t really like any of them. Then it occurred to us: We have a friend who just happens to be an artist. We called Roy and asked if he would do us the honor of designing our front door. He said yes. 

It’s a beautiful door. Fluidly geometrical, with open spaces and closed ones. We chose a bronze color for the iron. The glass opens to make cleaning easy and it latches back tightly. It’s inset, in the portico, and it makes us proud.

Evidently, we are not alone in our infatuation. First Impressions called today and they’d like to photograph our door to use in advertising. Our door is going to be famous. It’s going to grace magazines around the state, perhaps even nationally.  

Our door. Roy’s design. It’s something to celebrate.

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live out loud


by Lorin Michel Thursday, June 2, 2016 8:50 PM

We did not get a lot of rain this winter, not nearly as much as we were supposed to get according to the expert weather people. El Nino ended up being more or less a bust, especially for the southwest. The northwest got plenty of rain; we did not. We got some. We received a lot of cold. There were nights when we didn’t go out for sunset because it was simply too cold to sit on the deck. Every night that we did, we put on coats; sometimes gloves. And it was only 5:30.

The spring was not too bad though we’ve noticed that many of our desert creatures have arrived earlier this year than last. We don’t know what to attribute that to since we haven’t been here long enough to completely understand the workings of the desert. Ultimately it doesn’t matter. They’re here and as of today, it’s hot. “Africa hot” like Matthew Broderick’s character in Biloxi Blues said. So hot that stepping outside feels as if you’re stepping into an oven. 

I went out with Kevin to check on his grape vines. We’ve been having some issues with our vineyard. He’s doing everything right. The way they’re planted is the way they’re supposed to be planted; he’s watering them the way they’re supposed to be watered. The vines are a varietal that grows in the desert. But the first six died. The place we bought them from guarantees their vines, so they sent us six more. They’ve been in the ground for two weeks as of this afternoon. He’s taken pictures, he’s been in contact with the vendor, and they tell him he’s doing everything right. But they’re not growing. It’s frustrating. And sad. 

I told him I wanted to see what they were – or weren’t – doing, since I hadn’t been out to see them in a while. He waters three times a day, essentially morning, noon and night. He’s attentive, he’s diligent. He fairly hovers. I asked him to tell me when he was heading out to water.

After lunch, I heard him call my name. Well, actually, not my name. My nickname. 

“HB? I’m heading out.” 

HB stands for Hunny Bunny from the Amanda Plummer character who robs the diner in Pulp Fiction, our first movie date. I’m not sure when he started calling me that but it’s been years now. It’s even how he has me listed in his cell phone which would be a problem if anyone ever had to call his wife. 

But we don’t think or talk about that. 

I told him I’d be out in a minute, and went to grab my sunglasses. I can’t be outside during the day without sunglasses. It’s physically painful. I even wear them when it’s not that sunny out. But that was decidedly not the problem today. I put on my Maui Jim’s and pulled open the front door. The alarm system gave its telling beep-beep-beep and out I stepped. Into the inferno. 

I could feel the heat burning my skin, the prickliness of it, my hairs standing on end, searing. As hot as the air was, the road was even hotter. The pavement was radiating. It was nearly excruciating. We looked at the plants, and their lack there of growth. We discussed them; we wondered. And then we got the hell inside because hell was literally outside.

Last weekend was in the 70s. This weekend it will be 111º. Welcome to June in the summer in the desert. Something I’m sort of celebrating. Because air conditioning.

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live out loud

Never gonna give it up

by Lorin Michel Sunday, May 22, 2016 10:46 PM

There are some days that give meaning to life, that make you glad to be alive in this time, in this moment. They don’t occur often. Sometimes these moments involve a changing event, like the birth of a child, the acquiring of a puppy, a marriage. More often, these moments are attached to nothing but the universe. It’s a feeling, and it happens without warning. You’re driving along with the top out and the windows down, the music blasting. The road is a series of curves, long and winding, easy. You downshift and then you upshift, moving up toward the sky. The sun is shining, the sky is blue, the trees impossibly green. 

