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.

I think this is why

by Lorin Michel Saturday, August 29, 2015 8:51 PM

I’ve been thinking about the future a lot lately. I think it started when we moved two years ago, though it was probably actually when we bought the property in 2010. Something inside was looking forward to what is to be, to what can be. We love California, as clichéd as it is, we love LA, but we needed to make a change in order to move forward.

When I look out the windows in my glass house, I see what we’ve been able to do, that we have indeed moved forward. Yes, our careers remain the same, but we are preparing for what’s next.

I think the reason I think about retiring – something that never occurred to me 10 years ago – is because I want to simply enjoy my life. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it now. I do. I love my husband and my dog. I love my friends and family. I love what I do for a living. I know many people who can’t say that. But to be able to just go off on a trip, of any length, anytime, would be nice. To know that our income would hold steady, that we’d have enough money to live our lives the way we live our lives, would be lovely. To relax more would be heavenly. That’s not to say I wouldn’t work, or at least continue to write. As I said, I love what I do. But to perhaps be a little less consumed by it, a little less frantic. I think about that. Life in a slower lane. I think about that, too.

I think this is why we chose the desert. It’s just easier here. The city is small, the people are friendly. But it’s a slower pace in general. Maybe it’s the heat, but people move more gently. I think it’s why we also chose to live on the far north east side of the city, no longer even within the city limits. There’s a peace here that was missing before. When we were younger, we thrived on the constancy of Los Angeles. It’s a vibrant city, filled with people and lights. It’s a place to discover yourself but it eventually becomes a place where you lose yourself as well, swallowed up by the traffic and the anonymity of it. When you’re in the 20s and 30s, it’s enough that the sun shines and the ocean glistens, that you can hike to the Hollywood sign and enjoy music at the Hollywood Bowl; that Beverly Hills remains aloof and that the canyons carve a path from the city into the Valley, a city unto itself. It pulses. Then you become 40 and 50, watching life go by too quickly. It’s not enough any more.

I think this is why I wanted to slow it down a bit. Savor it.

I want to travel the country by car. I love road trips. I want to experience every state, just explore, while I’m still young enough to appreciate it all, and still young enough to actually do it. To climb in and out of a car, to hike, to breathe in all that there is from the west to the east, south to north and everywhere in between. Maybe I’ll even go to Texas, a state I have always avoided except for passing through DFW.

I think this is why I want an Airstream. I just want to go, to escape, to live free, live long, live strong. Live riveted to life. I think that’s it. Tonight, I think it’s worth celebrating.

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Why did the javelina cross the road

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, August 25, 2015 10:15 PM

It’s the age-old question, turned into an elementary school joke. But it’s also profound. Why did the chicken cross the road? If you employ Occam’s Razor, the answer is simple: to get to the other side. It’s why we all cross the road. But I’ve always contended that there was more to it. Maybe the chicken was crossing the road to have a clandestine meeting with a rooster. Or maybe another chicken. Maybe the chicken didn’t want to be dinner that night. Maybe the chicken was just trying to stretch her legs, get a little exercise.

The fact is, we’ll never really know why the chicken crossed the road and we really don’t care all that much. It’s a riddle, and an example of something labeled anti-humor because it is presented as something funny, setting up the listener for something funny. And then it’s not. It first appeared in 1847 in an edition of The Knickerbocker, a New York City monthly magazine, stated like this:

...There are ‘quips and quillets’ which seem actual conundrums, but yet are none. Of such is this: ‘Why does a chicken cross the street?[’] Are you ‘out of town?’ Do you ‘give it up?’ Well, then: ‘Because it wants to get on the other side!’

In the 1890s, Potter’s American Monthly printed it like this: “Why should not a chicken cross the road? It would be a fowl proceeding.”

Other variations include a turkey or duck crossing "because it was the chicken's day off," and a dinosaur crossing "because chickens didn't exist yet." Some variants are both puns and references to the original, such as "Why did the duck cross the road?" "To prove he's no chicken."

To this ridiculousness, I would like to add my Tuesday morning version: Why did the javelina cross the road? I wondered about this, briefly, when Riley and I pulled up on our walk because I noticed these wild pigs crossing the road in front of us.

