Just another day in the Old Pueblo

by Lorin Michel Saturday, July 11, 2015 10:39 PM

As happens every day, the sun gets up and so do we. We’ve become very early risers, for two reasons: the dog needs to go for a walk before it gets too hot, and we have no window coverings. We’ve gotten used to it. I fear that guests aren’t as tolerant and we may need to do something about the guest room. Witness my sister, who arrived last night, coming out of the room just before 7 am, bleary eyes, tousled hair, announcing that she couldn’t sleep anymore and that it was probably because of the time difference.

I suspect it was partly the time, and mostly the light. It’s bright, sunny, glorious. But not good sleep weather.

She was amazed at the view, as so many are. As we were moving in, the movers finished lugging furniture and then asked if it would be OK to go out onto the deck to take some pictures. Workers have been here and asked the same thing. It’s quite stunning, a visual desert smorgasbord that stretches for miles in any direction, save the north, a steep slope of cactus and Catalina gneiss. But to the south, the view is vast; to the west as well. The east runs into some mountains but still manages to provide quite the jagged sight.

Clouds hang heavy. It’s monsoon season so there are clouds every day. Not always enough to congregate and rain or storm, but enough to cast dark shadows. It’s always fascinating to me to look out and see big swaths of black in an otherwise sunny landscape.

The cactus stand majestic, especially the saguaros. The ocotillos bend and dance in the breeze. The mesquite and palo verde trees ripple slightly. When we turned off the freeway last night, just after 7, Khris said, upon seeing the first cactus, two saguaros along the road: “Oh, look. Cactus.” I chuckled. “You ain’t see nothin’ yet.”

She stood on the deck last night in the fading light and marveled at the view, the lights of the city coming up as the sun sank in the west. This morning she stood on the deck again and marveled at the cactus, the green of it all.

If you’ve never been to this part of the Sonoran desert, it’s always a bit astonishing to see how green it is. It rivals any forest; it’s just a different kind of vegetation. In the east, pine trees and more clot together. Here in the desert, the saguaros mingle closely, their spires providing perches for birds and casting a bit of shade. Some stand fairly tall.

We had coffee on the deck off the master bedroom, sitting in the Adirondack chairs facing west. It was shady, a nice breeze was ruffling. We talked, then we got ready and went out to lunch, to the Hacienda del Sol, the quintessential Old Tucson resort. We gazed out onto the desert, the green of it, made even more green by the golf course in the distance. We went downtown. We went to Bookmans. We went shopping. We came home to the air-conditioned house and Riley boo.

It was hot today, but occasionally the sun ducked briefly behind the clouds, putting us under the shadow but experiencing the Old Pueblo in all of its July glory. It was just another day, made all the more special because of my sister’s presence. Living it out loud.

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The son has arrived

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, June 30, 2015 9:24 PM

I remember one evening when Justin was little. It was before he lived with us, and he had come for his monthly visit. We had moved into the house in Oak Park but we hadn’t yet done any of the remodeling we would eventually do. There was still carpet throughout the house. He was lying on the floor, on his back, next to the bottom of the stairs, staring up at the ceiling. Maguire was on the floor next to him, watching his little friend, wanting to play but knowing enough to wait. I was in the kitchen. I think Kevin was with me. We were preparing dinner.

From the other room we heard these words: “This is a really nice house.”

It was a nice house. It was a tract home, just 1700 square feet but with a fairly open floor plan that was perfect for the four of us. Even though Justin wasn’t yet there full time, he still lived there. His room was there, all of his toys, his stuff. A special loft bed that Kevin had made specifically to give him more room to play on the floor beneath.

Today he came home from the road. He’s been traveling the country with Disney’s Frozen on Ice tour, hopping from city to city to city, a few days here or there, before boarding a bus or a plane to go to the next destination. He’s home for nine days and then he jets off to Mexico City to begin the next leg, the Western leg, of the tour. He loves it. At 24, he’s the perfect age for it.

We don’t see him much anymore, which is to be expected. As parents, our job was to raise him to be able to leave us and become a contributing member of society. We talk on the phone occasionally; we text. He’s working in a career that he loves, in a career that he went to school for. Not as many people can say that today as did, perhaps, once upon a time. He’s lucky. More than that, he’s talented. He’s good at what he does.

