Angel

by Lorin Michel Monday, January 4, 2016 7:33 PM

We don’t have a yard; we have desert. It has become very trendy to pull out grass and irrigation systems in California because of the drought, and to replace it with desert landscaping. Rocks. Succulents. In the desert, desert landscaping in a natural phenomenon and we have nearly 4 acres of it. Rocks. Succulents. Mesquite trees. Palo Verde trees. Plus buffelgrass, deer grass, blue grama, brittle bush, and pink muhly. These grasses grow quickly and their roots grow deeply. They are green and thick after the monsoon rains of July, August and September. They dry out in the fall and winter, becoming straw colored, waving in the winds. They are a fire danger and they’re not that attractive. They’re also difficult and time consuming to remove.

This year, we had a stronger than normal monsoon season. It dumped buckets, rained rivers on us here on the hill, more so than down in the city. Certainly more than at the airport where the official totals were charted. This rain led to gorgeous greenery, grasses that were thick and lush, ocotillos that were nearly phosphorescent. Stunning. We’d stand on the deck and watch the desert bloom and grow, almost before our eyes.

Then the grasses started to grow through the rip rap below the house. The rip rap is the rock-type wall that we paid to have put in place in order to shore up the hillside leading up to and beneath the house. It’s beautiful and makes the hillside look more natural especially since we used rocks that are native to the area. They were hand-placed by a group of guys. It was painstaking work that took weeks. We love the look. We didn’t love the look of the grasses growing up and between the rocks, dislodging some. It makes the house look messy. It makes our hillside look overgrown. It negates the money we spent. 

Our neighbor Julianne has a stable of different workers to do a variety of different things around the house. She has a landscaper, she has a guy who does windows. She has a guy who sprays for weeds (Dan, who we used as well, both at the house and throughout the neighborhood). And she has Angel who clears away the brush.

Because Dan sprayed several months ago, we are now surrounded by dead grass, the most dangerous kind. Dan only sprays, though; he doesn’t remove. Kevin thought he might have time to do it. I helpfully pointed out that we have way too many other projects to get done; that it might be easier to simply hire someone to come in, cut it down, clear it out and take it away. 

He finally relented last week. We called Angel, on Julianne’s recommendation. He came out and met with Kevin. They walked around the house, down below, on the rip rap. He gave us an estimate; Kevin hired him on the spot.

He arrived this morning towing his cart. Kevin took him a cup of coffee, they chatted briefly and then he got to work. He was all alone. I don’t know if he usually has “guys” that help him, but he didn’t today. 

He worked for 5 hours, under the gathering clouds, in the diminished wind. He removed everything we asked him to, efficiently, beautifully, cutting, digging, pulling, re-exposing our rip rap and untangling some of our cactus. He did it with a sense of purpose and a sense of humor. At one point, I was in the window, watching as he dumped a bucket into his cart. He turned around, grinned and waved. I waved back .Just a nice guy and a hard worker. The kind of guy we enjoy paying because we know we get more than what we paid for. We’ll hire him again. Kevin already has his number in his phone.

He’s an angel, our Angel, and one I’m celebrating today.

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live out loud

Things that happened

by Lorin Michel Thursday, December 31, 2015 3:09 PM

It seems like just a year ago it was snowing. I ran to the window every 15 minutes or so, like a kid, watching and waiting for the flakes to begin. When they did, I squealed with delight. Yes, squealed. It set the tone for 2015 and I was ready. 

We started the snowy year filled with anxiety and anticipation. Our house was nearing completion and Roy’s gallery opening was looming. We had hoped to be in by the end of January but we were still finishing, still tiling, still shopping for lights and mirrors and accoutrements. Cooper started to get sick and the vet kept insisting it was Valley Fever when it wasn’t. He put him on prednisone and it seemed to perk him right up. But it would be short lived. 

