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Freezing in Tucson

journeying in a single place

Freezing in Tucson

When I lived in Alaska, I observed the first year that living there was like traveling continuously while staying in the same place. Which is what we're all doing, all the time anyway, of course, traveling around the sun; but close to the poles, it's palpable. Parts of the year are almost punitively lush, the view foreshortened, all bower, arbor, marsh. And then the months of stark snowscape, and the gray-brown in betweens.

Moving to a place where day and night give and take more evenly around the year has clearly been kind to me and my mercurial moods. But this is the desert; this is also a place of extremes.

Like Alaska, southern Arizona is an important stage in bird migration. I know so little of this as yet; I know the birds mostly from their sounds--they hide pretty well. I've loved noticing different birdsongs disappearing and reappearing from the mornings over these months. And so many unexpected encounters with nests.cholla nest 200

I guess putting your nest in a cholla cactus would be like setting up home in a fortress with spiked windows.


A journey, too has been the winter weather. These beautiful mallows, of which I've written before, grow everywhere I've ever been, a huge range of climates. 

mallow droop 200

But after a heavy frost, they bow down. And stand back up as the sun consents to shine once more.

 Other plants are less resilient, and walking around the neighborhoods here has brought to mind Catholic churches in Holy Week before Easter, when all the statues are covered up, or Halloween displays, front yards full of ghosts, Citrus trees, shrubs, other "tender" plants are shrouded and draped and protected.

This ramshackle grapefruit tree, so lowly I wonder if it's a dwarf cultivar, is on the lot of an equally ramshackle house that I wasn't even sure was inhabited. 

grapefruit 200The combination of ramshackle, fruitfulness, and the unseen homeowner's care, were so touching to me when I saw  the special version of frost-protection. Still that blue sky, high, clear, chill...

I've been using my flowerpot/candle heater, have only twice set my coat-tails on fire when standing over it to work. I've had hot tea, and hot water bottle, but I still resist turning the heat on as I see daylight through cracks in the integrity of this hot-weather casita and the heat rushes out.

I'm also inclined to believe that it's a good thing for a body to have to adapt to different environmental conditions, to have to work a little harder to be comfortable. It's been so many years now that I've used this as a reason not to use much heating, and it's frustrated many a friend of mine at different times because I'm such a chilly person anyway.

But "cold thermogenesis" really is a thing (see here, for example).  At one point in Alaska, I managed to habituate myself to finishing my shower with cold water, but I'm out of that habit at the moment. But since a major focus for me at the moment is building my fire and inner light, the challenge of cold as an opportunity to create heat seems a good practice opportunity.

I have sore muscles from the fire-building breathing exercises I've been doing (!) but definitely feel warmer at the core. Just the feet get to be so very cold. Next stage of the practice: use body intelligence/feedback to discover how to breathe fire into my feet. Let's fly!

About the Author

Ela Harrison

Ela is a wordsmith and herb lover who has lived in many places and currently resides in Tucson, AZ.

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