He walked in the house today, the new house and stood in the foyer. Grinning.

“Nice house,” he said as he wrapped me up in a big bear hug.  

Yesterday it rained. Actually, it monsooned. For the better part of an hour, it poured as the wind blew, the cactus groaned and the water made rivets in the ground. We stood on the deck and watched, the rain dusting our legs. When it finally stopped, the clouds were still heavy, drifting high above and toward the west. We poured a glass of wine and sat down in our new Adirondack chairs. The sky was gray. We didn’t expect to see the sun, but just before 7:30, the horizon began to glow red. Soon, the sky was bathed in deep oranges and purples, a blood-red vein ran through a thunderous cloud.

The sun had arrived.

Today, the sunshine of our lives arrived, bringing with him laundry, items for storage, a receding hairline and a smile as bright as any desert day. Life is good.

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live out loud

A window sill or dozens at nose view

by Lorin Michel Friday, June 12, 2015 8:49 PM

Being able to look out our many windows at the vast and wild desert is one of our great pleasures these days. The back of our house is almost entirely glass and there is a view from every room. Even the dining room and kitchen, which technically are in the front of the house, have great views because they have windows that look to the north and up the great climbing and rocky hill behind us. They are also open to the southern windows. Those rooms might actually be the best because their views go on nearly infinitely to the north and to the south.

I sit in my office sometimes and I can’t help but stare outside. I can see other houses in the distance, I watch the birds swoop down and soar out to land atop one of the hundreds of saguaros. I see rabbits and desert squirrels, deer and lizards. The sun shifts, shadows change. In the distance, the sun glances off the downtown buildings. It’s quite something.

I know Kevin does the same in his office, though he faces more to the east which is a bit more sparse in the civilization department. There are several houses, dirt roads occasionally travelled by cars and delivery vehicles, dust storms trailing behind. Desert floral and fauna nearly as far as he can see. Two mountain ranges are in his view, one running to the east, from north to south, the other south, running east to west.

We see all of this without leaving our chairs.

Lately, we’ve also been noticing an interesting phenomenon. The windows have been fairly clean. Kevin cleaned them before his brother and sister-in-law came for Memorial Day weekend.  The glass was so clear it almost looked as if there was no glass. This is what, apparently, also confuses the birds who continue to try to fly through. We’ve actually had one fatality. One attempted to go through the bathroom window at what must have been warp speed. He crashed, and unfortunately didn’t make it. The other day it rained and some of that blew onto the glass so we now have some rain spots. Not too many; enough to show we had some weather.

But down below, just above the window sill, there are what can only be described as nose prints. These same prints also appear on the French doors, the ones leading from all of the bedrooms out onto the deck, and the ones in the great room. There are nose prints in the dining room, facing north, and in the breakfast nook facing south. There are nose prints in the master bedroom windows and in my office; in the guest room and Kevin’s office. The front door, our beautifully contemporary and custom iron door designed by Roy, is covered, too.

The culprit is one Mr. Riley Michel. It seems that he too enjoys a good view. He especially enjoys a good view of lizards and gila monsters and rabbits and bugs. Oh, how he loves bugs. He stands at the window, which is the perfect height for him. So much so that he often rests his head on the window sill. And when he rests his head, his nose presses up against the glass. Slobber ensues. When he stands close to the doors, he puts his nose against the glass there, too. More slobber. We have slobber from one end of the house to the other. Luckily the window slobber does nothing to obscure our views.

He has a window(s) to the world and a plethora of window sills at nose level, and he’s busy nose-printing and slobbering out loud.

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live out loud

I am awed and sometimes frightened by the power of nature

by Lorin Michel Saturday, May 16, 2015 7:56 PM

I’m not sure my mother has ever really understood why I choose to live in the west. Our family never strayed from the east coast until I decided that I was born to live here. I don’t know if, even now, I can articulate what drew me here but I always wanted to live in the Southwest. It had somehow always been in my soul; perhaps I was a Native American in a former life.

