I wonder

by Lorin Michel Saturday, November 18, 2017 7:35 PM

[Written late last night and posted today]

I am 37,000 feet above the earth. It seems an impossible number. I try to imagine 37,000 wooden rulers like the ones I had in grade school, stacked one on top of the other, end to end, an endless stick that points from the desert up into a night sky where only the pale flash of red lights gives away where we are. I wonder how 37,000 feet became the accepted height for flight. I realize I don’t care enough to find out.

I am on my way home, finally. I say finally as if it’s been weeks since I was there when it was only yesterday that I left. It just seems like weeks. I wonder if others feel this way when they leave home or if others think about it.

I wonder when Southwest Airlines started having such on-time awfulness. I wonder when flying became more awful, nothing more than a means to an endpoint. I used to like flying when I would board big planes in Los Angeles and fly all the way across the country without stopping until we landed in Boston. I suppose I liked it because my dad often gave me his first class upgrades and first class is always better than steerage. Southwest only does the latter. When I liked flying it was before 9/11, before the rest of us were made to suffer because of the government’s mistakes. The government started making flying less fun; the airlines just perpetuate it.

I wonder why it’s always nearly impossible to hear the pilot when he addresses the cabin. That’s probably not safe. I also wonder why there is always someone who farts at least once while the plane is in the air and why that person is always sitting just in front of me. 

Or maybe airplanes just stink.

I am on my way home from San Francisco.

I had forgotten how much I love it there. It’s an incredible city, sprawling and tall, dirty and glorious, filled with different types of people all melding into one. I watched people walking their little dogs last night in Union Square as I sat in a Thai restaurant eating curries and pad Thai and sipping a Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington State. I miss the sophistication of a city like San Francisco. I had forgotten. I wonder why.

It rained on my walk back to the hotel, the kind of soft rain that you almost can’t feel and so you’re surprised to find out how wet you are when you step inside. Water dripped from the fire escapes above. People strolled, dogs pooped and owners cleaned it up.


Today I sat in a board room with walls of glass overlooking AT & T Park, where the Giants play, and the glass-like bay. The sun was shining, there was only the slightest breeze. People walked and jogged, dogs ambled. Tugboats chugged toward buoys. I wondered when I would have the opportunity to visit the City by the Bay again and have more time to breathe in its scent of ocean and bread and diesel and Thai food.

The plane has started its descent. The city lights are growing closer. Soon I will be able to see the cars on the road, the still and always illuminated flags waving in the desert night.

I love how the sound of the plane changes just before you touch down. The engines have slowed to landing speed; the gear is down, the flaps up. There is a hovering sound, a closeness, a tease of a kiss.

Home.

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In the gray

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, November 7, 2017 7:42 PM

We’re officially in fall. I know that much of the country has been in fall for several weeks now, but the desert seasons are a little different. It takes us longer. But it has finally become cooler, the days have shortened and the darkness has lengthened. The air conditioning has been turned off, and the windows are open, the daily breeze flowing through and coating everything in dust. It’s impossible to keep up with the dust in the desert, something I had been warned about previously. It’s not as bad in town but out where we live, where the winds are stronger and the land is more plentiful, the dust drifts in with the breeze and settles on our furniture, books, the floor like a long lost friend. 

Eventually even cooler temps will arrive though not for long. The numbers will drift down into the 20s and 30s at night. We might get a spit of snow. In the mornings, as we walk the dog, we will wear sweatpants, sweatshirts, and slip our hands into gloves, wrap a scarf around our throats. The temperature of the desert in winter is icy even when it’s not as cold as it feels.

This morning, we woke up to a coated sky. Gray and white, the kind of sky that would signal snow in the Northeast or Midwest. It hovers, a sky like this. There are no defined clouds, there is simply a seamless blanket covering the city, the county, the desert. 

The sky up here on the hill is different somehow. Perhaps it’s because we are so sparsely populated. It just seems bigger, and smaller. And today, grayer. When the sky is like this, we seem to sit almost at the same level, like I could reach out and feel the cool of the hovering moisture.

