I’d like to call this blog posting the New Year’s resolution that wasn’t.
Even though today is just three days into the new year, I’m writing this blog entry more from the guilt of six months of neglect than I am from the traditional opportunity of a fresh start based on an arbitrary date on the calendar. This blog never crossed my mind as I watched the ball drop and raised my glass in a champagne toast at the stroke of midnight three days ago.
The main reason for the shameful lack of attention since June of last year is that I have forgotten the true meaning of the manufactured word “blog.” A blog is a combination of the words “web” and “log” and by definition it’s not meant to be an overly polished or an interminably thought out essay; it’s supposed to be timely and spontaneous and dynamic. So, in the spirit of the new year-- and the new decade-- I’m going to let the fingers fly, and make every attempt to capture the moment (on a more regular basis) at Boyce Thompson Arboretum.
I usually ride around the Main Trail Loop everyday on my bicycle. It’s just about the only motive force besides walking that presents a thin enough profile to navigate the entire loop. It’s also the fastest and it allows me to do a quick daily reconnaissance of the constantly changing moods of the gardens and natural areas with some extra blood cell oxygenation in the process. The pinch point is the catwalk along Queen Creek, an area that we have always known as “the Narrows.” The water in the creek was unusually clear this morning with layers of recently fallen cottonwood and willow leaves perfectly layered on the bottom, all covered with a thin layer of fine mud, perfectly visible under a lens of 12 inches of water.
A man with a pronounced limp was emerging from the west side of the catwalk, moving slowly and leaning heavily on a cane. His wife was behind him carrying the basket and seat of an electric wheelchair. “I’ve been here many times,” the man told me. “But this is the first time that I’ve made it all the way around.” I helped the woman carry the remaining three pieces of the wheel chair through the catwalk and it struck me that despite this gentleman’s frequent visits to the Arboretum, he had never experienced this riparian area before. He had never been this close to Queen Creek in flood or heard the cicadas singing in the cottonwoods along the creek in June when the only sign that water had ever flowed was a dried, unbroken coating of thick green algae covering every rock and boulder.
Seeing any water in the creek at all is a comforting experience and at this time of year, it's probably the result of about 1.5 inches of total rain in December and the fact that many of the riparian trees have lost their leaves and are no longer transpiring much water. Though most of the intense fall color is behind us, this was one of the most beautiful autumn seasons that I can remember. There was a unique combination of deeply saturated colors—almost artificial looking--and a range of trees with concurrent color that were spread out over a longer-than-usual time period, barely ending at the turn of this new decade.
With temperatures today in the high 60’s, little wind, and clear blue skies, it feels like spring is in the air, though we historically still have the lowest temperatures of the winter to look forward to in January. There is evidence of germinating ephemerals throughout the Arboretum grounds and in the open desert, so it’s still possible that we might still salvage a decent spring wildflower season.
The electric wheel chair that I had helped carry was reassembled without struggle or fanfare, and the vistors were on their way, puttering along slowly but with a great deal of satisfaction, headed in the direction the Herb Garden. For me, I did my usual aerobic climb up to the Picket Post House at the top of the switchbacks, and then let gravity carry me back to my computer chair.
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