And it hits you. This is joy. Unencumbered, unemotional. It simply is life defined. At its most pure. There is no one that’s responsible. Your joy isn’t contingent on another person being involved. There isn’t a situation that needs to develop. There isn’t a relationship that needs to start. It is already there. You are the person that’s involved; you are the situation. You are the relationship. And you’re here. 

I know. I’m being cryptic. I don’t mean to be. Our friend Tammy was here this weekend. She came in yesterday morning and we did nothing but hang out and enjoy. We went to this fabulous Mexican restaurant yesterday afternoon and had table-made fresh salsa and appetizers. We had dinner on the deck last night with a fire in the fireplace. It was cool, not cold, and the fire was more for ambiance than heat. It was lovely. We had wine, we talked; we laughed.

This morning, we decided to head up to Mount Lemmon for breakfast. Kevin asked Tammy if she’d like to go on the motorcycle. She grinned. I said I’d follow in the Porsche. I showed Tammy how to get up on the bike (it takes a bit of a contortionist move to do so); I helped her hook up the strap on her helmet. Off they went. I pulled the Porsche out of the garage and followed. 

It was a beautiful morning, just after 9. The sky was clear, the temperature was hovering in the upper 70s. I put both windows down; the roof still out. I grabbed my Patriots baseball hat, popped a CD into the stereo since I don’t have satellite in this car.

We climbed and climbed and climbed. I watched the bike in front of me, carrying my husband and my good friend. To either side, the green of the desert. The cactus gave way to trees which gave way to pine. Up we went, until it seemed we had entered into a forest. The temperature had dropped at least 20 degrees. The air coming in through the open windows was cool. The pine trees were dense. The greenery was heavy. The rock formations glowed. I felt complete, whole. Overjoyed. I rounded a corner and the green completely obscured any other view. Through my Maui Jim’s, the colors came alive. Deeper blues, richer greens, clearer air. I breathed it all in, I watched it all.

And it occurred to me, this is what life is all about. The clarify of beauty. The reality of nothing special and yet everything … special. 

Several weeks ago, I wrote about listening to Al Jarreau in the Porsche. I thought of his music today, of the purity of it, of how it has always made me feel. Happy and in the moment. I thought about one song: Never gonna give it up.

I'll never give it up, never gonna give it up, even when this life is over
Never give it up, never gonna give it up, even when this life is over
Never give it up, never gonna give it up, even when this life is over
I'll be content in time

I’ll never give up this feeling, this moment, this complete purity. Not now, not ever. It’s what living it out loud is all about.

The still

by Lorin Michel Saturday, May 14, 2016 7:50 PM

I was struck this morning by how still it was. Living in the desert, especially as spring transitions to summer, the winds can be insistent. Gust at 25 miles per hour aren’t uncommon here on the hill. Even down on the road below, the winds blow fiercely, daring you to ignore them. I don’t like wind. I like a breeze. This morning there was nothing.

Riley and I walked west along Mira Vista Canyon, toward the gate. It was just after 7 and already 75º. Nothing was moving, there were no sounds anywhere. Often times in the morning we hear the horses that live just to the south. Occasionally there is a rooster; a dog bark. The birds are usually flitting between trees and cactus, woodpeckers try their luck on the metal fireplace chimneys that top all of the houses here. But there was nothing. 

The sun turned the mountains red, the tips of the cactus lit up like fire. 

I could hear my sneakered footsteps hitting the pavement. Riley was trotting along, panting. He is normally anxious in the morning because he has anxiety issues. But not this morning. This morning he was mellow, at least mellow by a 2-year old Golden Retriever’s standards. 

When it’s still like it was, I am both amazed and even a bit frightened. It seems unnatural, the world has stopped and it’s if something bad is about to happen. In California, a still like that sometimes precipitated an earthquake though not always. I haven’t figured out what it means here and probably nothing at all other than it was early Saturday morning.