February came and went and we began to worry. We booked movers. We had Roy’s show coming up and we needed a house for the party we were throwing. We pressured Mike and he gave a date that was soon moved back. We simply weren’t finished. We paid a point and a half on our loan because we hadn’t converted from construction to residential. Tick tock went the clock.

Finally March, a move in, a show, a party and the loss of our beloved Cooper. I’ll never forget how sick he was just a week before the move. How he seemed to get better and then how he went completely down hill. I remember being frustrated with him and hating myself for it. There was so much going on and I needed him to be better because I didn’t have time to worry. But I did worry. And then he died on March 29, the day after Roy’s opening. 

We were in the house. Now came the task of putting it all together, and then the realization that a new house didn’t actually mean there was nothing to do. Quite the contrary. Project after project materialized. Some were completed; most were not. Works in progress. Projects in progress. 

Riley arrived on April 27 because I simply could not fathom living here without a dog. It was always supposed to be for the three of us. Our beautiful boy, whose name is still attached to the area on the side of the house where Riley pees and poops. The Cooper area. He never got to use it but Riley makes up for that every day. 

We experienced our first monsoon up here, watching the sky turn green and fly toward us at breakneck speed. Torrential rain, fierce winds. One day, a microburst that hurled our furniture across the deck, breaking one of our Adirondack chairs. 

Visitors came, two by two. Kevin’s brother and sister-in-law, people I’d never spent any time with in the 20 years he and I have been together. What fun we had. Roy and Bobbi. Diane and Gene. Justin, who walked in and stood in the foyer. “Holy shit.” My sister came in July; my mother and aunt in November. We made new friends and missed our old ones. Wished they could always be here with us.

There was travel to Los Angeles, a road trip to Paso Robles. Wine tasting, cooking. Volunteer work and work work.

Birthdays, anniversaries, phone calls and Face Time, face time and emails, text messages. New iPhones, new iPads, a new computer for me.

Tick tock goes the clock. Ever forward.

Older, wiser. Some days happier, some days curious. Other days wondering did we do the right thing? So much change, so much. 

We end the year with high clouds and cold temperatures. No snow, not even rain in the forecast. We’ll light a fire and sit near the glow of the Christmas tree on this last night of the year. We’ll remember all we’ve accomplished, all we’ve celebrated, and what we’ve lost, what we’ve had to give up, the people we always miss, and we’ll toast to each. Happy 2015. And welcome a brand spankin’ new 2016. Let’s take it out for a ride and see what it can do.

A little like living in a resort

by Lorin Michel Saturday, December 19, 2015 8:17 PM

When my sister visited in July, she made a remark that has stuck with me. She had arrived on Friday late afternoon, flying into Sky Harbor, about two hours from here. The plane was several minutes early and even for a Friday afternoon in Phoenix it wasn’t bad getting back onto the 10 east to head to Tucson. I wanted to get back for sunset. Sunset is a very big deal here in Southern Arizona. The sky catches fire and takes your breath away. It looks gorgeous in photographs; in person it is the definition of awesome. I wanted her to experience that her first night. 

We didn’t really make it. Just catching the tail end of an orange sky as it faded to gray. It was near 7:30, likely just past. It was already closing in on 11 pm her time. We still took a glass of wine, which Kevin had waiting for us, and toured the house. We walked the length of the deck, Riley trying desperately to get her attention which wasn’t difficult since Khris is a big dog person. We had dinner, and she went to bed.

The next morning, Kevin was leaving for a trade show in Las Vegas. As he was getting ready and packing up the car, Khris poured herself a cup of coffee and walked through the house again in the light. She stopped in the dining room, not really a room because the house is an open floor plan. The dining area is on the first level as you come in the front door, then there are two steps down to the kitchen level and then two more steps down to the great room. The entire back, south-facing side of the house is glass. This is the side that cantilevers out over the desert, the side with the view of the city. She stood on the first level, in the dining room, looking around and out, sipping her coffee. That’s when she made the remark that I remember:

“It’s like living in a freakin’ magazine.” 