I love the gray. I love the way it changes the colors. The greens are muted and quiet, the houses blend more into the landscape. Even those with red-tiled roofs, Mediterranean in style, seem subdued. The black of the pavement softens and becomes more accessible. The sun tries hard to push through but it never quite makes it, and so the desert flattens and softens. It looks almost two-dimensional from up here. It’s a painted landscape that stretches 10 miles or more in every direction except north. North lies the hill. In the gray, it seems closer than ever. 

There is something about the gray that makes me start to feel the approach of the holidays. Perhaps it’s the diminishing temperatures, or the shorter days. The gray, gauzy sky is what I remember from growing up in the Northeast. A sky like this always ushered in winter and with it, Christmas. The sky doesn’t look like this in the spring or summer. There’s something about the cold that makes the sky cloudier with less clouds. When the sky was this color, we would wait and watch. A single flurry could be cause for celebration. Maybe if it actually snowed and snowed enough, school would be cancelled the next day. It had to snow a lot for that to happen.

Now, the gray just allows for cool, and the promise of cold. The weather channel says it might rain. I don’t think it will. This is the kind of sky that settles in for a long nap. It’s in no hurry to do anything or go anywhere. It hovers.

In the gray, I find solitude and wonder. In the gray, I can think less of the constant chaos, and more about the world’s potential. In the gray, I find peace. Perhaps the world needs more gray.


Shades of gray. Painting by David Pearce

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Experimenting with fall

by Lorin Michel Sunday, September 24, 2017 8:33 PM

Sometime in the past two weeks, and probably one night when I took Riley out after sundown, I noticed the air felt different. Not exactly cool but something underneath it that felt like cool, like something hiding under the blanket ready to spring out when least expected. Except that it is, of course, expected. It’s nearly the end of September. The cool is coming and with it, fall.

We’ve had an odd summer. It’s always hot; it’s the desert. But June was especially brutal, with our weather station up here on the hill showing temps reaching as high as 120º several times. When it’s that hot during the day, even when it cools off at night, it’s still in the mid 90s. No relief and lots of AC. 

July ended up being the wettest on record. We had storms nearly every day, totally nearly six inches of rain. It kept the temps cooler, though still in the 90s, but the humidity was high and the bugs were prolific. August was just hot and miserable. But then September eased in and temperatures started to abate. The last few days have only been in the 80s, and the nights have been comfortable if not yet cool. 

That changed last night. Last night, it actually was cool. I tested the concept by wearing my new UNH sweatpants, still with a t-shirt and flip flops but long pants have been almost non-existent for me for months, the only exception being when I was in Sacramento for business. I didn’t think it would be professional to wear shorts to my meetings. We sat out on the deck well into the evening, after the sun had set. We made the decision to turn off the AC and open all the windows. The cool air poured in; there was almost a chill in the air. 

This is early for us to have the AC off and the windows open. Usually it’s around the first week in October when it finally becomes comfortable enough to experience the fresh air of the desert rather than the staler air of the air conditioning units. We’ve only been here four years but each year, we look forward to this time. When we built the house, Mike couldn’t believe we actually wanted windows that opened. Evidently people in the desert are averse to fresh air. We were insistent; he was belligerent. But ultimately we won because we were paying the bills. We got windows that open in the master bedroom and the guest room, along with sliding French doors, two sets, in the great room. Both have screens. 

This morning it was 55º. The cool air was drifting in through the open windows. It was more than comfortable though not at all cold. We heard the paper get delivered. Just before 7, a road runner on the roof started tapping at the skylight in the bathroom. It sounded like someone was pounding on the window. Any thoughts of sleep now being gone, we decided to get up and start the day. I pulled on a pair of shorts and a long sleeve t-shirt. Kevin looked at me. 

“Long sleeves? Really?”

I grinned. “I’ve decided to experiment a bit with fall,” I said.

Here’s hoping the experiment lasts.

