In today’s edition of desert life …

by Lorin Michel Saturday, August 8, 2015 8:06 PM

I worked in the yard. Now we don’t have a yard, of course. Not in the traditional sense. In the desert, unless you’re a golf course, yards, specifically grass, are frowned upon. Even some golf courses let their grass grow brown under the brutal heat of the desert summer sun. Must make for interesting ball movement.

Whenever we’re out and about now, and come across an area that has grass we both say, almost simultaneously and tinged with disgust: “Wow. They have grass.” We say “grass” like it has three syllables. I guess that means we have truly acclimated.

Our yard is awash with cactus of all sizes, heights and types. We have desert grasses, the long, tall weeds that are dusty in color and wave in the breeze. We have a tremendous amount of rock, both loose and on which we are built. We have, of course, dirt. And when it rains we have debris. Lots of debris.

Last night, we had two episodes of torrential rains. Rains so hard we thought they were going to break the skylight in our master bath. Rains that pounded the flat roof and caused fire-hose like spouts out the scuppers. The wind howled, ghostly and mean, and the rain drove down, and we worried and wondered what fate awaited the house. When your house is built on a hill, you can’t help but be curious and fearful that one day it will wash down and into the desert.

The house is built on a 100 vertical foot rise from the desert below. It was designed, as we requested, to look as if it had been born of the desert, rising up from it to become part of it. It works with the hillside, flowing in a near half circle. The colors we chose are earthy, desert colors. It stands out even as it melds with its surroundings. But it is on the edge of a hillside. There are huge pylons that dig deep down into the rock and the earth below, supporting the cantilevered deck. There are retaining walls, poured into footings that went down and into the rock. It is a solid mass of stucco, steel, wood and glass. And yet, I worry. Especially after the rains.

This morning, as the sun rose, so did we. We took Riley out and got our first glimpse of the carnage. Standing water along the foundation wall to the east. Deep crevices carved by flowing water, carved into the ground. The swails and rocks we have put into place thus far seem to be holding, with a few minor adjustments and additions. But there was damage both on the east and west. As Kevin readied his tools to continue rocking, I took Riley for a quick walk. The air was humid but only about 71º. The drive was strewn with rocks and more debris that washed down from the hill. At the first turn, a huge rock sat in the middle. A rock that will take at least two of us to push to the side.

When we returned, I donned the appropriate attire to work in the heat. Long pants, a long sleeve shirt, a bandana around my head, a brimmed hat and gloves. It was my job to secure more rock and stone. Up the hill I trudged with my wheelbarrow. Filled it as much as I could so that I could still control the device coming back down the hill, wheeled across the driveway and delivered the contents to my husband who was down on the hillside, placing stones together, applying mortar, shoring up the hill in the hopes that the next time if pours, and it will – again and again and again – there will be places for the water to hit before shooting off into the desert below.

We worked in the yard today so that our house stays put, and that’s definitely worth celebrating.

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live out loud

It’s like we knew, one day, some day

by Lorin Michel Saturday, August 1, 2015 9:03 PM

A long time ago when knowing your color season was what everyone did, I found out that I was an autumn. Because of my dark hair, my brown/hazel eyes and my skin tone which has more red in it than yellow, it was decided that I looked best in the colors most associated with fall. Browns, golds, greens, oranges. Warm colors. I had always felt most comfortable in those colors anyway so I was glad I didn’t suddenly have to start wearing brilliant reds and blues.

My love of warm colors always translated to my taste in furniture and accessories. I suppose it’s also one of the reasons I’ve long loved pottery. Pottery, regardless of the glaze used, is still made from clay, by nature earthy. I used to love to visit pottery studios and galleries when I was young; I still do. I took pottery in college, and have taken two recent classes here in Tucson.

Years ago, when I was married to my first husband and the Southwestern decorating style was all the rage, I bought two big pottery type lamps. They were tall, about 5 feet each, with broad bases that were rough in texture and creamy in color. I still have those lamps. I recently put new lampshades on them, silk-screened shades with browns and greens, golds and oranges. They’re perfect in the new house.