I’ve lived in the west since 1984, first in San Diego, then in Scottsdale, then in LA for 27 years, now Tucson, for nearly 2. One of the things I heard a lot was “aren’t you afraid of earthquakes?” I suppose I never really thought about it. I try to live in the moment and not think too much about what ifs. Like every other human being, sometimes I succumb regardless to worry and wonder, but I also actively practice the “everything happens for a reason and when it’s supposed to” mantra. Granted it can often be hard to see what the reason can possibly be. Disaster and death can be so seemingly random. Think about the person who kisses his or her loved ones goodbye in the morning with a “see you tonight” and then is killed in a car crash.

So I never worried too much about earthquakes, even after I experienced the Northridge quake in 1994. 6.8 on the Richter scale. It was terrifying but not enough to make me pack up and move. After all, every part of the country, indeed every part of the world, has their own version of disaster and most people don’t move from where they’ve made their homes. They simply clean up the mess and continue living.

I remember my dad calling me days after the quake – it took a while for phone service to resume and cell phones were not common – and saying “honey, don’t  you think it’s about time you started thinking about moving back here?” I didn’t think so and I didn’t leave, not for another 19 years and when I did it had absolutely nothing to do with earthquakes.

The awesome power of Mother Nature is always something that astounds me, something I try to respect. As human beings, we believe, foolishly, that we can somehow control our fates. That we can build towering skyscrapers near fault lines and that as long as we include the latest sway technology, those buildings will withstand a quake. Yes it will shake, sure it will sway enough to make you feel seasick, but it won’t fall.

Bullshit. We cannot build anything that truly withstands the power of nature and I am forever humbled and awed by such a fact. There is no force greater than the earth itself. We build bridges and we retro fit our homes and we believe that we are fine. And then Mother Nature clears her throat and a city is leveled in 20 seconds. Look at the poor people in Nepal, or Fukishima, or any other city that has experienced an earthquake. Look at the Midwestern towns that have been laid flat by tornados. Look at the gulf coast that has been flooded and destroyed by hurricanes. Look at avalanches and fire.

We are small and insignificant, and I embrace my miniature status.

Remnants of the storm above and beyond the hill

Last night, sometime around 2, the wind began to howl, that bracing, low roar that alternately whistles through open windows and cactus needles. Soon, rain began to fall. Actually, fall is too soft a word. It began to pound. The skylight in the bathroom sounded like it would fracture. I got up to close the windows as the rain turned to hail and hammered the deck. The winds, I found out today, were nearly 50 miles per hour. The house stood firm but the air vents screamed in agony, the deck furniture scraped and whined. I was sure the pillows from the couches would end up down in the desert, blown over the rails. The cactus bent nearly over in two before snapping up. This went on for two hours, maybe more, and I laid awake the entire time, listening, wondering and marveling. I wasn’t worried; I was awed.

Today, the sky was still overcast. The ground was still wet, the air cool. I watched as heavy clouds oozed over the hillside above and behind us. And as I watched, blue sky opened, just enough to allow the sunshine to squeeze through and bath the hill in warmth. Mother Nature had made her point and now she was feeling better. I smiled and nodded in agreement, forever humbled by this part of the world that I choose to call my home. And as I watched, I realized why I love it so much here. It’s the mystery, and the glory, of it all.

An art gallery in a living environment

by Lorin Michel Saturday, May 2, 2015 8:54 PM

This weekend marks the end of Roy’s first solo gallery show. It’s hard to believe that a month has gone by already. It seems like it was just the end of March, the 24th to be exact, when we were moving in and when Roy and Bobbi arrived for the install to take place on that Friday, with the opening on Saturday, March 28. Over the course of the next month, they were back and forth, driving each time. Roy would spend time at the gallery. He sold at least six pieces if not more.

Over the course of this past month, he also had occasion to create some additional small abstract pieces. Some with metallic copper paint and splashes of other color, others a mosaic of colors. Pieces that never made it to the gallery. They’re all framed in black 12 X 12 frames, with double white mattes.

I remarked that I loved them, and started talking about where I could use them. For instance, in our powder room, which is a funky, artistic, eclectic little room. I wanted to hang three. He left me three and they’re all in place.

Then I thought how cool it would be to have them in other places, with other pieces of art. To balance some of our bigger pieces. He was more than kind enough to oblige. I now have three hanging in the breakfast nook, in a vertical row. I have one on the south side of the fireplace in the great room, two others, hung together horizontally on the north side.