When it’s still like it was I want to savor it, enjoy the quiet, let it wrap around me and hold me tight. It’s comforting, the stillness. It invites introspection which can be both good and bad. I’ve always tried to be introspective, to question even myself. Did I handle something right? Could I have handled it better? What could I have done differently? What will I do differently in the future? 

What am I going to be when I grow up? 

When it’s still like that I embrace the early hour, I enjoy each step, each slap of the rubber of my shoe on the warming asphalt, the gentle panting of my dog, enjoying his walk, closely eyeing every rock on the road, every twig. When it’s still, I think.

I think about the week past and the day ahead. 

I think about my life thus far and where it’s going. 

I think about what I’ve done and what’s still to do.

I think about what I’m going to make for dinner. I think about nothing and everything and then some more. 

I think about the stillness of the morning – the still – and I celebrate that I am alive.  

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live out loud

Smoke detector beeps, Gila monster creeps, and one freaked out dog oh my

by Lorin Michel Sunday, April 24, 2016 8:04 PM

We have seven smoke detectors in the house, one in each of the bedrooms, one in the west hallway, one in the east hallway, and one on the way out to the garage. We also have two carbon monoxide sensors. One of the east side sensors calls out a mechanical "fire." We found this out shortly after we moved in and it went off one very early morning. We were up and out of bed like we'd been shot out of a cannon. It turned out it had a short, but it begged the question: why do smoke alarms only ever sound when you're sleeping? 

This question occurred to me last night as well. You can guess why based on the title of today's post. It was 2:50 am. Riley had already become agitated several hours before when he was sure he saw something anything and maybe a bear outside. He squealed at the bedroom window as he stared out into the still illuminated night. The moon is waning but it was full just two nights ago so it's fairly bright. Then he raced to the bathroom window, the floor to ceiling wall of glass behind the bathtub. He wedged himself between the tub and the glass and squealed some more. I didn't have to see him do this to know where he was. He does this all day long. On his third trip between the two rooms, I got up to look. I saw no bears, no things. I gave him a kiss and told him to get back in bed. He did. And all was quiet for about two more hours. 

Then. Beep.

Oh, crap. Beep.

Come on. 


The smoke detector in the bedroom was having a battery moment. It’s the kind of beep you want to ignore because you know it’s not smoke nor fire, but it’s so high-pitched and shrill that it’s impossible to sleep through it. Plus the dog was completely freaked out. I imagine the every 30 or 40 second BEEP hurt his ears. It did mine. We trudged out to garage to get the ladder, Riley leading the way, his tail tucked firmly between his legs. He was getting out of the house and away from the noise and fast. While Kevin maneuvered the ladder into the house I took the dog out to pee. There was a baby deer standing on the rocks looking down at us. I wondered if his parents knew where he was at that hour of the morning. 

We finally got the battery replaced, but it took at least 30 minutes to coax the dog back into the bedroom. Kevin finally lured him with cookies. An hour plus later, we finally got back to sleep. All of us. 

This morning it was as if the beeping had never happened. Except for the fact that we were exhausted and our eyes were puffy and we were cranky and the dog didn’t even want to get up. He finally did, and Kevin let him out on the deck. Within minutes, he was barking and howling and whining and pawing at the edge of the deck underneath the rail. Let me at ’em. This was more than the usual someone-is-driving-by-on-the-road-below-and-I-must-be-alert fuss. This was real. Something was down there. Kevin, manly man that he is, went to check. It was 8 am, the sun was already warm. The morning had been fairly quiet up until that point. He returned to the door within about 20 seconds, motioning me to come quickly. You gotta see this. 

And there it was, down below the rail, on the desert floor, motoring south, as quickly as they ever motor: the season’s first official Gila monster. Pale orange and black and about 15 inches long. And Riley did not like it one bit.

Within a five-hour period he encountered a rudely beeping smoke detector and a slinking lizard. It would be enough to freak out a low-key and mellow dog, neither of which have ever been used to described our Riley.

Somewhere in the hills above, the baby deer was still watching. That’ll be enough to send Riley Boo to the moon tonight. Oh my.