After husband number 1 and prior to current and favorite husband, I dated a guy named David. One weekend, we went up to Cambria, about 3 hours north of Los Angeles. It’s a beautiful coastal town filled with galleries. I fell in love with an amazing hand-shaped vase in a pottery studio. Rough red clay base with drips of blue, orange, red, purple glaze. He gave it to me for Christmas that year and I still have it. It looks absolutely gorgeous on our new fireplace hearth.

Kevin and I spent months trying to find a dining room set we liked when we moved into our Oak Park house. We finally settled on pieces that are sort of Scandinavian in design. The wood is a dark red. We still have the table and the hutch here and they look perfect with our tile.

Ditto the leather couches we bought several years ago as well. They’re a taupe color, overstuffed, comfortable. Perfect in the great room.

I stand and look at my new house and I realize that I’ve actually been decorating it for years, perhaps even before Kevin and I got together, but definitely since then and long before we actually built it. From the iron sleigh-type bed we bought for our bedroom along with the side tables, the bed that Kevin made for Justin that we repurposed for our guest room, the pub table and stools that were in our kitchen and are now in the breakfast nook, the antique music stand, the other eclectic pieces of furniture and accessories. Everything looks like it was bought specifically for this house and none of it was. The only exceptions: the three bar stools at the eat-at bar, and the deck furniture.

Maybe it’s just that I’ve always had similar taste, and that I tend to like furniture and things that are earthy in color, never ornate, but always interesting and hopefully comfortable. Maybe we’ve been buying everything in anticipation for building this house in the desert. Maybe we knew that one day, some day, it would all come together beautifully in a house that comes out of the desert, surrounded by greens and browns and golds. My colors. It was meant to be.

The creature report

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, July 21, 2015 8:49 PM

I am not at all squeamish. I’m not particularly fond of bugs, but I can deal with them. I don’t like snakes but I’m not abnormally afraid of them. Quite the contrary, I think that my fear of them is quite normal. They slither, therefore they’re evil. I don’t have a problem with other reptiles. I’m actually quite fascinated by lizards of nearly all kinds.

When we used to travel to Mexico on a fairly regular basis, I always loved the iguanas. They are abundant in Cabo San Lucas, and often sit unnoticed on the rocks, sunning themselves. It wasn’t uncommon to walk toward one of the villas we had rented only to startle after seeing one. They weren’t skittish, nor were they friendly. Our favorite resort was a small, 60-room place wedged onto the coast called the Hotel Twin Dolphin. It has since closed and been bull-dozed, replaced by another. It had one lovely pool with a swim-up bar where we could  order a cocktail or even some lunch. Whatever was left from the lunch, the bartender would simply toss out onto the cement and tile surrounding the pool. The iguanas would then magically and quickly appear and eat it, especially the pickles. Iguanas love pickles.

For our honeymoon, we went to a resort called La Jolla de Mismaloya. The 1964 film The Night of the Iquana, starring Richard Burton, Deborah Kerr and Ava Gardner, was filmed there. It sits on the ocean, at the edge of the rainforest. The iguanas there are nearly big enough to ride.

We don’t have iguanas here, at least none that I’ve seen. But we do have gila monsters. They’re nearly as docile, and very slow moving. They’re generally orange and black or lavender and black, probably to blend into the colors of the desert. We see them occasionally, often after Riley has spotted them, crawling along the rocks. We have had two in the portico, one fairly large that also managed to crawl out on his own, another smaller one that somehow tumbled in but needed Kevin’s help to get out. He donned a glove – they bite and don’t let go – and lifted it up and out.

We’ve also had a tortoise in the portico. Just a week or so ago, Riley was whining and crying and pawing at the glass of the front door. We went out to see what all the noise was about and there he was, at the base of the steps, right in front of the door. We have no idea how he got into the portico and figured it must have tumbled down the steps. The problem is that you’re not allowed to touch them to move them. Kevin and Justin got it to crawl onto a board that they then lifted to the pavers so it could crawl off into the desert.

