I have a habit of flying into snowstorms. Three times in recent history my return trip from a winter excursion has been delayed a day or more due to blustery Minnesota weather. I’ve become an expert at rebooking my flights. The most recent was my return from Seattle, leaving me just 27 hours at home before departing again for the next trip. Out with the ski clothes, in with the shorts and sandals.
This time the destination was Tucson. Soldiering on at home while I skied up mountains with Erik, Katie and her mom Betsy, Rich was in need of a break. He craved respite from this winter’s relentless snowfalls and wistfully reminisced about the sunny warm days we often spent in Arizona. Despite the clench in my stomach induced by the thought of crowding in another trip, I agreed. I’d had my fun, he should too. And who was I to argue with visions of that blissful warmth? Some hardship.
I decided I would treat it as a retreat. We’d been there enough times to cover all the best sights and I felt no compunction to be touristy. I had no must-do activities in mind. Instead, I would use the time to soak up the outdoors by running, biking and hiking, enjoy eating out, and most importantly rejuvenate my inner creativity. I was sorely in need of jumpstarting my writing, drawing and painting. That was something to look forward to.
We have a favorite “casita” in Oro Valley, cradled between the mountains with a back patio facing east where we dined each evening as the sunset painted the mountains red. It was already booked on such short notice, but Rich found one nearby with the same stunning view in addition to a beautiful yard and pool we would share with the homeowners. Our late afternoon arrival soon confirmed the perfection of his choice.
Normally, we do this trip in April, and although I knew it would be cooler this time, I feared I hadn’t brought enough warm clothes when the first few days started in the 30s and only reached the mid-50s. Still, I reminded myself that it was a lot colder at home. But that argument wore thin on day 2 when we woke up to 2+ inches of thick snow! While it was shocking, it was also beautiful and unique. Our host told us they had seen this happen only twice before in 20 years, and Rich eagerly grabbed his camera to capture the desert under snow.
I did my usual – headed out for a run, using that as my opportunity to see the area blanketed in white and stop frequently for photos. I wasn’t the only one, cars hastily parked on the roadside everywhere, doing the same. Unlike Duluth, the walkways were clear and once the sun crept out from the clouds the melting began. By mid-morning it was all fading into a wet memory.
As the week wore on, the temperatures steadily climbed. Tucson has wonderful bike trails, and I recreated my long rides from past visits. My favorite outing was timed to coincide with the Rillito River Heirloom Farmers Market. I was chilled to the bone by the time I’d logged the 22 miles to get there (all on bike trail!), and I eagerly sipped hot coffee and relished a fresh scone as I perused the bountiful farm offerings, artisan crafts and food booths accompanied by local musicians. By the time I left, I was able to shed all my warm layers and return in shorts and jersey – a long awaited treat.
Rich avidly pursued his birding and photography, scoring a number of rare finds as well as locating his favorite prey – owls. That inspired me to keep my promise to pursue my own crafts. Whenever possible, I requisitioned the little table outside our casita to do my writing, crafting several posts for my long neglected blog. It felt like priming the pump, doing something rusty yet familiar, in preparation for other works I want to tackle.
I used my bike rides to scout out ideas for my nascent discovery of journal sketching and watercolors. Keeping my eyes peeled for interesting cacti and plants, and knowing I couldn’t crouch on street medians or private front yards, I snapped photos in order to recreate the scenes later. That was a no-no in the class I took last year, but sometimes you just have to make do. After spending more time at that little table on the patio, I finally rendered one finished piece.
Our final day delivered the picture-perfect Tucson weather I had learned to love – cool in the morning, but clear sunny skies and reaching the mid-70s. I set my sights on re-exploring the third of the lengthy Loop trails, and headed down to the southern portion of the Santa Cruz River Park. The miles quickly slipped beneath my rental bike tires as I plied the flat trail, out on one side of the wash, back on the other. Cyclists from racing teams to slow putterers and e-bikes went by, all out to enjoy the beautiful weather. By the time I returned, I had logged 50 miles. A suitable finale, I felt.
And yet, I was reluctant to let the day slip away and craved at least a short hike before surrendering this locale. After dithering over my options with unnecessary anxiety, I finally settled on a local park for a walk. Donning my running shoes and grabbing some water, I headed out to the car. But I never got in. What was I doing? What was I trying to prove? Hadn’t I just been bemoaning the fact that it hadn’t been warm enough to sit out on the patio to enjoy the view? It was enough to turn me around. Grabbing the Mother/Daughter journal that Karen and I share, I made my way over to the remaining sunny spot by the pool. I settled in with pen and paper, first immersing myself in Karen’s latest entry, then contemplating my response. Soon I was lost in thought, penning my entry, composing as I went with no option to hit delete or rewrite. This had to come straight from the heart. And it did.
Sometimes I need a push to get out of my comfort zone, to abandon my carefully laid plans and tendency to want total control over my life. This trip was good for me, and Rich got his much-needed escape. We spent unhurried time together in addition to pursuing our own desires. It was just the sunny retreat I needed. Even though another Minnesota snowstorm was on the way…