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The Saturday of a Labor Day weekend

by Lorin Michel Saturday, September 2, 2017 8:25 PM

On Tuesday, March 24, 2015, we finally moved into the house on the hill. Building had commenced on December 1, 2013 and Architect Mike thought maybe we’d be in by Christmas of 2014. We never really thought that was possible, but we hoped. December 2014 moved into January 2015. Mike said maybe the end of the month. January became February and Mike said the end of February. Then it was March, and we told him we had to move in. We had people coming to stay with us on March 24; we were throwing a party on Saturday, March 28. The truck rumbled up the hill early afternoon and the guys proceeded to unload it with me standing in the middle of the house directly traffic.

Roy and Bobbi got to the house around 11 pm. I had managed to get the bed set up and made in the guest room; put towels and a bar of soap in the guest bath. Ditto our own room. The kitchen was relatively put together because I’d been moving a lot of that in for days, taking Rover loads to the new house and arranging what I could. The rest of the house was a sea of boxes.

Over the next few days, I unpacked what I could but mostly stacked the boxes so that they at least looked neater. We put the couches, the floor lamps, the coffee table in place in the great room. We arranged the dining room table and chairs, and the hutch. We put together the new bar stools, and when the patio furniture arrived, we put that together. Because we were going to have a house full of people.

Kevin’s office stayed mostly a mess but mine had to be more put together because we had more people coming to stay on Thursday. I pushed the desk up against the wall, and we put together the spare bed we keep in the storage area. It’s a full size. I found more towels and another bar of soap. 

All of my boxes of books got stacked in the closet and there they stayed for the next two and a half years. The office itself has been highly functional though lacking some personality. The two bookshelves I had against the wall stayed there but mostly empty other than the errant stuff I stacked. The shelves stayed shrink wrapped in the hall closet. 

Several months ago, I started thinking that I might like to re-arrange my office. I had the desk at an angle but I didn’t like it. The empty book shelves were on the west wall, but I didn’t like those either. There was a lot of mess and no feng shui. I’m not necessarily a practitioner of feng shui, but I do know when a room feels right, and mine was just feeling off. But work is busy and I’ve had school, and my weekends come and go and nothing happened in my office. The top of the desk became a sea of papers that I needed to go through but didn’t. Dust gathered. 

For years, the day after Thanksgiving was my designated day to clean my office. I actually looked forward to it every year. But for the past four or five years, we’ve been going to Paso Robles for Thanksgiving, which means on that Friday, I’m happily ensconced in a winery or four, tasting wine and enjoying life while my office languishes.

This is another long weekend, and earlier this week I decided that I was going to use some of the time to clean my office and re-arrange the furniture. I started late yesterday afternoon, going through the mountains of papers on my desk and throwing out most of them. Then I decided to move the desk to in front of the window, the shelves to the east wall, and put my black chair and ottoman on the west wall. The corner shelf that had previously held a number of products from clients that I’m no longer working with got completely cleaned off. I put photos, and my 1920s typewriter, on that. I hung my cowboy hat from the corner. 

Then I ran out of time. But this afternoon, I ventured back in and started pulling boxes of books out of the closet. I opened each and decided which I wanted on the book shelves in the office, which I wanted on the shelves in the closet, and which I really didn’t need at all and could go to Goodwill or the library. I worked for hours, emptying countless boxes, and ended up with four boxes to donate. I pulled the shelves from the hall closet, dusted them off and put them in place. I arranged books. I dusted. And when it was all done, I stood back to admire my work. And it was good. 

On this Labor Day weekend, I labored to finally clean and re-arrange my office. It’s something to celebrate.

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The shadow cast

by Lorin Michel Thursday, August 31, 2017 8:51 PM

I’ve written before about the creatures we encounter in the desert. Most of them are on the ground, but we do have plentiful birds and flying bugs. One buzzed by me this morning and I noticed that it cast a shadow. You know something is big when it casts a shadow. I don’t know what type of bug it was and I honestly don’t care. I’m not a big fan of bugs on the ground; less so of ones in the air.