Every night, we have toads. Every morning, I get this question from Bobbi: What’s the creature report? She derives great pleasure hearing about all of the things that crawl or slither or climb. Nearly every day, I have something to share. Some days it’s as innocuous as a desert rabbit, squirrel, skunk, or road runner. Other days it’s monsters. Today, we saw two deer climbing the hill behind us. Also a snake torn to pieces on the road below. Many dead grasshoppers. The other night there were javelinas down below the grill. And bats zooming about. Bugs big enough to fly passengers. There are spiders and centipedes and crickets. There are, thus far, no scorpions or tarantulas. But there are birds and owls and falcons and ravens. Bobcats, mountain lions. Supposedly there are bears.

The creature report is a daily chronicle. Sometimes it’s relatively innocuous. Sometimes it’s interesting. Occasionally, it’s frightening. On those days, the days where there are things that creep even me out, I don’t answer the question. Because if it creeps me out, it will elicit a squeal of disgust from Bobbi.

Seeing the constant flow of creatures, though, is a constant source of amusement. We had no idea some of these things existed. Sometimes, we’d like to still not know. But it makes life interesting, always, and worth celebrating, mostly.

Except for the centipedes. And the snakes.

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live out loud

The heat is on

by Lorin Michel Friday, May 29, 2015 9:25 PM

I love the heat which explains why I live in the desert. When I moved from the North East in 1984, it never occurred to me to go anywhere other than where it was warm, largely because I was not a big fan of long and lasting bitter cold. And since I didn't like Florida I settled on the southwest. California had everything. Heat but not too hot, cooler nights, the ocean. The longer I lived there though the stronger the heat seemed to become. In the San Fernando Valley it was often over 100 during summer days. The relentless concrete and asphalt holds the heat. Phoenix, hot to begin with, is also worse now because it's so developed.

Perhaps it has something to do with global warming.

Summer officially starts on June 21, but in the desert it can start much earlier. By the beginning of May, the daytime temps can be nearing 100. But not this May. This year May temps have stayed pleasant. High 70s/low 80s during the day, 50s at night. Sitting outside on the deck in the evenings required a jacket, at least for somebody like me who is always cold.

Last weekend, Memorial Day, when Jeff and Chris were here, we were concerned that the weather might not cooperate, that the heat might descend upon us and make it difficult to do anything outside. Since this was their first trip to this part of the world, we were hoping to show them how cool it is, literally and figuratively. The weather was wonderful. They left on Tuesday morning just as the heat began to build.

We had started to think that maybe this year would be different, that the high heat might not manifest. Cooler than usual temperatures can lull you.

Enter today. It's flirting with the high 90s. 100 tomorrow and for the next few days.

June is the hottest month in the Sonoran desert, followed closely by July. And August. The saving grace are the monsoons, the drenching storms that can happen almost daily, cooling the air and the ground. This season is forecasted to be very strong because of El Niño. Monsoon season starts on June 15 and runs through September 30. The first storm doesn't usually happen until around the 4th of July. Then the skies turn green, the wind swirls, the cactus brace themselves and the clouds relieve themselves. There is thunder and lightning. It's one of the coolest aspects of living in this kind of heat.


At night, the temps cool though not as substantially as they do in California. There is no ocean breeze here. We're hopeful for some cooler air to tumble down from Mount Lemmon but we haven’t lived here long enough to know if that happens. I do know that last year, on the 4th of July we went up to Mount Lemmon. It was 105º when we left Tucson. But the time we got up there, just 26 miles north, we needed sweatshirts. Again, hopeful.

In the mean time, we're in it, the heat. The heavy, thick, nearly able to see it heat that will undoubtedly get just a little hotter before it gets a lot cooler. It’s a sight to behold and to be seen, and for me and my boys, to be lived in. Oh, it’s not always preferable to be outside, but it sure beats the snow in the winter and the high humidity in summer.

Though I think when it comes to bugs, we’re pretty even, especially when the heat is on. 

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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.

Jave a nice day

by Lorin Michel Sunday, April 26, 2015 10:46 PM

After my javelina incident the other night, I’ve been especially sensitive – perhaps overly so – to things that go pitter patter and snort in the night. Kevin and I have been under the house to see if the little devils have returned; they don’t appear to have, but who knows?