I was simultaneously proud and embarrassed. Proud that she found my home that impressive. Embarrassed because I never wanted it to seem too much. But mostly I was proud. 

Last night I was asked if I could (wo)man the gift wrapping table at Barnes & Noble for the golden retriever rescue group. When I got home around 8:30, Kevin had pulled one of the switch panels out of the wall near the back slider. The audio receiver was out of the audio cabinet, posed precariously on a dining room chair. He was attempting to hook up the speakers in the deck ceiling. The house was pre-wired to have speakers in the ceiling throughout, with two just outside the kitchen, two in the great room (in addition to the three surround sound speakers in the wall), two on the deck, two in the master bath/bed and two in the garage. We had the ones in the kitchen and great room hooked up before we moved in. We figured we would put the others in ourselves. By ourselves I mean Kevin. The actual speakers went into the deck ceiling over a month ago; last night was the attempt to get them working. Key word: attempt. It wasn’t going well.

After much swearing and fighting with me when I dared to suggest possibilities or ask a question – the horror – he finally started putting things away. The receiver went back into the cabinet, the holding chair got put away. He came into the kitchen where I was alternating between glaring at him and cooking. He poured himself a glass of wine. He looked pissed rather than accomplished. 

“So do we have sound or not?” I finally asked, not able to stand the suspense.

“Yes,” was the only reply. 

We ate dinner around 10, late even for us, in relative silence. Then he got up from the table and went out onto the deck. I cleared the dishes. When I turned around from the sink, I could see that he had a blazing fire going in the outside fireplace.

“Get a coat and come out,” he grumbled. 

Because I can’t pass up sitting in front of a fire when the rest of the world is cold, I pulled on a long heavy sweater, wrapped it around me and ventured outside. Christmas music poured from overhead, the fire gurgled and whipped in the wind. I curled up in a chair in front of the fireplace. Kevin poured us some Bailey’s Irish Crème and we sat there, mostly in silence but not an angry silence. An awe silence. Marveling at where we live.

I whispered: “It’s like living at a freakin’ resort.”

One where we can live it out loud even when we’re silent, listening to the music and feeling the warmth of the fire outside on a cool winter night.

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live out loud

The hills have eyes

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, October 21, 2015 7:54 PM

The desert is a mystical place. Harsh in climate, with a haunting beauty especially at night. The summers can kill, and nearly everything that lives here bites. The cacti, the trees, even the weeds can slice your skin. The creatures are prehistoric, some of them poisonous. Mostly these creatures leave you alone, but occasionally, if you come upon them unexpectedly, they will strike. When you live in the desert, you have to always be aware. Maybe it’s because of the harshness of the weather that it is mystical, even magical. It wraps around you, wraps around me, and has penetrated my soul.

As brutal as the summer heat can be, the rains can be equally dangerous. That’s because it doesn’t just rain here; it storms. Violently. The winds whip into a frenzy, whistling and howling through the cactus, the mesquite and palo verde trees; the rails around the deck. Lightning splits the sky, often in strikes of two or three. Thunder rolls and crashes, rattling windows and skylights. And then the rain starts. It rarely begins slowly. It simply gushes and pours and once the wind catches it, it becomes horizontal, driving against the windows. 

During monsoon season, which runs from June 15 until September 30, the sky turns dark, nearly green. The winds swirl, the rains come, the temperatures drop. Often within minutes it’s over. The clouds move on, the winds calm, and the sun returns. The ground dries quickly. It’s as if it never happened.

Then there is the kind of rain we’ve been having lately. The kind of rain that happened again yesterday. The sky was thick most of the day and the rain arrived here somewhere around 5:15. Again, the winds picked up, and soon it was raining so hard it obscured the landscape. The air was nearly white. It lasted for about an hour or so, then it started up again around 7:30, this time with hail. We had closed the windows in the master bedroom because the winds were so strong and the windows are nearly at the end of the deck which means that when the winds are strong, it pushes the rain into the house. After the hail storm, we opened the windows again. As I stood in front of the screen, feeling the cool of the night flow past me, I thought I heard something in the desert below. I called to Kevin to see if I was hearing things. He listened, both of us holding our heads impossibly still, ears toward the window as if somehow that would make it easier to hear. 

