As a transplanted Canadian, Arizona’s extended summer is something to which I’ve never completed adapted. My DNA is coded for seasonal change, and, the older I get, the more my tolerance for the heat lessens. Summer seems never-ending, and I miss the rhythms and the complexity of the wheel of the year.
This heat-season we managed two short trips to much-cooler northern Arizona. One was in May, just as the summer was setting up housekeeping in Tucson, and the second was in early September, when the heat dragged on and my brain was becoming stupefied.
But here it is October, and the evening temps are still hovering in the 80s. My my internal dots aren’t connecting; my synapses have stopped firing. I flatline and become as one-dimensional as a southern Arizona, sunny-and-hot weather forecast. It’s osmosis at its worst. Cranky doesn’t even begin to describe my attitude.
Just as my emotional burnout begins to turn the corner into depression, dipping temperatures in the Santa Catalinas are coaxing colored pigments from the deciduous trees’ leaves to center stage. A trip up the mountain—a short ninety-minute drive from our house—is in order. The uninhibited bright golds, rusts, and reds of autumn never fail to recharge my batteries. We pack up the dogs, a picnic, the camera, and head across town and up the winding Catalina highway, out of desert.
As the car edges above the 7000-foot elevation, the first glimmer of color appears. The golden yellow of the aspens and the crimson leaves of the maples are in full glory. A wildfire of color blazes up the mountainside. There are even a few true oak trees scattered here and there, and their leaves range from a lovely lime green to a burnished deep gold.
Our favorite spot for fall color on the mountain is a ravine/canyon called Bear Wallow. We stop and park off the main highway, and follow the short trail for a few hundred yards of pure, Canadian fall. I collect leaves to press and a few more to use as models to capture in watercolor. There is just enough of a breeze to flutter a kaleidoscope of oranges, yellows, reds, and greens across our path. The air is fresh and scented with pine; small pinecones crunch under our feet. The ravine’s ancient apple tree is sporting a few red apples in its topmost branches.
I feel myself coming back to life. This simple, few hours amidst the trees does more than just dislodge my blocked chi. I feel a rush of creative energy for the first time in many weeks, and I feel ready to start writing again. I’m even ready to tackle my latest passion: capturing birds, leaves, and flowers in watercolors.
It’s a fact that my soul would probably benefit from summers spent in a mountain cabin, but since that will never be the case, I can/will make myself happy with whatever short escapes can be wangled. My husband is usually more than willing to comply. Who wants to have to hide out the summer, indoors, with a cranky wife? Am I cranky on purpose? Shhh….not ready to give that one away.