When they first arrived, one of the paintings they brought was one called Mind’s Eye. It’s a fairly good size piece, in modern cubist Roy style. It’s very existential, contemplative. They weren’t sure they were going to hang it in the gallery because they worried it was too dark in terms of subject matter, of its feel. I didn’t know any of this when I first saw it and exclaimed “I love this one!” It was probably my favorite in the show. It’s now hanging in the great room. We had the house photographed last Wednesday night and Roy thought it would look good as the house got ready for its close-up. He was right. I attempted to give it back today; he wouldn’t take it.

In the dining room, outside the wine room, we have a painting he did for me for my 50th birthday. It’s a montage of faces, with books and glasses of red wine. It’s an abstract me. We also have the pen and ink he did of our precious Maguire after he died. It hangs in the corner, between the great room and the breakfast nook, above the antique music cabinet.

The great room. Mind's Eye is on the left, along with a small abstract.
On the right, two other small abstracts. All with metallic copper paint.

In total, we currently have 12 Roy Guzman originals hanging in our house. It occurred to me today that what we have is an art gallery in a living environment. I said as much as Roy and Bobbi were packing their car and preparing to leave, having had the tear down on Thursday. Everyone laughed. Kevin immediately thought about how cool it would be to put small cards next to each painting, like you’d see in a gallery, with the painting name and the cost. Make it literally a gallery in a house where people live and work and love, where a new puppy runs through, from one end to the other, where people visit and congregate and have wine and good food.

I can imagine it now. The invitations go out. There is a reception where people nosh on a lovely assortment of cheese, crackers and French bread. There are mini quiches and crab cakes, stuffed mushrooms. The wine pours freely. And all through the house, people walk and gaze and stare and contemplate. Hmmm. Wouldn’t it be nice to have that hanging in our home?

We have “that” hanging in ours and it’s a wonderful thing. I think this art gallery in a living environment has potential. It’s a chance to see how art actually looks in a home, on a wall, with couches and lamps and flat screen TVs and plants and windows and antiques. How art looks at home. We could be on to something.

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And the thunder rolls

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, April 14, 2015 10:00 PM

Sitting up here on top of the hill, I watch the hawk swoop in an out. I hear the occasional car down on the road below. I always have to see if it’s our road or another. I don’t know the sounds yet. I hear the birds and dogs barking in the distance. I never see the dogs. I wonder where they are.

As I sat up here this afternoon, I saw the city below suddenly covered in shadow. Clouds were rolling in from the northeast, blanketing the sky and cooling temps that weren’t that hot to begin with. The breeze was slight, and sun still managed to fight its way through some of the clouds. But as they got heavier and heavier I wondered if it would rain.

I checked my phone. On my weather app, I currently have three cities: Tucson (because it’s local), Oak Park and Amherst. I can see what’s supposed to happen here, while simultaneously seeing what’s happening there and there. Usually Arizona and California are close in temperature, mostly sunny. Amherst has been icy and snowy. The app is kind of cool. When it’s snowing somewhere, it snows in the background of the app. It also shows rain. I’ve seen a lot of snow falling virtually courtesy of that app. I’m sure my family would like to have seen it virtually as well, rather than endure the savage winter they recently endured. The last few days the temps have been in the 50s 60s and even cracked 70 the other day. My sister said she was in sandals.

There was no rain falling in any of my cities today and none was expected according to my weather app. But I know I heard thunder, a long, slow roll across the sky, following by another. I looked outside and two or three big plops of rain hit the deck, dissipating almost instantly.

In 1991, Garth Brooks recorded a song called The Thunder Rolls. It was originally supposed to be sung by Tanya Tucker (whatever happened to her?) but she dropped it off of her album and so Brooks put it on his No Fences album. It was released in April of 1991 and quickly became a number one hit. It tells the story of a man coming home after being out all night and his wife guessing correctly, based on the smell of another woman’s perfume on his clothing, that he was out carousing.

I have this album. I have long been a bit of a Garth Brooks fan. I actually have probably four if not five of his albums. The Thunder Rolls was an allegory about a couple. In the song, a storm was brewing both outside and inside.