“I think it’s just water dripping from the scuppers,” he declared but took the flashlight we keep next to the bed and stepped outside to make sure. I went about doing whatever I was doing which was straightening up the bathroom since we’d just showered. After a few minutes, I went back to the window. 

“Anything?” I asked truly wanting the answer to be ‘no.’ Instead, he appeared in the window, holding the flashlight under this chin so that he looked like a character in a horror movie. Then he whispered: “come here.”

Oh, shit. Oh, crap. I didn’t want to go. As mystical and wondrous as I find the desert, the desert at night can be scary. It’s impossibly dark, and because it was still cloudy, it was inky and thick. I stepped out onto the deck. Apprehensive, only slightly curious. Kevin trained the flashlight up the hill. 

“See it?” he whispered. I looked but didn’t want to see. I shook my head even as I shuddered. I told myself it was the coolness of the air. He moved the light and then moved it back, and there it was. The telling glare of two eyes. 

“Holy crap,” I hissed. “What the hell is it?” 

He laughed a sinister laugh that chilled the air even further. MuahHAha.

Last night, after the rains, as dampness hung in the air and water dripped slowly down onto the rocks below, the hills above us were alive. Something was watching us. As we watched back, it slowly turned and gracefully moved up and out of sight. The eyes it seemed belonged to one of our resident deer, haunting it out loud in the hills after the rains.

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live out loud

Roadhouse

by Lorin Michel Friday, October 9, 2015 9:02 PM

One of my favorite guilty pleasure movies is the absolutely horrendous Road House starring Patrick Swayze at his sexiest, bad-ass best. The movie is truly awful. The storyline is ridiculous; the plot even worse. A bouncer with a national reputation who travels the country cleaning up really horrible bars. Oh, and he has a philosophy degree, and a mullet. And an awesome body. 

Patrick Swayze was never a very good actor but he was always compelling. And sexy. He had a great walk, and great hair, even that truly embarrassing mullet. Road House also had Sam Elliott at his grizzly best, and Kelly Lynch who was bad in everything she ever did. If you haven’t seen it, don’t bother. But if you have, relish in its B-movie fantasticalness.

The title refers to a bar that sits on or a near a major road on the way out of city. You can find them all over the world. In Canada, they were once called a stopping house. In the US, they were and are establishments that serve lots of beer, lots of hard alcohol, and crappy food, and there is often dancing. The earliest ones were frequented by cowboys. They usually had and have a bad reputation. In Alaska, road houses were checkpoints for dog sleds. In Australia, road houses sell fuel and service vehicles. An attached restaurant is there for the eatin.’ Britain used to call them coaching inns and most are now Bed & Breakfasts. Spain has post houses. Since the bad movie, road houses have become synonymous with the Swayze movie. They’re bad-ass bars where most people wouldn’t be caught dead.

Which leads me to the Roadhouse Cinemas which we’re going to patronize for the first time today. It’s not on the way out of town and it’s not really on the road. I think it’s somewhere tucked behind a nice outdoor mall, probably part of the parking lot rather than a road.

It is sort of a bar. It’s actually a full service bar and restaurant. You can take food into the theater to munch while watching the movie. You can have food and beverages delivered while you’re watching simply by pressing a call button. It’s certainly not haute cuisine, more like hot cuisine, and I’m fairly sure there won’t be dancing. Nor a bouncer. But I bet it will be fun.