Javelinas are members of the peccary species. They’re a medium sized wild pig that can grow to about 4 feet in length and weigh up to 88 pounds. They’re native to the desert, they smell horrible (they’re also known as skunk pigs) and ugly as hell. These are not the cute, cuddly pigs like Babe that people have as pets. These things are mostly blind, eat anything including small animals and prickly pear cactus, and have been known to batter a dog with their tusks with enough force to tear the dog apart. I have not seen this happen, and had no desire to see it enacted today.

As they walked across the road, down by Highland Park which is where we usually turn around in the summer because it’s just too damn hot, I stopped. Riley stopped. He squared off. Whined. I pulled at his leash, he fought me. He did not want to go. I did not want to provoke the javelinas. I won. We turned back with Riley glancing over his should a couple of times. I did the same. If those things started after us, I was going to start running, even with my bad knee. Once we got around the corner, and I knew they hadn’t caught a whiff of my dog, or of me, I turned back one last time. Riley had moved on to chasing after small lizards.

Still, the riddle rattled around in my early morning brain. Why DID the javelina cross the road? The only thing I could come up with was “Because of its fowl smell.”

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Captured at the speed of a shutter click

by Lorin Michel Saturday, August 22, 2015 8:37 PM

In 8th grade, we had to choose a profession and do a report on it. I chose photography and to this day, I can’t tell you why. I suspect it sounded glamorous and artistic and fun. The fact that I didn’t own a camera and had probably never taken a picture in my life was immaterial. I still remember the cover I did for the report. Yellow construction paper with the word Photography written in colored magic marker. I don’t think there was a photograph included, on the cover or inside. Regardless, I got an A. It must have been well-written and researched.

I did take a photography class in high school. I had an old Canon SLS camera at that point. We shot on black and white film and learned how to open a canister, and put the roll onto a spiel inside a black bag in order to develop the negatives. I became quite adept at it, but I was never a great photographer. And truth be told, I didn’t really like it.

Kevin loves to take photos and he’s good at it. His dad was a photographer, and heavily involved in a camera club when Kevin was growing up. I think Kevin even had something to do with the club when he was in high school. We have several of Tom Michel’s black and white photos here in the house.

Our friend Gene, a musician by trade, is a great photographer. He has a good eye and an easy way of capturing life.

And then there’s Roy. As an artist, he sees everything differently than the rest of us. He can look at the house, and where everyone else is trying to figure out how to get all of it into one picture, he simply takes a portion of it, capturing the unique angles at a unique angle. He views the world through his viewfinder. Even the photos he takes of his cats are spectacular. We’ve always told him he should do an exhibit just of animal photos.

He has had one painting in a theatre in Phoenix, chosen through an anonymous jury. He has another that will be displayed for the last part of this year, October, thru December. A month or so ago, the theater, the Herberger, had another call to artists, this time for photography. Labeled the “candid” exhibit, they wanted life shots, captured at the speed of a shutter click. We (because it was a team effort, though most of the work was done by photographer Roy and his trustee sidekick extraordinaire, Bobbi) submitted 10 photos. Today we got word:

“On behalf of the Herberger Theater Center, I would like to congratulate you on being chosen to participate.” The piece that was selected is entitled “Dog in Fiat.” It was one of 30 chosen out of 370 images, again by a blind jury.

"Dog in Fiat" by Roy Guzman, Photographer

I obviously never seriously pursued a career in photography. I never even dabbled. But I know good photography when I see it. A good photograph can catapult you into the image. Suddenly you’re walking on the beach at sunset, you’re lost in the vineyards of Santa Ynez, you’re next to a hummingbird on a flower, you’re watching the fog roll over the ocean in Oregon, you’re inside a cave in Antelope Canyon. You’re standing along the road, watching a fiat go by with a big dog in the passenger seat. It just takes a click and you’re there, celebrating. Living it out loud. 

Life in the presidio

by Lorin Michel Friday, August 21, 2015 8:33 PM

On August 20, 1775, Captain Hugh O’Conor, an Irish mercenary working for Spain and leading a company of Spanish Army soldiers, was tasked with moving all presidios to the state of California. He never made it that far, instead selecting an area overlooking the Santa Cruz River floodplain. He named it the Presidio San Agustin. Nearby was a small O’odham village named S-cuk Son.