The day dawns

by Lorin Michel Saturday, April 16, 2016 8:07 PM

There is evidence that waking up gradually as the bedroom fills with natural night is more pleasant than waking up to a screaming alarm clock, which makes tremendous sense. According to researchers at MIT, waking up to dawn’s light also increases the body’s level of cortisol, a neurohormone that helps prepare the brain and the body to handle whatever it encounters during the day. MIT says this helps people deliver peak performance. In their research, they found that people who give themselves about 30 minutes of morning light as they wake to greet the day are more likely to feel alert all day. 

The part of me that used to love sleep would love to take issue with that remark. After all, it wasn’t that long ago where sleeping in on Saturday mornings was one of the things I most looked forward to at the end of the week. I always thought it was a good way of recharging my battery. 

But I’ve come to realize that MIT researchers are probably right ­– it is MIT after all – and here’s why: I wake up to natural light every day and I actually feel better because of it. 

In Oak Park, we had nice vertical blinds on the sliding glass doors in the bedroom. They served to block out quite a bit of morning light. The big window in the bathroom, behind the bathtub, had blinds, too, mostly because our neighbors were so close that they could easily look in. Not that I’m prone to soaking in the tub. But the glass shower stall was right next to the tub. It stayed fairly cozy and dim in the room until I opened those blinds, making it easy to sleep in. But I often slept almost too much and then I’d feel actually worse. Foggy, with a dull headache. 

Our house now is not close to anyone other than the birds and the deer so we have no window coverings anywhere. The only thing we have is a deck with a roof that extends out at least 12 feet, providing shade but not necessarily diminishing the light. We face almost directly south so when the sun rises in the east each morning, it comes up over the mountains to our left, gently, almost quietly. And we wake up equally gently. We can stretch, watch as the sun floods the valley below, turning the day from a purplish gray to bright, the sky blue, the desert green. 

Photo to the east of the house at dawn, courtesy of Roy Guzman

I have found that I’m up early every day now, even on the weekends, even my precious recharging Saturday. Up with the light. This morning, a Saturday, previously my day to lounge and sleep, I was up at 6:50, walking the dog by 7:30. As the summer comes ever closer, I’ll be up even earlier. The light will flood the room, I’ll stretch and look to the south, out the wall of glass, past the railing on the deck and welcome the day. It’s hard for me to actually believe that I now enjoy getting up. That I can and do enjoy the earliness, every day.

We have coffee, we walk. We’re back to the house, usually before 8, just as the day is heating up. We still go to bed at the same time so we should be more tired, but we’re not. We’re – dare I say it? – energized.

The day dawns and so do we. If MIT says it’s good, who are we to argue?

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live out loud


by Lorin Michel Wednesday, April 13, 2016 8:23 PM

I remember fondly my discovery of the group Heart when I was in high school. I was a freshman and Dreamboat Annie had been out for nearly a year. I was instantly fascinated with the guitar riff on Crazy on You, the flute on the title track, the venerable Magic Man. And Ann Wilson’s voice. During my freshman year, the band released their second album entitled Little Queen. I bought it immediately. It had Barracuda, which was great, but Love Alive was my favorite. It started slow and built in passion. And the voice. Before my family moved from Columbia, Maryland after my freshman year, my friend Pam took me to Baltimore to see the group. It was amazing. I remember it well. I saw Heart several times in Boston over the next few years and once again in Southern California. The latter wasn’t a good show. By that time, the group had descended into 80s big hair pop, and as much as I love 80s big hair rock, I prefer the male big hair bands. 

Sexist, I know. 

For years, I listened to debates about who the best female rock and roll singer was. Most people’s immediate answer was Grace Slick of the Jefferson Airplane and then the Jefferson Starship, and eventually just plain old Starship. I never agreed. Maybe because I wasn’t a big Airplane fan, though I did become a Jefferson Starship fan. I just didn’t think Slick had very much same range. Her voice always seemed almost one note. I loved Janis Joplin but she never had a great voice, just a distinct voice. I would listen to everyone and then I would tell them that the best female rock and roll singer ever was Ann Wilson. Most of the time people would stop and look at me and then say, yeah, you know, you’re right. Chick’s got pipes. 