We haven’t been to the movies in years. Ever since we got our 55” smart TV there hasn’t been a reason to. We simply wait a couple of months and stream it through Netflix. We have surround sound. We can watch whatever we want in the comfort of our own home complete with a pause button. Most of the films that come out, we don’t care that much about. And when we do, we can usually wait. Plus it’s expensive to go to the movies. If the films aren’t that good and we’ve just spend $30 on tickets and $25 on popcorn and a drink, we get irritated. Irritated isn’t supposed to be part of the movie-going experience. Which is why we like our couch, where we can put our feet up, keeping the remote handy along with a bottle of wine.

But from the moment we saw the trailer of The Martian, on the internet because we don’t go to the movies, we knew we had to see it in a theater. When the reviews came out, it just solidified our desire.

So we’re off to the Roadhouse. There will be no bouncing. There will be no fighting or dancing. There will be beer and bar food. I suspect somewhere Patrick Swayze is smiling. I know we will be relaxing in their comfortable reclining theater chairs, celebrating the experience of living it out loud.

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live out loud

Sleeping with the windows open

by Lorin Michel Monday, October 5, 2015 10:14 PM

Fall is arriving in tiny increments. The small leaves on the ocotillos have turned from a nearly fluorescent green to a gentle gold. The desert’s version of changing colors. I don’t think they’ll become orange and red, like the glorious colors of the north east, but it’s a change nevertheless. I have been waiting for fall. As much as I love the desert and the heat, I am now ready for cooler temperatures. I don’t even mind that the days are getting shorter. It’s time.

With this change of colors comes something else: the official opening of the windows. It, too, is time. 

When we lived in California, we rarely used our air conditioner. Even when it was hot during the day, it almost always cooled down enough at night that we were able to sleep comfortably. Sometimes we needed an additional fan, but otherwise we slept well. Slept comfortably. Often it would be cool enough that the house remained comfortable for the next day. The last few years before we moved it seemed to get warmer. There were times when the heat was unbearable. My office was upstairs, and thus hotter. Kevin’s office was in a separate building in the backyard, and while it was adorable and had two windows for a cross-draft, it didn’t have air conditioning.

But we were stubborn. We didn’t turn on the AC unless we couldn’t stand it anymore. Or when the dog was suffering. We’d turn on the air when we saw him – which ever him it happened to be – panting because we didn’t want Maguire/Cooper to be too hot because we were too stubborn.

In Tucson, the summers are hot. June and July have daily temps around 100. But the nights don’t cool down, necessitating air conditioning 24/7. We knew that would be the case; we’re not surprised. And we’ve been fine with it. We don’t keep the temps on either side of the house low. Both thermometers are set at 78º. We’re weird that way. 

The first year we were in Tucson, in the rental, we turned the air off on October 6. We did the same last year. This year, we’ve been waiting. August was cooler than normal, with a lot of rain. September warmed up quite a bit. Just when it seemed it would start to turn the seasonal corner, it would run into a red-hot wall of huh-uh.  

Last week was hot. When Roy and Bobbi got here, it was hovering near the century mark. On Friday, when we went to Phoenix, it was 96. But Saturday seemed to change. The daytime temps were warm, but not hot. I don’t think it got to 85. Sunday was comfortable and partly cloudy. By evening, the breeze had picked up and the temps were hovering around 60. We turned off the air and opened the windows. October 4.

When we were building the house and Mike was designing the window formation, it never occurred to him that we wanted windows that open. Evidently a lot of people don’t want their windows to open. Odd. When we told him we wanted screens in the bedrooms as well as on the sliding French doors in the great room, he looked at us as if we’d asked for him to put a horse stable in the dining room. You want windows? he asked somewhat incredulously. We do, we told him. And we got them.

Last night, we opened them wide in the master bedroom. Before we went to bed, we had the two sliders open in the great room. The house was breathing. Outside the small gold leaves of the ocotillos rustled against each other. An owl hoo’d. Somewhere coyotes howled. Crickets chirped incessantly. We snuggled down under the covers listening to the sounds of the desert at night, feeling the cool desert air. Breathing fresh air. It’s fall. It’s time.