This was a new frontier, a year before the country declared its independence from England. Where presidios provided protection for those working the silver mines. The Spanish came up from the south, from a place called Tubac, and found their new fort is pretty sorry shape. There was no place to live, little food. They got to work, setting up a ramada to put a roof over their heads. Over the course of several years, they built a gate in the center of the west wall, with a chapel located on the east wall. The commandant’s house was in the center. Homes, stables and warehouses grew up in the center. The exterior walls were fortified adobe to help protect against occasional attacks from the Apache who would often come to steal the animals.

Soldiers hunted on Sentinel Peak, a place that eventually became known as “A” Mountain. They guarded the community, protected their families and grew to love the town that was Tucson. In 1775, there was no politics, not even any news from the rest of the country. This little jewel in the Sonoran desert, filled with greenery and life-sustenance , didn’t even know about the American revolution until 1780.

Sometimes I wonder if it is still that removed. I wonder if it’s one of the reasons we love it like we do. There are politics here now. There are politics everywhere. But it’s not as bad as most people might think especially since this is Arizona, the land of the rabid right and ridiculously xenophobic. Interesting that the state was founded by Native Americans and those from Mexico. Tucson was actually part of Mexico, fighting for Mexican’s independence in 1821, not becoming part of the United States until 1854. But to acknowledge that is to somehow betray our heritage. Not so much here, though; not in our little island of blue. And green. Where orange and purple flowers and ripe red prickly pear fruit are the norm. The lush oasis of the southern desert.

S-cuk Son, or Tucson, celebrated its 240th birthday yesterday. To my knowledge there wasn’t a cake, nor were there fireworks. For its age, it looks pretty good. There are some cracks and lines, some sagging in the middle, mostly from the underground aqueducts. But there’s a reason people settled here then. It’s much the same reason people stayed, giving birth to generation of Tucsonans. The reason people like us now call it home.

It’s the people. It’s the atmosphere. It’s the remarkable terrain. The creatures. The sky at night. The history. Our history. And when the birds take flight as storms gather and rain down, it is past meets present. It’s life in the presidio, with adobe walls and homes and agriculture and animals that still need to be protected though no longer from the Apaches. It’s wondrous, still a great place to build a fort. We have. And we couldn’t be happier.

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The obsidian skull

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, August 18, 2015 10:10 PM

The silhouette of a woman stood outlined against the fading sky. Soon it would be night. That’s when the song would start. A low hum from the ground, vibrating through the rocks, calling to her. Every night she waited to hear it, wanting to understand its meaning, its power. But it eluded her, making her wait longer; she wondered how long. In the valley below, fires began to appear, the tribe readying itself for the night, warding off the evil spirits. The walls of the pyramids glowed. From inside, the dancing colors rose to the sky. The woman, Azul, followed the colors to the moon and beyond. She looked to the planets and saw that they were aligned. Tomorrow night, there would be a sacrifice under the obsidian skull.


Justin has been in Mexico since July 9, traveling with the show from Mexico City to Guadalajara to Monterey. He went to Mexico with us when he was young, but this was work, and decidedly not resort towns. He did enjoy visiting the ruins of Teotihuacan, an ancient city built around 200 BC. No one is entirely sure who built it, with its largest pyramid, the Pyramid of the Sun, eventually completed in the year 100 AD. It became a city of great power, with a population of up to 200,000, home to potters, jewelers and craftsmen. Craftsmen who worked a great deal with obsidian.

Obsidian is a naturally occurring volcanic glass, produced when felsic lava cools rapidly with minimum crystal growth. It’s hard and brittle, with black being the most common color. It can also be found in shades of brown and green. In rare instances, it can be found in red, orange, yellow and blue.

Teotihuacan was built after the eruption of the Xitle volcano, an event that caused lava to flow and cool fast enough to form obsidian.

Many centuries later, there are still a number of craftsmen at Teotihuacan, creating sculptures and pieces of art, and selling them to tourists like our Justin. He came home last night for a week. When there’s a change over, like going from one country to another, the crew gets a week off. The show, packed into trucks, takes that long to travel from Monterey, back across the border and on to Kansas City where the next leg begins next Tuesday.

