Phoenix is the capital of Arizona. It has been in a state of continual growth for the last few decades, and is something of a mecca for the building trades in this economy.
We are about three hours from the south rim of the Grand Canyon, a place I hope to visit soon, and about five hours from Las Vegas, Nevada. One extreme to the other, right here.
And Phoenix is a place of extremes. We are in the Sonoran Desert, described as a low desert. Our elevation is 1100 feet, average rainfall is a meager 8 inches, and last summer we set a record for number of days over 114 F.
I share my hot and dry conditions with gardeners in Australia and South Africa, but overall, this is a unique climate, with two seasons of rainfall distributing that eight inches in winter rains and again in late summer - the monsoon season.
Our monsoons, called haboobs, start with a wind - lifting dust and grit and carrying it in the air. After this, it may or may not rain. May or may not thunder and lighting. May or may not. Waiting for rain in the haboob season is a frustrating thing. Unlike the winter rains, which fill large areas of the valley and give a steady rain, the haboobs drop sudden, very localized bursts of rain. Last summer brought only a dusting of raindrops to my yard.
I'll be the first to admit that I've not done much to explore my new city. Practically the first thing I did was go to the Desert Botanical Garden. I needed to know what DID grow in the desert, and how my garden might look, if I planted with an eye to climate. I spent that first visit, in May of 2007, with my mother and we saw a beautiful black and gold king snake and multitudes of birds, including a roadrunner!
Mark and I went back in November and I was surprised by the reduced presence of wildlife, although we did see lots of verdins, and a very cheeky Anna's hummingbird. I'm looking forward to their spring plant sale, and hoping I have a job by then!
Another fun thing we have done is First Friday. On the first Friday of each month, the artists downtown open their studios for the evening. Empty lots fill up with street vendors; rap artists and brass ensembles play in front of "bungalow" style houses converted to studios, restaurants and boutiques. Kids sell bottled water for a buck out of coolers along the way. The energy is great and the crowd multicultural.
Just recently, mom was back in town for a visit, and we went to the Heard Museum. We spent a leisurely afternoon just looking at the permanent collection. Plan for a full day if you want to see the whole museum.
Another museum we went to was the Bead Museum. Mom has picked up my interest in beading and was excited that this place existed. Again, we spent an entire afternoon at the place, although more than an hour of that was in the bead store/gift shop. Mmmm. Beads. Addictive little hobby - consider yourself warned.
The activity that has encompassed the most of our leisure hours is hiking. The city of Scottsdale, neighbor to Phoenix, has set aside a large tract of land, the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy. In March Mark and I plan to become Stewards, and will then volunteer a few hours a month to help keep the preserve in shape.
So that's where I am at in my new city.