Yesterday was terribly windy, almost violently so. On these days, just like on Thursday when I experienced the javelina incident, I close the windows in the master bedroom. I did the same yesterday. We like to sleep with fresh air spinning around the room, so after watching the last half hour of Gone with the Wind on PBS, I opened one of the windows. A blast of cool air pushed into the room, quickly swirling, looking for a place to land. It was still windy but I thought having just one window open and not necessarily all the way would be fine.

When it’s windy and the windows and screen doors are open, things move. The rocking chair in the great room rocks all by itself. It’s a horror movie in the making. We have double doors into the bedroom and even though they have stoppers, the wind can be strong enough to pull the stoppers and the door closed. The stoppers help keep said doors from slamming but that’s about it.

This is why I close the windows when I’m here alone. It’s disconcerting in this big house to hear a door close.

The wind continued to howl last night as we went to sleep. Ghosts rushing by in the night, catching on the cactus, the mesquite and palo verde trees. It’s an eerie sound, worthy of Edgar Allen Poe and the spooky marshes of Victorian England or current day New Orleans.

At about 12:30, I heard what I was sure were hoof beats, scrambling and galloping underneath the deck. Kevin was snoring and had been since before the movie ended. I reached over and grabbed his arm.

“What?” he grunted still mostly asleep.

“I think the javelinas are under the deck again,” I whispered with great concern as I got out of bed and moved toward the open window. I could hear what I was sure was the snorting conversation of these wild beasts that populate the Sonoran desert.

Kevin got out of bed begrudgingly and as he stumbled to meet me at the window, it occurred to me that it wasn’t anything on the ground at all but rather something on the patio. The pitter patter and hoof beats … of rain.

Yes, I was embarrassed to wake my husband up to investigate phantom javelinas. Yes, I appear to have javelinas on the brain. But it was raining. A delicious phenomenon that happens rather infrequently here in the desert southwest.

It did more than rain; it poured all night long. It raged. It stormed. There was thunder and lightning and wind. It was glorious. I doubt that the javelinas were anywhere even close. Or maybe they were and because of the pounding of the rain on the deck, I couldn’t hear them snorting and pawing at the ground.

This morning, it was still raining but gradually it dissipated and the clouds parted to reveal the bluest of skies. Glorious. Not hot. The desert even greener than it was yesterday which I know isn’t possible but it sure seemed to be the case.

Lisa and Bobbi went out shopping today and Lisa came back with a t-shirt for me. Jave a nice day. As long as the javelinas stay far away, I will. And I will wear my new shirt and smile as I live it out loud in the bloom of the desert with the sound of snorting a distant memory.

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live out loud

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?

BECAUSE IT’S NOT DONE AND WE’RE MOVING IN ON FRIDAY.

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.

WAGHAGHAGHAGHAGHAGHAGHHHHHHHHHT?

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

Watching the wind and thinking out loud

by Lorin Michel Saturday, February 28, 2015 7:46 PM

The house seemed to be doing a lot of settling in last night. Creaking and shifting. It was probably just the wind, the palm fronds and other branches whipping against the side and the roof. At one point, something appeared to land on the roof. It was still dark, the world was still mostly asleep. With the sound of the wind, the sounds of any traffic were drowned out. It could have been a branch broken free. But when whatever it was appeared to scurry and plod across, we decided it was some sort of animal. There is a tabby cat that hangs in the neighborhood. It’s a feral cat. We’ve seen it since it was a kitten. I tried to catch it several times, but like most feral cats, it wasn’t interested, and I didn’t have the tools necessary to trap it.

It has grown into a beautiful cat that saunters around the streets and often suns itself on the sidewalks. Last week, it was lounging on the rocks of a swale. Those rocks are rounded and smooth, like river rocks. I imagine they were warm from the sun. There was a dog in the yard behind, fenced in, barking at it. We walked by with Cooper who also spotted it and began to bark. The cat simply flipped its tail, refusing to be intimidated. What are you going to do about it, punk?