He rented a car at the airport and arrived here around 4. We laughed and talked and then, he opened his bag. He had brought presents. Maybe it’s because he knows how much we love Mexico. More likely it’s because we raised a thoughtful, loving young man. First there were the bottles of Agavero Tequila. He remembered! When we were in Cabo San Luca, staying at the Villa La Estancia, we were downtown looking for a really good tequila. We don’t know anything about tequila so we had no idea what to choose. We chose one based on the bottle, a dark blue rounded bottle with an etched agave plant. It was spectacular. The best tequila we’d ever had. Yesterday, he brought us two bottles. We were thrilled because we haven’t been able to find it here in the States.

Next came something wrapped very carefully. It was inside a plastic bag. He was handling it very carefully. As he pulled the outside bag away, it revealed a skull, but a skull unlike anything we’d seen before. It looked like cut glass. He pulled stuffing out from inside, used to protect it. And set it on the counter.

It’s wild, and weird, and stunning, and different. And we love it. He picked it out for us. We put it on one of the column caps, near the fireplace. We looked at it and marveled at the oddness of it, the color, the obsidian. It made me think of a mystery, a deep, tangled tale from the desert of Mexico. Maybe I’ll write a story someday, a mystery involving sacrifice and music and the wonder of the sky, of the earth.


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There’s a tarantula in the portico. Now what?

by Lorin Michel Sunday, August 16, 2015 8:17 PM

Welcome to today’s edition of “what the f#$% is THAT?!” As usual, our story takes place in the portico. For some reason, that small, covered walkway seems to attract all manner of creatures, especially now that it’s blisteringly hot following the 2” plus of rain we got on Tuesday. The three Ts are supposed to be regular occurrences in monsoon season. We’ve seen our fair share of Toads, they of the poisonous variety, who haunt the portico and the Cooper area (where Riley pees) just teasing the dog. We had three last night, which Kevin relocated using his magical dustpan with the long handle and a broom.

On Friday, when SolarCity Charlie was here, we had a Tortoise. We think he was trying to elude the roadrunner. Kevin donned gloves (the tortoise was much too big for the dustpan) and picked him up, set him on the driveway and off he motored toward the eastern desert.

Two Ts down. We knew it was just a matter of time before the third one appeared. After all, we haven’t seen one since September of 2013 and given our current locale, in the middle of the Sonoran desert, we knew they were lurking, probably under a rock somewhere. In fact, every time I moved a rock last weekend, I expected to see something fuzzy and sinister looking back at me with an “excuse me, I’m hibernating here” look. I didn’t. I was glad.

But today, oh, today. As you might surmise from the title of the post, the third T made an appearance. Kevin had gone out to the portico to sweep up. Ever since Orkin started coming on a regular basis, we tend to get a good number of dead bugs in the portico as well as the deck every day. Add in some wind, and there tends to be an accumulation of carcasses, dirt and leaves. The portico is sunken, three steps down from the driveway. As such, it’s a magnet for stuff. 

My brave husband was out there barefoot. It was the middle of the day and on Sunday, he generally refuses to wear shoes. It’s at night that the scorpions come out so he figures he’s safe. However, when he was doing the dishes after breakfast, he jumped back like something had bit him. 


“Something just twitched past my foot,” he said.

We both immediately moved to put something on our feet. Me, the flip flops that were at the bar; him, the slippers that were on the other end of the bar. Armed with footgear, we went back to the scene of the alleged crime and found … absolutely nothing.

The flip flops and the slippers got removed again. Let’s pick up our story from there: The husband unit was outside in the sweltering heat, sweeping. I was at the bar, working. I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. I looked up. My barefoot husband was standing in the kitchen window, gesturing frantically. Come here! Now!

I cautiously opened the front door. He pointed. I looked. And didn't see anything.

“It’s down under there, in the corner.”

Uh-oh. I bent down.

“I still don’t see anything,” I said, not knowing what it was I was supposed to be seeing but figuring it was probably bad based on the wild gesticulating. 

“There,” he pointed again. I looked closer and there it was: a furry leg coming down from under the house. 

“Well, crap,” I said getting up and backing away. “What are we going to do (we actually meaning you)? We can’t leave it there.”

