TITLE: Desert Dazzled
By Bella Rossiter
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Thunder resounded like two semis colliding, but nary had a drop of rain fallen last night.
I live in the Gold Canyon RV retirement resort in Arizona, which literally becomes a ghost town during the months of April through September. During those six months we are inundated with 110 degree heat for long stretches of time. But, as the saying goes, “It’s a dryyy heat!” However, as the days drift slowly by, humidity slithers beneath your armpits and every other crevice of your body, as daily onslaughts of monsoon spawned electrical charges rent the heavy air from the mountains down to the valleys below. Many days no rain results, and to breathe the air leaves you breathless. It’s so tangible; it almost seems as if it is something needing to be swallowed.
Dust storms result from the lack of rain as high winds howl through the dangerously swaying palm trees and pummel the upraised arms of giant Saguaros. Dust fills the air like Los Angeles smog, obliterating the view of the Superstition Mountain range.
Washing the car is actually done with a duster. But in the event the sky releases some desultory tear drops, then more than a dry mop is required, as the appearance of mud spatters dot the entire surface.
The only relief some of us wrest from this desert demeanor is an hour of musically accompanied aerobics in the ice blue waters of the community swimming pool at eight o’clock each morning. This is the best part of the day when the residents dare to poke their heads out of their burrows.
Air conditioners roar on and off at regular intervals day and night, as the temperature seldom drops below eighty degrees. A weekly trip to the local Wal-Mart requires carrying cold bottled water in your air-conditioned car. Leaving the super-store after a leisurely shopping expedition, feels like walking out of an ice box into a pizza oven. The heat assaults you with a double whammy, as you scurry to get into an even more intensely sun-baked car.
One day literally melts into another as your body acclimatizes to the weather routine. The solitary days become a salvo to be savored; at least for a sanguine soul like me.
Coyotes roam freely about the boarded up dwellings. Their yip-yapping clamor and the shrieks of prey rent the night air, sending chills up your spine. Hawks perch high in the trees by the dawn’s early light, to spy and swoop down upon the scurrying rabbits and quails with a trailing litter.
A stray cat leaves a half-devoured morsel on a vacant door step. Doves mourn sorrowfully at sunrise. Black long-tailed Grackles, twice the size of a common crow, cackle from their rookery in the thickest shrubbery along heat-wave shimmering stucco walls.
Summer is the only time to really experience the desert, which is rapidly retreating from our human developments. We are the invaders into the desert dwellers’ space. Desert habitat was designed for tarantulas, scorpions, rattle snakes and cactus of unlimited variety. The beauty of cacti in bloom is awe-inspiring. And, with the round-eyed amazement of a kid at Christmas, we bask in the kaleidoscopic splendors of sunrises and sunsets, and the ever-changing colors on the backdrop of solid rock mountainsides. The stage-like scenery shifts continually throughout the day, as if being whirled on an invisible Lazy-Susan.
Bored? I can’t imagine. Longing for the snowbirds to arrive on the balmy breezes of autumn? Not me.
Yet, when the winter season returns full-swing, there is joyous reunion with last winter’s new-found friends.
Activities galore fill the schedules in the foyer. Volunteers rally around to make the projects function. Committees arrange dinner dances, cookouts, and potlucks. Hiking groups gather, the photography club reconvenes, newcomers flock to the computer learning center. There is a woodcarving shop, a stained glass class, basket weavers, jewelry designers, cookie bakers, sewing bees, Bible studies, and pool hall buddies, shuffle board pals and giggling gals. Complimentary coffee and donuts draw the residents to a weekly meeting to see what’s new on the drawing board.
Evenings offer games of Bridge and Bingo and lessons for the Casino. During the afternoon, you can learn Line or Ballroom dancing. Golf aficionados gather for an early tee-off at the course. New members join the choir. Block parties abound when neighborhoods have filled up with their returning numbers. There are naps for resting, guests for entertaining, and relatives arriving to see what the hype is all about.
Prime spaces are booked a year ahead for the droves of RV’s, motor homes, and campers, hauling their motorcycles, bicycles, 4-wheelers and golf carts.
Yard work is zero to minimal, by creating rock and cactus gardens. Automated drip-systems maintain the abundant and flourishing orange, grapefruit, lemon and lime trees. Fruit too plentiful to consume gets piled high into boxes marked Free for neighborly curbside sharing.
There is something for everyone, including ice cream socials, talent shows, and stage plays. We are bombarded with a dizzying array of sights; the colorful display of vacation wear; the flight of hummingbirds, butterflies and dragonflies.
And the sounds of guitars plucking and pianos playing and serenaders singing. And the piquant smells of picnic barbeques of fried chicken, hot dogs and beans. Friends and neighbors attend parties together for Halloween and Thanksgiving.
Never let it be said there is no white Christmas in the desert. Saguaros are decorated with Santa hats and sleighs grace some housetops. Sleigh bells ring from the horse drawn hay wagon, as carolers, draped with horse blankets, and with cold, puffy bursts of breath, enjoy the joyful camaraderie. At the end of the ride, hot apple cider and home baked goodies top off the evening.
There are New Year festivities, a Valentine dance, and the famous All Park Pool Party in March to celebrate the season’s end with a bang.
And one by one, the RV’s, motor homes and campers pull up stakes and head on out. Renters pack their suitcases, turn off the lights and lock the doors behind them.
They have enjoyed their visits to the Goldfield Ghost town, Tortilla Flats, and Canyon Lake; and gazed in wonder at the unexpected March snows on the Superstitions; watching Native American hoop dancing at a Phoenix museum; and thousands of other attractions tailor made for that certain someone in every crowd. I love both aspects of Gold Canyon.
But, I truly wouldn’t want just one season without the other!
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