It made me think though. Shadows are fascinating changes in the light. While they seem to block the light entirely, in effect they really only hide it, temporarily, and even then only some of it. If there’s enough light to cast a shadow, there is enough light to dance in the shadow. Every day, I look at the shadows cast by the towering saguaros in our driveway and watch them drift from west to east as the sun moves from east to west. This isn’t exactly news to anyone and I don’t mean it to be. It’s more of an observation. In those shadows and in others, there is still light. It’s just taking a break. 

I watch sports and am amazed when the baseball hit to deep left field or the deep pass thrown toward a sprinting receiver disappears in the interplay of shadow and light within a stadium. It’s there one minute; the next it’s hiding in plain sight only to drop out of the sky, often into a waiting glove or the capable hands of the receiver. I wonder how the players keep their eye on ball, how they find it in the interplay of light and darkness.

I marvel at the moving shadows cast by the ravens and falcons, the occasional hawk and the even more occasional osprey as they float across the desert, sometimes so close I can see their eyes, count the feathers in their wings. Depending on where the sun is, the shadow they cast can seem like a mini-eclipse. Even airplanes, high in the sky, when moving past the sun in just the right way, can shadow the earth below. It’s eerie and wondrous, dare I say illuminating. 

A person can stand and cast a shadow. A house casts a shadow; ditto a car. A dog casts a shadow; a cat, too. Deer, javelina, tortoises cast shadows here in the desert. Saguaros, ocotillos, prickly pear; mesquite and palo verde, even palm trees. And bugs.

The particular bug this morning was black and winged. Might have been a beetle, definitely wasn’t a grasshopper. As we trudged down the hill, it was coming up, flying against gravity. It buzzed up and around, a tiny Cessna, a single passenger bug-plane, and as it neared, it’s shadow buzzed along with it, beneath it, on the pavement, not quite keeping up but close. 

Then it buzzed by, taking its shadow with it, and I was left with a sense of awe as I so often am in the desert especially in the early morning when the sun has just started to warm the day and the shadows cast to the west are long.  Awe at the nature of it all.

I don’t know why this struck me today. There are shadows every day; sometimes there are shadows at night, if there’s a full moon. But I couldn’t help but notice, and think that if something casts a shadow, that means there is light behind.

There is a shadow cast across the country now, too. But somewhere there is also still light above. I’m not at all religious, but that light? It gives me hope.

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How much longer

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, August 23, 2017 7:35 PM

Are we there yet? It’s an age-old question, asked by many a child on a long road trip, tucked into the back seat, staring out the window as blurred scenery rushes by. Are we there yet? I have to go to the bathroom. How much longer?

I don’t know if children actually ask this question or if it’s one of those old-wives tales that has been passed down through the generations. I ask it now, sometimes, when Kevin and I are in the car on an especially long road trip. Are we there yet? How much longer? I do it for fun and it’s often followed up by the other old standby from years ago: Don’t make me stop this car. 

When we were kids, we never flew anywhere. That was a luxury normal people like us, middle class but nothing more, could never hope to afford. It never occurred to my parents that a family vacation would involve buying five round-trip airfare tickets to somewhere. Instead, we always climbed into my dad’s company car, always a boat of a vehicle, and off we went. Often it was to Maine, to a little place we found on the water in Prout’s Neck called the Braden Cottage. It was an odd house, upside down in a way, with all of the bedrooms and one large bathroom on the ground floor and the living room/kitchen above. I suppose it was like that because the view of the water was better from up there. We always went in June, because it wasn’t yet high season. We always drove.

When I was nine, making my brother five and my sister three, we took a big road trip south, to Florida. The destination was Disneyworld. This was long before there was Epcot Center. It was probably 1971. It took us at least two days and probably three to drive all the way down the east coast to Orlando. I remember my mother, who was always prepared, having created daily packets of stuff for each of us to do while safely ensconced in the backseat. Crayons and coloring books, small games, and other assorted distractions. Anything so as not to hear three kids continually whining: How much longer. 