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live out loud

The conversation flows as easily as the wine

by Lorin Michel Thursday, October 1, 2015 8:58 PM

Roy and Bobbi are here visiting. They came in late yesterday afternoon, rolling up the hill just before 5 and in time for sunset. They haven’t been here since the end of April, just after we got Riley. We miss them so much, and even though Bobbi and I “chat” every day, including the weekends, we haven’t had the time to simply be. To talk, to share. Most importantly, to laugh.

I don’t know when we all got to be so close and ultimately it doesn’t matter. It’s been a long time, and it’s one of the great joys of my life. They are two of the best people I know, and always remind me of the importance of good friends. The importance of life.

Even though it had been months, we immediately settled into ourselves and our friendship. There is never a lack of things to talk about, or more importantly to laugh about. Kevin opened some wine as Roy and Bobbi sat on the steps, waiting for Riley to get used to them. We had warned them to ignore him, talk to him in just a regular tone of voice, don’t show any excitement and let him to come you. He’s an odd duck, our Riley Boo. I think his reticence when it comes to new people stems from his old people.

Soon enough, he was playing with his new toy and we were all just enjoying Wednesday.

We talked about everything. Roy’s art, the house, Bobbi’s teaching, Bobbi’s business, LA, Tucson, Kevin’s work, my books, Bobbi’s family, my family, Diane and Gene and their impending move.  The conversation moved effortlessly from one topic to another.

We went outside for sunset though didn’t stay long because we’re just finishing up monsoon 2015 – ending officially last night – and because we’ve had more rain than usual, we also have more irritating bugs than usual. Little gnat type bugs that don’t necessarily bite. They simply annoy. They swarm. And they take all of the enjoyment out of being outside. For that reason, and others, we’re ready for the heat and the summer to go away. It’s time.

Soon we were opening another bottle of wine and munching on some extra sharp cheddar. I made scalloped potatoes while Kevin and Roy went outside to put the ribs on the grill. Bobbi and I talked about art. After the potatoes were done and ready for the oven, we moved to the great room and eventually into the master bedroom where we only have one piece of art hanging, over the bed. It’s a whimsical piece, oil on canvas. There’s no frame. It’s one of my favorites, purchased at a swap meet in Ventura years ago.

We started talking about Kevin and I leaving LA and how it affected all of us, perhaps them most of all because they were the ones left. How it disrupted our lives, how it made them feel. How it made us feel.

Once upon a time and nearly every week, we celebrated Fritini. It was the punctuation at the end of the week, a way to sit and talk and drink and laugh. To share the week and to get over it. We don’t have that anymore, none of us, and while we have this gorgeous new home, we don’t have them. Not close by. We all feel the distance, the emptiness. Even though we easily became the four of us again. The band, back together.

We opened another bottle of wine. We had dinner. The conversation flowed as easily as the L’Aventure Optimus. It was as it always was and as it will always be. With good friends, good wine, good talk. A good night indeed.

Analemma and then some

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, September 29, 2015 7:41 PM

It has begun. That slide into what some people call Daylight Savings Time but what Arizona simply calls October. This year it falls on November 1, but even though we don’t change time here, I know that the daylight is changing regardless. I know because of the sun.

I am not a sailor who can navigate based on the sun, the moon and the stars. I thought about taking sailing lessons once. They offered them in the tiny sail boats that scoot around Westlake, but I never got around to it. It’s a bit harder to take sailing lessons now. Maybe parasailing. Dog knows there are enough mountains since Tucson is rimmed with four separate ranges and since we are tucked into the base of the Santa Catalinas.

I’m not a farmer who rises and sleeps with the rising and setting of the sun. Even though I might as well be since I’m up with the sun every day because of Riley. Also no window coverings.

But the sun that was blasting across the desert floor just before 6 am not three weeks ago is now only seeping across, more slowly, like white ink, around 6:30. We get an extra half hour of sleep.

