|Those mesquite branches are not bare.
“You’ll be somewhere warm,” people back home commented, often enviously, when they learned of our winter plans. Not really, I would tell them, insisting that we would not have real warmth until about March, when spring would come to the high desert, admitting however that, while night temperatures would dip below the freezing mark, we wouldn’t have to shovel snow or have our driveway plowed, even in the event of a light snow, and we could expect sunshine almost every day. Oh, the sunshine! I feel spoiled for that reason alone.
But it was February first when we began our winter here in 2015 and January 15 when we arrived in 2018, and now we are still in calendar year 2018, already here, and astonished to find ourselves in what seems to be autumn rather than winter. The days do get warm, after all — a high of 61 degrees expected today in Willcox, with 70s in Tucson — and we don’t know if this is normal for December here, since we’ve never before arrived early enough that the mesquite bushes (and a few pods) were still green and the big cottonwoods in Railroad Park in Willcox just turning from green to brown, their branches not yet bare.
Or that one species of flowering plant (turpentinebush?) in the wash has not gone completely to seed but is still attracting butterflies and pollinating flies. Butterflies! In December! They were small white ones, like those we call cabbage butterflies in the Midwest. One other plant up by the cabin had a still-yellow blossom, also.
Ten hours and two minutes of daylight today. We are almost at the turn-around point: first the solstice, and then the days will begin to grow longer. We take it all for granted, we moderns, and do not pray or make sacrifices to gods for more hours of sunshine. Somehow, though, I feel an offering of gratitude is in order. I am deeply grateful for the bright sky that lifts my tired, Midwestern, winter-worn spirit and delighted by a cactus wren’s morning greeting.
A Midwesterner could make a problem out of sunny warmth in December, in that it “doesn’t feel like Christmas,” but I brought Christmas lights from Michigan to string in our high desert cabin windows, a box of folded paper Moravian stars, another set of easily packed, brightly colored ornaments, and the bare minimum of decorating ingenuity I possess. So you see, while it may not be winter, and the weather outside is anything but “frightful,” we are ready for a little Christmas in our mountain retreat, settling in to enjoy the last couple days of autumn and welcome winter when it comes in its turn.