This morning I read the news. As usual it was filled with chaos and strife, gnashing of teeth and shaking of heads. There was no immediate crisis, just the rolling continuation of this abhorrent presidency. The toddler came to Arizona yesterday, dropping down into the valley of the sun – a balmy 107º – to bring his particular brand of hate and crazy into a state known, mostly in the suburbs and rural areas, for both. Phoenix, like Tucson, indeed like most cities in the country, is a bastion of blue, a melting pot of people and cultures and ideas. I think it’s one of the reasons people congregate in cities. They share a love of differences, and enjoy celebrating that. 

Not our president. I shudder that I even have to type those words because he is so obviously and completely unfit and unwilling to actually do the job to which he is assigned. He celebrates only one thing: himself. He has a pretty high opinion of himself. He’s in the minority. He’s a petty, vile, ugly little man. 

As I read about what he had to say – I didn’t watch the rally (definitely not a speech) and refuse to ever watch him if for no other reason than to keep my blood pressure low – as I read about how he lied about what he has actually said recently, about how unfairly he’s covered when what he actually says is broadcast; when I listened to him rail about trade agreements and race and crowd size and pardoning a despicable man of law enforcement who broke the law repeatedly; as I looked at his bloated, orange buffoonery, his stupid little hands, the thumb and forefinger perpetually pressed together, all I could think of was how much longer. How much longer can this go on? How much longer can we stand it? How much longer before something horrible happens? How much longer before he does lasting damage to us, and the world? How much longer?

Are we there yet?

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Go east young man

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, August 9, 2017 9:59 PM

In 1851, a writer for the Terre Haute Express, John Babsone Lane Soule, used the phrase “go west, young man, go west.” The phrase is widely attributed to another writer, Horace Greely, who co-opted it, writing in the New York Tribune on July 13, 1865: “go west, young man, and grow up with the country.” Greely freely gave credit to Soule, even showing people the original article. Regardless, the phrase “go west, young man” quickly became a mantra, especially for those returning from the Civil War. Looking for a new start, many were casting their fortunes to the west, moving their families. Greely, an author and editor of Tribune, had used the phrase because he envisioned the farmland of the west being ideal for people willing to work hard for the chance to succeed.

This morning, Justin climbed behind the wheel of his new (used) car. It was packed up with nearly everything he owns, mostly clothing and some electronics, along with some hand-me-downs from us. A set of dishes. Pots and pans. Flatware. He started the car and with a wave and a “love you guys” he drove across the driveway, down the road and … west. I watched the car for as long as I could see it, and then came back inside. The west part of his trip was short-lived. Once he got onto Catalina Highway and got to the second stop sign, he turned south, drove down to Interstate 10 and headed east. Destination: Atlanta.

He’s 26 years old. He’ll be 27 at the beginning of January. He has had two major jobs. His first was working for Norwegian Cruise Line which he got before he got out of college and started about a month and half after graduating. The second he got after Norwegian left him hanging for his next “tour.” The cruise lines all function similarly in that workers are on the boat – on a tour of duty, so to speak – for six months at a time. Then they are forced to take a mandatory six weeks off before they can embark on another tour. Justin was all set to do that, and had agreed to another six months on a ship called the Pride of America which cruises around the Hawaiian islands for six months. Not too hard to take. But they never followed through getting him the necessary paperwork from the Coast Guard and he got tired of waiting so he got a job with Feld Entertainment working on Disney’s Frozen on Ice. Until last month, he’d been with them for almost three years during which time he has traveled the country and much of the world. Last summer, on July 2, he left for Japan, where he was for three months, then they went on to Great Britain where he was for another three months. After that, he was in Portugal, France, Spain, Belgium, Germany, and maybe other countries I can’t remember. In April he was home for a month, and then jetted off to New Zealand and Australia where he was until two weeks ago. 

Now he’s heading east toward a new job, as lighting supervisor for the Atlanta Opera. The last two weeks have been a whirlwind, with him first needing to buy a car and then trying to secure an apartment long distance. He and Kevin spent the first couple of days looking at used cars, and most of them were in horrible condition. Evidently a lot of people just don’t take care of their vehicles. But our neighbors had indicated that they might like to sell their third car and I told them to let me know. They did, he drove it and bought it. It’s a 2007 Audi A4 2.0T. It’s in great shape, and best of all, was in his price range. It’s his first car (his previous car was what Kevin and I bought him when he turned 16) and it’s a beauty.