He sighed, resigned. We went back inside. He got the long-handled dustpan. He put on his slippers. He looked at me again, and turned toward the door.

“If I don’t come back, take care of our boys.”

It promised to be a battle for the ages.

In one corner, Tommy “the terrible” Tarantula, weighing in at 2 oz. He’s really slimmed down, Bob. Look at him dance on all eight feet, lighter than air.

And in the other corner, Kevin “the mere mortal” Michel. He looks good, strong. But he’s in slippers, a little leaden, and that can’t be good.

In the end, the mere mortal defeated the terrible, scooping him into the long-handled dustpan and relocating him into a pile of rocks across the roadway where the arachnid eyed the humanoid with some disdain, vowing that he’d be back. And that he’d bring friends.

Great. Something to look forward to. Something to … celebrate?

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I woke up thinking about Hawaii

by Lorin Michel Sunday, August 9, 2015 8:55 PM

I love the desert. I love the harshness of it, the beauty of it. I don’t even mind the heat of it. I love the monsoons that arrive with a vengeance and wreak havoc on the land and houses below. I love the dryness mixed with the moisture and humidity, the reality of it. But every once in a while I find myself missing the ocean. This morning was such a time.

I’ve been to Hawaii just three times, once with husband number one, twice with Kevin and Justin, always with the destination of Maui. The first time we took Justin, we went by way of Honolulu so that we could see Pearl Harbor. I didn’t particularly like Honolulu. Just another big city, lots of traffic, though much prettier than LA.

When I went the first time, it was business retreat for first husband’s company, so we went with a bunch of people I didn’t know. I was probably the youngest in the group at 25 or 26. We stayed on Wailea Beach on the rainy side of the island, at the Stouffer Resort. It’s no longer there, replaced by another resort, but it was absolutely gorgeous. I remember the water sparkling, clear down to the sands below, regardless of the depth. It was warm, tropical. When we sat on the runway, preparing to leave, it was the first time I could remember not being ready to go home.

This was right after the top of an Aloha Airlines plane had ripped off in mid-flight. It was sitting on the runway.

Years later, after Kevin and I had gotten together (though I’m not sure we were yet married), we took Justin. When he was little, our summer family vacations had two goals: have an educational component, and be fun. We went to Washington (DC), Maine, Cancun. We chose Hawaii because both Kevin and I always loved it, we hadn’t been together, and we knew Justin – little fish that he was – would love it, too. We started in Honolulu, staying at the famous Hilton Hawaiian Village on Waikiki Beach. Justin was in the ocean within a half hour of arrival. We went to Pearl Harbor and saw the USS Arizona Memorial. Justin was surprisingly saddened by it. He was probably 7 at the time, but it affected him deeply. After Oahu, we flew to Maui for the rest of our trip. We snorkeled, we chartered a big sailboat, we had a wonderful time, so much so that we went back when Justin was a sophomore in high school. This was not a wonderful time. We took the road to Hana, through the rainforest and past the various waterfalls. We took the back way down, which you’re not supposed to do. In some places the road is barely wide enough for one car. It is often right on the edge of the mountain with no guardrail. We encountered cows, leisurely lying across the road. We went through a blackened lava field. It was like the dark side of the moon. But Justin was in his horrible-teenager phase. We couldn’t wait to get home; we were disgusted that we’d spent as much money as we did. That was our last big family vacation.

Our second trip to Hawaii, with our horrible teen

This morning, I woke up thinking about Hawaii. I have no idea why; I haven’t seen or read anything lately that would be lurking in my subconscious just waiting for an opportunity to manifest in a dream. Maybe I’m missing the ocean. Maybe I’m missing the tropics. Maybe I’m missing the slow, lazy pace of it. Maybe I’m missing the peace of it. When you vacation in Hawaii, you simply let the sound of the lapping waves, the wind dancing through the palm trees, the smell of fresh salty air carry you away. You sit on the lanai and you relax completely.

Maybe that’s why I woke up thinking about Hawaii. Maybe it’s my subconscious after all, telling me that after months of flying through life, it’s time to sit on the lanai and do absolutely nothing but listen to the waves and the palm trees, breathe in the wonderful coconut and salt air of the islands. And live it out loud.

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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