For some reason, that’s the song I thought of today when the clouds were rolling in and thunder was rolling across the sky, a great big bowling ball. There is no storm brewing in my marriage however. We survived the building of this house. We survived the move. We only had a couple of arguments.

When we told a friend of ours that we were moving and building a house his first response was: I hope you have a strong marriage. I laughed. But I heard from a number of people that the stress something like this puts on a marriage can cause the relationship to splinter to the point where it’s irreparable. I told Kevin and he also chuckled. But it was a warning that struck with me, and with us.

The thunder rolls above and portends a luscious storm. The thunder is not rolling inside though. We are as strong as ever, loving each other and our lives, and as the sky crescendos, I hear Garth Brooks and I hear us, up on the hill, surrounded today by clouds, living it out loud.

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live out loud

Oh, deer

by Lorin Michel Sunday, April 5, 2015 8:12 PM

The desert always amazes me. Friday night, after several hours spent unpacking boxes, I cut them up, flattened them, and put them in the back of the Range Rover. The hatch wouldn’t close so I started down the hill very slowly. At the second turn, I sensed some movement and slowed even further. A deer emerged in front of me and bounced across the road, up the hill and out of sight. I smiled.

I expected to see rattlesnakes, which I have, though not as many as I would have thought. I saw more in California. I expected to see lizards, and they’re plentiful. I’ve seen gila monsters which generally freak me out. They’re funky looking creatures, black and corral or black and pink or black and lavender. They lumber across the road or through the desert. Every time I see one and it’s not often, I recoil a bit. I’m not generally squeamish. I think with gila monsters I remember what a woman said to me when we first moved here. “Make sure you watch your dog closely because they’ll be curious and go to sniff and the gila monster can’t get out of its own way and so it will bite, and when it bites, it doesn’t let go.” I could just imagine Cooper with one of those things hanging off of his neck, panicking, as we flew to the vet.

My sister has long been worried about scorpions. When Mike was here last week, and Bobbi was here alone, he proceeded to tell her that he was going to beef up the padding around the door and to be very careful because new construction tends to scare out the scorpions. I had never seen one. And of all people to tell, he tells Bobbi who’s not especially fond of spiders and creepy crawly things. Yesterday, when I moved a box in the bedroom, I saw one. They’re smaller than I thought they’d be, and easily and quickly killed. I told Kevin we needed to start emptying our shoes before we put them on, just in case.

Coyotes roam through the cactus freely. We haven’t seen any out here; haven’t even heard their incessant howls in the night. We heard them more when we lived in the city. Coyotes were plentiful in California, too, of course. We used to see them regularly when we were hiking. I saw one brazenly walking down the street one night in Oak Park. It was on the sidewalk and just meandering along. It was late, probably after midnight and I was taking Maguire out to pee. He always had to pee in the front yard. It was routine. I always checked first to make sure the proverbial coast was clear. It wasn’t. That coyote stopped right in front of the house and stared at me as if willing me to bring the old guy out. “I’m hungry, lady.”

We have javelinas, wild pigs. And pack rats. We have two hawks that soar above the house daily. We have tarantulas or actually tarantula. Beetles and crickets that come equipped with saddles. When we bought the motorcycle a year ago, and were taking it out for its inaugural ride, we saw something black flying toward us. It was a weird kind of low cloud, and we had no idea what it was. Turned out it was a swarm of bees that hit us and the motorcycle straight on. It was ugly. We had bee carcasses everywhere.

This is life in the desert. It’s more lush and lovely than I ever imagined, and more prickly. This morning we were hiking in the hills above us and came upon a cactus that was flowering. Most of the others haven’t yet; it’s a bit early. By about the third week in April, the saguaros will all be sporting hats made of flowers.

After we got back from our walk/hike we made some coffee and eventually I made breakfast. It was a beautiful morning, warm but not hot. We decided to eat on the deck. I took the juice and the silverware out and glanced up the hill. I stopped. There was an animal. I thought it was a coyote. But it was big for a coyote. Still, the coloring was right. Then it raised its head and turned to stare at me, ears straight up, still as morning. It was a deer, perhaps my deer from Friday night. It was as if it had come back to say ‘Hi, welcome to the neighborhood. But don’t bother me.’