Justin's new wheels, pointed east in the driveway

Now, he’s heading east. Toward a new adventure, a new life. And new opportunities. We’re so proud of him, and can’t wait to see – and experience – all of the success that awaits him. Go east, young man, go east. We love you.

Jurassic Park: Sonoran Desert

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, August 2, 2017 10:32 PM

Today I put this question into the google: why are there so many prehistoric creatures in the desert? I got various answers, most of which weren’t remotely related to what I was looking for, probably because it was the wrong question. Some of the links talked about why prehistoric creatures were so big, which many attributed to more oxygen in the air as well as more land. There is something called Cope’s Rule which says that as animals evolve over time, they naturally get bigger, until they’re wiped out by a mass extinction and are replaced by smaller animals that gradually grow bigger until they, too, are wiped out. And so on. 

What I should have asked, and did eventually, was: current prehistoric looking creatures sonoran desert. I got some very interesting information including this: the Sonoran desert, that lush and prickly place we call home, is actually considered to be tropical. Makes sense when you consider that July, which just ended two days ago, was our wettest ever recorded. Naturally, everything is green and getting greener. On any given day, one can travel through desert grasslands, desertscrub, thornscrub, and tropical deciduous forest habitats between here and Mexico’s Sonora. 

According to the desert museum, our little corner of prehistoria is fairly recent in terms of geologic time and is one of the youngest communities on the continent at about 8 million years old. The area where we live, in Tucson, is only about 9000 years old, with our plants and animals developing about 4500 years ago. During this time, what we now view as our beautiful, green, fabulously prickly desert became what it is today, with its trees and cactus and creatures.

It is the creatures that I would like to speak about because they are plentiful and this summer, they are freaking huge. Prehistoric huge. We knew when we moved into an area that is far removed from the city and is, in fact, outside the city lines, that we’d encounter creatures. We had a slight inkling of what those creatures might be and we waited patiently to see them. There would be rattlesnakes and tarantulas – those we knew for sure. Everything else we just braced for.

We’ve had plentiful deer. We’ve had javelina. There have been plenty of road runners and quail and ravens and falcons. We’ve see osprey and white-winged doves. There have been bob cats and ring-tailed cats, grass hoppers five inches long and lizards galore. Gila monsters? Check. Tarantulas? Yep. 

And then the rains of July hit and suddenly, the creatures are prolific. And huge. We’ve had toads but we always have toads. Now, though, we have toads the size of my hands and I have big hands. We have desert tortoises traversing the driveway and tucking themselves against the house and into the rocks. Every day brings another sizable creature here in the Sonoran. 

Which makes sense because there is actually a dinosaur named Sonorasaurus, named for the Sonoran desert. 

Still, I prefer to just refer to it as Jurassic Park: Tucson. Where we’re living it out loud, and watching where we step. 

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Simmering

by Lorin Michel Sunday, June 18, 2017 10:27 PM

As a rule, heat doesn’t bother me. Unlike Bobbi, who despises hot more than anything, I prefer it to the alternative. Bobbi prefers cold. They keep their AC set in the 60s if memory serves. Poor Roy walks around in a parka. 

Southern California gets hot, especially in the San Fernando Valley. I remember days driving from Pasadena/Glendale, west toward either Calabasas (where we lived first) and later on, toward Oak Park. Both were out of the Valley but Calabasas was closer. Calabasas actually starts in the Valley and then rolls up and over the appropriately named Calabasas Grade. Woodland Hills comes right before Calabasas. Both are tucked up against the hill, so the heat gets stuck there. Does it ever. It wasn’t uncommon in the summer, under the late afternoon sun and hanging smog to see the temperature gauge on the car climb into the low 100s. I think the highest I ever saw it was 116º but I didn’t really believe it. I figured it was the heat of the asphalt and car engines that drove it up. 

Still, it was smoldering. 