We suspect this was what plodded across the roof last night. We could follow its movements as if we could see the little feet moving across the ceiling. We continued to wonder if maybe it actually was the wind, just playing with us, but this morning, Cooper picked up a scent in the backyard and he was fairly animated by it. What are you going to do about it, you, you dog?

This morning we opened the blinds in the bedroom and watched the wind. The trees were whipping, the branches still creaking, swatting at the air. The bougainvillea, just beginning to show new pink buds, was rippling against the back wall. We could see clouds drifting by quickly, rushing to their next destination, maybe Texas. Tiny leaves have started to appear on the tree right outside the window. Spring is coming, at least here in the desert. They were dancing in the wind, too. I worried that they might not be strong enough to withstand the power. I wondered where they might fly off to.

Kevin yawned. You realize we’re not really watching the wind, he remarked. You can’t see the wind. We’re watching the trees being whipped around by the wind. I hadn’t thought about it that way but it’s true. You can’t see wind. You can see what it does. You can hear it. Sometimes you can smell it.

You know what else you can’t really do? he asked. My philosophical husband. You can’t think out loud.

This morning, the wind was blowing, the trees were dancing, we were listening and wondering, and yes watching. And thinking about all of it, while living 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.

I hear you knocking

by Lorin Michel Saturday, January 17, 2015 8:15 PM

It happens all day long but I don’t always hear it. But come the night, the sound is impossible to ignore. At first, it frightened me. What is that? Then it annoyed me. Come on. Again? Now I find it almost comforting. It’s the tat tat tat tat tat tat tat and then some of the Frigidaire side-by-side refrigerator in our rental house.

When we moved in, in August of 2013, it was hot as it often is in the desert. The house, with the exception of the swoosh of the AC as it blew cool air through the ducts and the soft whirl of the ceiling fan, was quiet. The only sound that came from the refrigerator was the usual electric hum, the occasional drop of ice into the tray from the automatic ice-maker.

Then the temperature turned colder and suddenly the fridge began to keep a steady beat. It wasn’t constant, but it was often, and it got more often as winter descended. We called a refrigerator repair guy who came out to inspect the machinery and gruffly told us that he could find nothing wrong with it. Naturally it made no sound while the man was here just like when your car is making “that” noise that it refuses to make when you take it to the mechanic. Since it gave us the silent treatment that day, it didn’t get fixed. As soon as the guy left, it started again. Tat tat tat tat tat tat.

Several days later I suggested that perhaps it was the temperature as the advent of the tapping seemed to correspond with the arrival of the cold weather. Kevin essentially said that was impossible.

Summer came and the refrigerator got quiet again. It hummed and dropped ice but there was no knocking. For six months or more we had silence emanating from the kitchen. Then came the cold weather and with it, the knocking. It started slowly. Tat tat. As winter continued and the temperatures remained cool if not actually cold at night, the tatting continued, growing steadily. It never gets any louder; it simply lasts longer. Kevin has started counting the knocks. 11 became 22, 22 became 37 became 67 became even more.

It happens during the day but we hardly notice it. At night, though, when the world is quiet, when there is only the occasional woosh of heated air pushing through the ducts, when Cooper sighs heavily, the weight of it all, when we’re supposed to be sleeping, that’s when it comes. The tapping, the tatting, the knocking.

Kevin has now come around to the idea that maybe it does have something to do with the change in temperature though it makes no sense to his logical mind. It doesn’t make sense, but there it is.

Tat tat tat tat.

I always want to say come in, come in already. As the knocks continue, though, I find that they bring me something akin to comfort. I don’t know why. It’s really an annoying sound. Maybe it’s the mechanical-ness of it, the machine-like continuity of it. I can’t put my finger on it. But when I hear the knocking I am somehow soothed. I don’t count the knocks; they don’t keep me up. They simply are. Like the ticking of a loud clock, they record the passage of time and become a reminder of the life before and the summer still to come.

I hear you knocking. But you can’t come in because it would ruin the illusion, it would solve the mystery. And take all the fun out of wondering why.

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