> jumping into life.

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Ah, but Chris, the oaks are dying.

It hasn't rained here in a very long time. There was a dusting of snow early January, but records are being broken and people are getting worried. I didn't notice, or let myself notice, until just yesterday, when I decided to walk rather than run the last half of my morning route - decided that my soul needed it more than my body. But once I slowed down, it struck me: too much brown. So much brown. The junipers are still green, and the manzanita with its cherry heart, but the oaks. Quercus gambelii is our only deciduous species (and, I realize, most of what's on Mingus, so thank you), while turbinella, arizonica and emoryi, and the wild hybrid mixes thereof, are, ostensibly, evergreen.

Technically, of course, nothing is truly evergreen: all leaves die and are replaced. The oaks usually replace most of their leaves in late spring, after the winter rains and before the early summer drought, when - usually - they have plenty of resources to spend. But there have been no winter rains, and the newspaper accurately characterized last summer's monsoons as "wimpy."

I am holding in my heart that these are desert trees. "Drought deciduous" describes a common coping mechanism: look to the ocotillo. Ocotillo appears for all the world like a cactus with particularly beefy spines, until the rains come. Then suddenly it is awash in leaves, and sometimes lovely flowers that make a particularly nice tea. When the soil dries, it is back to a stick with thorns. So perhaps the oaks are just hedging their bets; after all, there are some people who aren't predicting moisture until this summer's monsoons, which inevitably calls to mind last year's: wimpy.

But last year's winter! Last year, Snowbowl had some of the best pack in the country. This year they've gotten approximately 2 inches. Last year all the creeks flooded, all the rivers filled, everywhere you stepped, water welled up or mud sucked you down. I discovered quicksand in a usually-dry bank of Lynx lake; the Wolf Creek waterfall was the heart of my solace. Last year broke all the records, too.

I know enough to know there is still moisture in some soils from last year's rain; after all, that's why mesquite digs so deep. But scrub oak is no mesquite, and it usually rains a comparative lot here. Those brown leaves make me afraid.

We speculate that you could drop a match here and burn all the way to Tucson. Truth is, you could probabably burn all the way to Oaxaca, if not more: last year's winter brought up a lot of grass. And a lot of grass that isn't meant to be here.

(But then the heart shoulders in, bleating.

I suppose a broken heart will find metaphor everywhere: I am hoping to be a mesquite, with roots that dig deep into beauty. I am hoping that what dies now is what I can afford to lose. I am hoping that the wildfire winds of change do not destroy me.)

Last year, my Rim-To-Rim Canyon hike in mid-May was turnd into a South Rim to South Rim hike: The North Rim was under something more than ten feet of snow on May 14, and the road in only got plowed on I think May 12. On the river I talked to a man who'd come down the North Kaibab anyway: he'd skied the several dozen miles to the trailhead.

Last week I climbed to within half a mile of Hualapai Mountain's peak, and saw a frozen creek but not a flake of snow.

And oh, those fires. I spent the months of August and September in a deep funk. If you haven't already, you might want to read this thing I wrote last year on the subject for Earth Island Journal. Or you might not.

Some southwestern live oaks shed their leaves as a survival mechanism in times of extreme drought. Here's a couple pairs of crossed fingers that's what's happening in Yavapai County.

So nice to find you, oh kindred spirit. We seem to share so many passions that I'm still not entirely sure I didn't just make you up. I might have to side-trip through Prescott next time I head to the Mojave just to see if you're real.

There's a fair chance that by mid-May I'll be ensconcing myself in the Carmel hills, indulging the part of my psyche that has always wanted some hermitude with a stay at Tassajara. If they'll have me. However, before and after that I'll likely be in Monterey for at least a stretch, and I know you could use a good drive down the coast.

And yes, I think the great justifying good of the internet is that it allows discoveries just like this. Here's to gardens, latin binomials, and kindred spirits.

Hell, at this point even a bad drive down the coast would be a treat.

came over via chris clarke's post..

I suppose a broken heart will find metaphor everywhere

ah...but it takes more than a broken heart to do justice to the metaphor with such poignant prose

one more blog added to the list of daily reads, although i am a silent reader most of the time

i hope you heal well, and find the riches you seek in the solitary life.

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