If this keeps up, I’m going to have to name it. As it is, I’ll just say ‘Hi, deer. Nice to meet you” and celebrate the fact that we have majestic creatures like deer that co-exist with the dreaded gila monsters. 

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Hurts so good

by Lorin Michel Monday, March 23, 2015 10:27 PM

I have moved quite a bit in my life. When I was growing up, we moved a lot. My dad started as a salesman for a company called Ligget & Myers when I was very small, and as he worked his way up, he was given new territories that almost always mandated a move. I was born in Olean, New York, just over the border from Western Pennsylvania, where my dad was from. For the first year of my life, we lived in Eldred, then we moved to Erie, then to New York (where we moved twice), then to Columbia, Maryland and then to Amherst, New Hampshire. I moved to Durham for college and from college I moved west to San Diego, then east to Scottsdale, Arizona, then back to LA where I moved eight times between 1986 and 2013 when we moved to Tucson to a rental. Today we started our move to our forever home.

And dog are we tired.

As I type this, my nutbag of a husband is still working in the garage, packing up his tools. We have a 15’ UHaul that has already been to the house once today. It will go again tomorrow, along with the 26’ moving truck that’s coming at 10 am to move our furniture. We need to get the UHaul loaded again tonight with everything that didn’t make it, like the tools, some clothes from the master, the artwork, stuff from my desk. I am not a fan of moving. It didn’t bother me as much when I was in my 20s for two reasons: I didn’t have as much stuff and I was a lot younger.

When Kevin and I bought our house in Oak Park, we had stuff but not like we accumulated there. We moved from my two-bedroom townhouse and everything from the house fit into the garage which is where we moved it because we wanted to paint and clean before decorating. We were in that house for sixteen years. We accumulated a bunch.

In the summer of 2013, we made the big move to Tucson and it was horrendous. We were up all night the night before we actually left because we weren’t done. The movers had come and gone. We ran out of room in our UHaul and had to leave things behind. We pulled out onto the freeway at about 6:45 a.m. so exhausted and so disgusted that it didn’t even occur to us to be sad. We were sad to leave our friends, of course, but after spending so much time in our beautiful little house, where we had banked a lot of special memories, I thought there would be more tears.

Now comes this move into our glorious house on the hill. Unfortunately it’s still not finished. We’re moving in anyway. Tony the tile guy is still dong last minute tile. Mike was there hooking up the grill. The portico needs to be tiled. Mike says everything will be done by Saturday. I’m not so sure. Mike has said that before.

In the mean time, we’re lifting and moving and struggling and cursing and loading and moving. My back hurts. My arms hurt. My right knee hurts. My eyes are tired. My hair is flat. But we’re moving in. Walking through today, always with a box or a small piece of furniture, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of awe. Of wonder. We did it. We did it.

Everything hurts tonight, for both us. We’ll be gobbling up the ibuprofen. But it’s a good kind of hurt. It’s a hurt with a limited shelf life. And tomorrow, when we sit on our deck with Roy and Bobbi, who are making the trip, it will be even more awesome. Worth celebrating.

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Finding the good in frustration

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, March 17, 2015 9:48 PM

I’m experiencing an extreme case of frustration and since my husband is tired of hearing about it and my dog doesn’t feel very well and I don’t want to burden him with my petty irritations when he’s dealing with some major tiltage, I decided to vent to my blog. Since a blog is a little bit like a diary and since diaries are known to be a place for spilling, spouting and spewing, I thought: what the hell?

I have so much good in my life. I know this. I have a remarkable husband, wonderful friends, a dog that I adore (even when he’s suffering from vestibular disease and holding his head at between 90º and 45º angles), work that I’m lucky to have. I’m also lucky enough to be building my dream house. I’m doing something I know most people dream of doing and few actually do. I have a remarkable piece of property, nearly four acres, on a hill, with a view that, on a clear day, stretches for at least 10 miles, and where at night, the lights of the city twinkle and dance and sparkle.

I have a home that will be – is – spectacular, one that stretches out over the desert, suspended in space. I am lucky.

So why the frustration?