She did and she does. 

I loved Nancy Wilson’s guitar work and I know she was always known as the pretty one, but the front (wo)man was the dynamic one. Some have referred to her as the female Robert Plant, and she and her group did a killer rendition of Stairway to Heaven at the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony several years. She put her own signature voice to it and it rocked. 

The band evidently still tours in the same way that bands from the 70s all still tour. They don’t really make much new music anymore, existing off of their old hits. I haven’t listened to them in years. I still have that Dreamboat Annie album, and Little Queen, and all of the others that I bought over the years. I also bought several CDs in the 80s when I was still trying to like them even though they had lost their magic, man. 

Today I got an invitation to like a page on Facebook. It was called The Ann Wilson Thing. Naturally, I liked it. Evidently Ms. Wilson who is now 65, has a new group and she’s touring small cities around the country. She comes to Tucson on the 18th. Next week. 

I listened to several tracks on her album, appropriately called The Ann Wilson Thing. From what I had read, I thought the music would be substantially different than Heart and truth be told, it is different than Heart now but not necessarily Heart then. The music seems tinged with blues. The songs are by Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and Buffalo Springfield. She’s had guest performers with her like Emmylou Harris and Alison Krauss, and Shawn Colvin. I read where she’d like to have Lucinda Williams join her for a song or two. In concert, she’s not doing Heart songs, opting for covers of Neil Young, Peter Gabriel and more instead. 

The idea is to challenge herself, expand her repertoire, and do something different. But still with that voice. That voice. Still the best female rock and roll singer around, and ever, in my opinion. She had heart. Now she’s got heart, and I may be becoming a fan all over again. Next week, at the Rialto.

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live out loud

The pitter patter of what the hell is on the roof

by Lorin Michel Thursday, March 24, 2016 8:14 AM

It was just after 5 am. I woke up startled. At first I thought that something was wrong with the humidifier. Tap, tap. As the fog lifted from my brain, I realized that it wasn’t the humidifier and decided it was obviously raining, never mind that there is no rain in the forecast for weeks, and that we haven’t really had any clouds. Tap, tap, tap. Faster and faster. I raised up in bed because of course that would allow me to hear better. As I did, Kevin woke up, too. “What’s up?”

“Is it raining?” I asked, understanding the sheer stupidity of that question. But the sound, the tapping, was very reminiscent of the pitter patter of rain on the skylight.

“No,” he muttered and put his head back down.

I got up to investigate. The nearly full moon was low in the western sky, intertwined with some haze. It made the sky both darker and lighter, almost ghostly. Hauntingly beautiful. I went into the bathroom and stood under the skylight. Whatever was tapping wasn’t tapping from there. In the bedroom, Riley yawned. The humidifier bubbled.

I moved back toward the bedroom, tap tap tap tap tap scratch.Taptaptaptaptaptaptap scratchscratchtap. I stepped up to the window and looked out, half expecting something to be crawling either up or down the side of the house. The two electric control panels are there, one for Tucson Electric Power, the other for Solar City.

But there was nothing there. No critters. No giant lizards. I was relieved. The tapping went away temporarily, but soon, it was back, tapping and scratching across the ceiling in the bedroom. Something was on the roof, something not small but not big. Something that was probably a ring-tailed cat. 

Ring tailed cats are tiny nocturnal creatures. They’re usually between 24 and 32 inches long with a tail that adds an additional 12 to 17 inches. They weigh about 2 pounds. Sleek and dusty brown in color, they also sport an elongated, pointed nose and a mask. The tail is often black and ringed white, hence the name. They can climb anything including the side of a house, using the tail for balance. They also eat just about anything they can find, and it’s not unusual for them to get inside a house via the ventilation system. The famous hotel on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon is known to have ring tailed cats walk across the beams of the dining room ceiling in the evening.