It was hot. We like the heat. So naturally we moved into the inferno known as the Sonoran desert. It’s a fascinating place, where it freezes in the winter – and sometimes snows – and boils in the summer. We’re not in summer yet, technically. Evidently someone forgot to tell that to the weather gods, however. It was 113º here today up on the hill. Absolutely smothering, smoldering, sizzling heat. The kind of heat where you really can’t go out. The kind of heat that, when you take the dog out to pee, you become very impatient. No sniffing; no dawdling. Just pee and get the hell in the house. 

Several weeks ago, we bought an air conditioner for the garage. A portable one, with a big hose that can vent out one of the high windows. In order for it to reach said window, it has to be raised. Kevin has it sitting on one of his saw tables. This morning, I turned it on early. We did some planting down at the bottom of the road, then came back up the hill. We left the Classic outside in the driveway to bake and keep the garage cool. We had breakfast. We talked to Kevin’s brother and sister-in-law, we read the paper, we cleaned up the kitchen. And then he went out to do some garage clean-up. Our little AC unit kept the area decent. Not quite cool because it’s simply too big of an area and too small of a unit, but it wasn’t horrible. Especially given the outside temps. At one point, when I took Riley out to pee in his designated area which is out the man-door off the back of the garage, and then came back in, I was amazed at how much cooler it was in the garage. 

This afternoon as the sun was drifting down to the west, alighting the smoke of a fire that’s burning somewhere far away from us, we took stock of the weekend. We watched the desert fade into dusk and marveled as it flattened out.

The only word I could think to describe the day was simmering. Something cooking slowly. And yet still beautiful, even in its infinite harshness. Worth celebrating.  

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The power that isn’t

by Lorin Michel Thursday, June 15, 2017 9:08 PM

If ever there was a metaphor for how I’ve been feeling lately, it’s this: today, we were without power. This happens occasionally, though not as often as you’d think given the strain on the power grid during the summer months. And it is definitely summer even though technically it doesn’t officially become summer for six more days. In mid-June in Southern Arizona summer simmers. Last year at this time we were in California, wine tasting. We drove home on Father’s Day during excessive heat warnings. As we went through Palm Springs, the temperature on the car and on my iPhone both topped out at 121º. One hundred. Twenty. One. Degrees.

Today, the mercury was hovering around 112º when suddenly the screen on my computer dimmed. I wondered what was going on. Since I work on a lap top, when the power goes out, my computer battery automatically takes over. It’s a seamless transition. It took just seconds for me to realize that the tiny green light on my power cord was off. Then I heard the microwave beep, the clocks in the bedroom fizzed, the overhead fan clicked and slowed. Finally, the internet said ‘see ya, bye.”

Fully knowing the answer I shouted the question anyway: “Did we just lose power?”

Kevin was already on his way across the house. I heard him say “yup. Gotta number for TEP?”

One of the great ironies of us having solar panels on our house, panels that capture more than enough energy to power our house, is that our solar inverters run on electricity. The second great irony is that in order to use the solar power we create, it has to first go to the electric company in order to be converted. 

So plenty of solar, no way to capture it, and the house slowly began to melt into the desert. Welcome to Thursday afternoon.

Power runs our lives all the time but during the blistering summer months it also keeps us alive. We wouldn’t have died without power for a couple of hours, even through tomorrow, but it would have become uncomfortable. We also have no water pressure. In order to maintain water pressure, we have a pump that works fabulously. As long as there’s power. 

Power is needed to cook and clean, to open and close the garage doors, to run the ceiling fans. It is desperately needed for air conditioning and water, for music and television, for the internet. It is necessary to light the night, to keep our phones and computers charged, to run our smoke detectors and our alarm system (though both do have battery backups). When you’re powerless, it’s an odd sensation. You don’t quite know what to do, how to act. You feel out of sorts, almost confused. You feel as if you have absolutely no control.

Mostly how I’ve been feeling since November 8, and definitely since January 20.

After about an hour, our power whirred back to life. The microwave beeped again, the light lit on my power connection, the overhead fan began to spin lazily. If only it were so easy to regain power as a citizen. If only it took just an hour.

Something to think about and hope for as we power forward.

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