Of course that doesn’t explain why I’m so tired these last few weeks; why Kevin is, too. I could explain mine away with one word. Hormones. Also work. Also late nights. OK, that’s two words and actually four. But I know it’s probably not any of those. Every year, when we used to live in a place where the time changed, I would spend a week recovering. It’s just an hour but I think the cumulative fading of light earlier and the later dawning of morning simply contributed to what my body mistook as jetlag. I’ve never really suffered from jetlag and jetlag is roughly one day for every time zone hour. I didn’t change time zones. There was no excuse.

But there it was. The sun changed and all I wanted to do was go to bed, pull the covers up and sleep until March.

Over the last week, I have definitive proof that the sun is changing, shifting in the sky. This proof comes in the guise of blinding late afternoon sun, streaming directly through the French doors that lead to the deck, and right into my face.

My desk is positioned at an angle so that I can get the best use of the space in my office while also getting the best view out the windows. The entire southern wall of my office, like the southern walls of every room in the house, save the garage, is glass. In all of the bedrooms, of which there are four, the glass windows are flanked by a French door. I face the west as I’m on the west side of the house, and as the sun sets, it now appears to be setting in the southwest. I realize that’s not possible. I thought perhaps because the sun is simply going down earlier than it used to, it works its way into my eyes before I leave my office. It starts around 4:45. By 5:15, I’ve slid my chair as far to the north as I can while still being able to work on my computer.

I found out today that what’s happening is something called analemma, a figure-eight in the sky that is about the Earth’s axial tilt north/south, and its elliptical orbit that is east/west.

If the earth orbited the sun in a perfect circle, and the Earth’s axis weren’t tilted, the sun would still rise and set, but it would take the same path across the sky at the same time, every day, all year. If you went outside at noon in January, and noon in June, the sun would be in the same place. It would also rise due east, and set due west, always at the same time, every day.

But it doesn’t happen this way. The Earth’s orbit is slightly elliptical, and the Earth’s axis is tilted by roughly 23.5° to the orbit. These two factors combine to make analemma.

On the summer solstice, the earth’s north pole is tipped toward the sun. In the northern hemisphere, this means the sun gets high in the sky at noon. But in the winter, when the earth is on the other side of its orbit, the earth’s north pole is tipped away from the sun, so at noon the sun doesn’t get as high. The difference between highest and lowest point in the sky at noon is twice the Earth’s tilt, or about 47°. 

And that’s why the sun is lower in the sky right now and is going to get even lower, because we’re going into fall and soon winter. And because of analemma, a figure eight that’s always worth celebrating.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to bed until March 13, 2016.

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live out loud

Dear deer dear

by Lorin Michel Monday, September 14, 2015 8:40 PM

I was at my desk late this afternoon when something caught my eye. Movement, outside. I glanced up, expecting to see a bird sitting on the railing. Kevin had gone outside to sweep the portico. The dog was beside himself because there was fuzz and leaves and bug carcasses. Kevin had threatened to engage in some toad tossing but there weren’t any toads to toss.

What caught my eye was a deer, just below the deck, grazing. Because we’ve had so much rain this past month, the earth has sprouted with all types of desert grass. Long, soft, thin grass that waves in the breeze. It’s actually quite lovely.

Just yesterday I had mentioned that we hadn’t seen any deer in quite some time. We used to see them crossing the road. We’d have to be careful when driving toward the house because they’d dart out from the side. We never wanted to hit any of them.

Then last night, movement in the hill above us. It was two deer.

Today, I watched a dump truck on its way to the property down below to pick up a load of dirt and rock. It comes in several times during the week. It stopped just down from where it normally turns in. I watched, wondering. I saw something in the road, and wondered. I pulled out the binoculars and trained them on the road just to the right of the truck. It was a tortoise. The truck had stopped to make sure it could pass without incident.

