This is the time of year when the land itself seems to be preparing for a long sleep.
The lawns, such as they are, have turned pale and crisp. Yellow leaves tumble from the cottonwoods, and the sycamores’ are brown and gnarled. Most days, we couldn’t water these things if we wanted to—the hoses freeze up overnight, and depending upon where they are and how much sun they get, they might remain frozen all day.
This morning was the coldest of the season thus far, 19 degrees. By the time I took the dogs out to the corral the temperature had climbed to 33, but I had to break a thick layer of ice on top of the trough for them to have any water at all. And I couldn’t refill the bowls or trough from the hose—see above.
This morning’s 19 will be bested, no doubt, in the weeks and months ahead. These are not extreme temperatures to people in some parts of the world, but they’re often surprising to those who think of Arizona as a superheated wasteland. The fact is that we’re a big state with a remarkable diversity of climactic regions, containing everything from arid low-elevation deserts to snow-capped mountain peaks. On my daily drive to work I cross two valleys, one mountain range, and a river. Along the way are dozens of trees in shades of red and orange and yellow, standing like frozen bolts of fire. But their multihued beauty is transitory, and soon they’ll be nothing but jagged branches clawing at a crystalline sky.
Outside, except for the calls of a few birds and the occasional rustle of a breeze through dried leaves, the first thing one notices is the silence. No traffic rushing by, no human-caused sounds of any kind. The land--and everything on it--is hunkered down. One last yawn, a stretch or two, and its eyes will close. Rain, if it comes, will disturb its rest only slightly. Until the cold moves on and the warmth of the sun returns in spring, the land will catch a much-needed nap.