For weeks now, when I’ve walked into my beautiful soon-to-be home I have been terribly guilty of only seeing the things that aren’t done. I could walk in and see the incredible view. I could marvel at the green of the surrounding hills, at the drama of the rock formations. But no. What I see is the tile that’s not yet done, the lights that aren’t yet hung, the water pressure that’s still screwed up, the painting touchups that still need to be completed.

Kevin went to the house today armed with a list of 53 things to review with Architect/Builder Mike. He called me on his way back and told me that the tile won’t be done, that the east side of the house won’t be done, that the grill hasn’t even been picked up yet, that the tile on the grill countertop isn’t done, ditto the portico, that they’re still trying to fix the water pressure, that the finish carpenter is supposed to come back on Friday to hang the mirrors, that the gas meter is screwed up.


We have to move this weekend. We have to take possession. We have company coming on Tuesday and more on Thursday and a party to throw on Saturday for Roy’s gallery opening. I want to show off my house, and all I can see is what’s not done.

I’ve been feeling frustrated for several weeks. Frustration has led to stress. Stress has led to lack of sleep which leads to more stress and more frustration. Is there anything good about this?

I think so, even though some days I have trouble finding it. Today was one of those days. But I dug deep and here’s what I came up with: life.

I’m alive, I’m healthy, I’m working, I’m loved, I’m building a house. I have an amazing life. Life is good. Life, in fact, is pretty damned amazing. Life is here, in front of me and all around me, and I'm loving it. I'm living it out loud.

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live out loud

Desert musings

by Lorin Michel Saturday, January 31, 2015 8:08 PM

Last night, I drifted off to sleep listening to the tap tap tap of rain hitting the skylight. I find it very soothing. It’s one of nature’s lullabies and one of my favorites. It had rained all day. There was standing water everywhere, the washes were running. Bobbi remarked that she couldn’t believe how much weather we get here in the desert. I agreed. Of course, part of the reason it seems like we get so much here is because they don’t get any there. California has been suffering through a horrendous drought now for far too many years. When it does rain, it’s never enough. And it’s not snowing in the mountains so there’s no snow pack to melt to deliver water.

It doesn’t rain here constantly but it does rain. I remarked that considering when it does rain, it tends to rain a lot, you’d think there would be better drainage. The southwest in general doesn’t do very well when it comes to rain drains, probably because it doesn’t rain very much in general and because when it does, it pours. Too much rain comes down in too short a period of time, overwhelming the system’s ability to deal with it quickly and efficiently.

Oh, but how green it is. I am forever amazed at the color of the desert. People who have never spent much time in the Sonoran think of it as nothing more than endless stretches of sand. I’ve often joked that my mother thinks we live in a sand pit. It’s not sandy at all, and while we don’t have towering oak trees, we do have towering saguaros and they are green. All of the cactus plants are green, and they are plentiful, making the landscape appear alive, vibrant. The rocks are black and brown and orange. The palo verde trees, as the name implies, are also green, from the trunk through the branches. The entire tree looks almost fake, like how a small child might color it.

In the spring, the cacti flower, the birds of paradise open. The colors dance. It is because of the season, and the rain.

It rained all night. This morning, I was lying in bed, having a cup of coffee. It was just 7:30 and I wasn’t really ready to begin my day. The blinds were open and I was looking out into the backyard. I could hear the scuppers running, draining the water from the roof onto the patio, out into the yard. The palm trees were heavy and dripping as was all of the foliage. The sky was gray. There were no birds flitting about. I’m sure they were all safely tucked into wherever birds go during inclement weather. From the top of the skylight came the cooing of doves.  And the tap tap tap of the rain.

The morning was otherwise quiet, and the rain seemed to make it more so. The sounds of traffic seemed muted. I knew that soon, I would hear the telling splash and slop of tires grabbing at wet asphalt. But until then, I was enjoying my coffee, enjoying the rain, and musing about how green the desert here truly is. Another oxymoron, but one truly appreciated only when you’ve witnessed it and realize that the predetermined notions of sand and dust, where little is alive save the occasional rattlesnake or scorpion, is in fact incorrect. This desert is alive and almost lush, beautiful, especially so when painted against the deepening gray of a rainy sky.

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