Then this afternoon, the deer. Again. I took video through the window of my office as he moved gracefully through the grass, looking up at the house every so often. I ran to the front door and knocked on the window, motioning Kevin to come quickly. He did and we both stood transfixed, watching. The deer stayed down in the “yard” a long time, finally meandering up to the road. It proceeded to walk toward the house, across the driveway, up and behind the rock wall. It meandered almost the entire length of the house before turning and walking into the hills, disappearing into the cactus and rocks.

We were completely enthralled. It was as if we’d never seen wildlife before. I asked Kevin if he thought we’d ever get to the point where this stuff didn’t fascinate us, if it got to be old-hat.

I joked that he’d be 80 and I’d be 73 and I’d call out “Honey, there’s a deer in the yard and a tortoise in the drive,” and Kevin would come toddling up with his new walker and the old cell phone that I’ve been asking him to replace because it doesn’t hold a charge anymore. And he’d be snapping pictures and we’d stand there in awe.

Look, dear. Deer! Worth celebrating, don’t you agree?

So it's mani pedi day

by Lorin Michel Saturday, September 12, 2015 7:20 PM

I am not a girly girl. Never have been. I don't spend a lot of time on my hair; I go days without makeup. The last time I wore a dress was when I got married nearly 17 years ago. I live in shorts, tanks and flip flops in the summer; jeans, long sleeve tees and boots in the winter; leather coats. I never get my nails done.

I do however get Riley's nails done. We have just returned from his mani pedi. Or is it mani mani? Maybe pedi pedi? Whatever. The point is that the nails on all four feet have been trimmed and he's good for another couple of months.

When we had Maguire, we'd trim his nails ourselves. I would hold a flashlight behind the nail so that I could see the vein. Kevin would maneuver the trimmer until I said stop. Clip. Done. We were pretty successful.

With Cooper, because his nails were darker, we couldn't see the vein even with a flashlight, and I am horribly paranoid about trimming nails to close and causing the dog to bleed. Freaks me out. We took him to the vet.

Riley's nails are sort of in between Maguire's and Cooper's which makes sense since he looks a little like Cooper but he has the smarts of Maguire. He is also most definitely his own dog, with more personality than he knows what to do with.

I made his appointment the other day. The new vet we have is wonderful. It’s the vet the rescue group uses. In fact, every time we've been there at least one other rescue is also there, having dogs checked out. Today it was a greyhound rescue, there with Mindy a 10-year-old who was first rescued from the race track and then rescued again when her owners took her to the shelter to have her euthanized.

People suck. I hate people.

So the vet is great but Riley does not agree. None of our dogs have been good at the vet. Maguire used to do everything he could do to make himself the size of teacup terrier. He was 85 pounds at his biggest. Cooper was probably the best of the bunch. He'd whine a bit but he stood his ground and willingly went with the vet techs, wagging his tail. Riley channels Maguire. He whines and whines and whines in the car. When we get into the vet office, he turns up the whine-volume so that it's close to a howl. It is not pretty, or melodic. The vet tech took him back and he went, looking back over his shoulder the whole time. Mom? Aren't you coming? Mom?! MOM!! How can you do this to me?! Haven't I been a good boy? I'll be better. I promise! MMMOOMMMMMmmmmmm


When he came back this morning, he was overjoyed that I was still there. He hopped into the car, relieved as can be. Settled right down. We stopped at Walgreens to pick up Kevin's prescription. They have a drive thru. The pharmacist keeps a box of milk bones at the window. Riley got two just for being "so good."

Ha. I wanted to say "you shudda seen him 15 minutes ago when he was doing his impersonation of a chihuahua." But I didn't. I smiled and thanked her. Riley gobbled his cookies.

Now we're back home. Riley is positively stealthy with his mani pedi. My nails are a little ragged. Last week I dropped a steel bar on the tip of my middle finger on my right hand. Half of the nail is now black. I have a similar situation on the middle toe of my left foot. Even if I got manicures or pedicures, I doubt it would help. But maybe.

I'll call the vet and see if they can fit me in.

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