Fun fact: ring tails are not members of the cat family but rather of the raccoon family. 

It’s the State Mammal of Arizona, since August 13, 1986. It’s evidently also the creature most likely to take up residence on our roof, amongst the solar panels, in the wee small hours of the morning.  

Last night, the pitter patter and tap tap tap tap scratch of its little paws was enough to wake me up. Enough for me to actually think it was raining. I almost wish it had been raining because the thought of a critter in the walls, or the ventilation system, creeps me out a bit. I can just imagine looking up and seeing a small pointy face looking back at me through the HVAC vent above the door. Blink blink.

I think he was on the roof though. I’m pretty sure. I hope he was. In fact, I’d stake tonight’s sleep on it. And if he’s back and the taptaptaptaptaptaptap scratchscratchtap returns, I’m going to just roll over and pull the covers up, and pretend that there isn’t a critter perhaps watching me. Once the tapscratching stops, I’ll peer up and by the light of the moon, make sure a little ring tailed cat isn’t looking back at me as he taps it out loud.

The hills are alive

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, March 9, 2016 9:06 PM

In 1965, when Kevin was eleven and in Catholic school, the nuns – now called sisters so as to be more politically correct – took the kids to the movies. Naturally, they saw a film that had a very Catholic backdrop, coupled with a very political back story. They went to see The Sound of Music. It was the first movie Kevin had seen in a theater and he was enthralled. It remains a happy memory for him, and I think that’s wonderful. I do not have the same happy memory when it comes to The Sound of Music. I think I might have seen it for the first time when it was on television. I also saw Doctor Zhivago the same way. I loved Doctor Zhivago, which also had a political backstory if not background. Maybe because of Omar Sharif. I didn’t have the same warm fuzzies for The Sound of Music. Over the years I have come to outright despise it. It’s not necessarily rational, my hatred. Other than, for the most part, I despise all musicals, though Disney films like Beauty and the Beast don’t count. That particular film remains an all-time favorite. 

But The Sound of Music makes my hair hurt. It’s sugary, sappy, and I’ve never been a fan of Julie Andrews. Or nuns. Yes, that sound you hear is my very devout grandmother, screaming from her grave. 

It’s just not natural for people to burst into song in the middle of, well, anything. That opening scene with the impossible tracking shot that finally zeroes in on Sister Maria on top of a hill/mountain, arms spread, singing at the top of her lungs? It’s ridiculous. 

My apologies to those who love this movie, including the aforementioned husband. 

The song she’s singing at the beginning is the theme song, “The hills are alive with the sound of music.” I actually thought of this song today because our hills are alive too, though not with music. With color. 

The hills behind the house, leading up and over into the infinity known as Babad Do’ag, or Mount Lemmon, have sprung to life in the last two weeks. Always green even in the desperate heat of the summer, they are suddenly overflowing with color. The desert bushes, brittle and buffel are blooming. Yellow and purple cascade down and down. The tops of the saguaros look ready to bud. These tall monuments actually flower in the spring. You can see it happen as the tops grow pods that open at night and close in the morning. For several hours, they look like they’re wearing a crown of flowers. It’s comical and magical. The saguaro in the center of our motor court, which stands about 25 feet high, is always the first to start flowering. This morning we noticed the telling nubs at the top. 

The hills are alive with colors of yellow, purple, red and orange, and green. So many shades of green. The saguaros are a softer, pale green. The ocotillos are deep and vibrant. The palo verde trees are a yellow green, but their flowers are blisteringly yellow. The mesquite trees are simply green, except for the Mexican palo verdes that are a wine color. The bushes, grasses and weeds, all green and lush and thick. Even the weeds here are pretty. 

I marveled at the color in front of me, of the spring that is springing a little too early, but our first here in the new house. I thought I heard music. I looked for Julie Andrews and was pleasantly surprised to find that she wasn’t there. But the hills are most definitely alive in the most beautiful way possible. And that’s what I’m celebrating.

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live out loud

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