Thursday, July 17, 2008

The heat of summer

The rains seems to have slacked off since last weekend. Haven't seen a drop all week. It's hot, still humid, and rather stifling.
I struggle to get up early in the morning to enjoy the only cool time of day, but I seem to lack much motivation. Even at 8 am on my morning walk, the air was heavy, still, and the sun burning bright in my eyes and on my skin. So warm. I took a cold shower when I got home. Couldn't stomach the thought of eating eggs, again. Had a hemp shake instead. An hour later I decided to eat a green salad with some chopped chicken, bacon, feta and tomato and beet. That is the right kind of breakfast for a hot summer day in the desert. Cool, refreshing, not too heavy, but with some protein and veggies. Fruit salad would be good too, must get some fruits to chop.

I harvested chaparral/creosote bush last weekend in the late morning heat. I drove out to the west, past the National Park, and onto the flat lands covered with creosote bush, prickly pears, and stunted mesquites. The prickly pear fruits are showing the first blush of red, promising juicy jewel toned fruit in late summer. The creosote bush is greening up now that we've have some rain. I stood in the full sun, heat beating down on me. Strangely I enjoyed the heat, the weight of it, its insistence and strength. It makes me feel sturdy and rooted, moist and soft in contrast the hot dry hardness of sunbaked earth and spiny plants. Cicadas rattling incessantly in the trees, harbingers of summer.
Of course, harvesting creosote doesn't require too much physical effort. You just stand there, surrounded by bushes, and slowly pluck small branchlets of green, resinous leaves with your fingers, dropping them into your harvesting bag or basket. The smell surrounds you, the sticky resin starts to coat your fingers, sweat beads and drips down your neck as you stand there, feeling the heat, the weight of summer.

But it isnt always easy to harvest summer plants here. Sometimes it requires hiking, on white rocks that reflect sun heat back at you. You have to get up early. Before dawn if you want to miss the heat. I need to go check another local wash for the passiflora I seek, but can't motivate myself to face the heat. Even though I know desert dawn is magical. There is nothing as lovely as dawn in the desert, coyotes yipping, rabbits bounding, crepuscular choir of birdsong welcoming the day. I just need to get up at 430 and get out to the foothills by 5 am. I could be back by 8 or 9 and miss the worst of the heat.
I face the same dilemma when it comes time to harvest prickly pear fruit and mesquite pods in late august ( or september this year, as i'll be in the Gila wilderness at the Anima Center through all of August). The heat makes you lazy. It's easy to sleep late and stay up late. Night time is pleasant. Once the sun goes down at 830, the air cools off and it's nice to be out again. But of course, that makes it hard to get up at 430 to enjoy the dawn, doesn't it?

Getting ready to leave town for my retreat at the Anima Center in a week and a half, and wondering if i'll miss all the purslane that just started sprouting in my back yard while I'm gone.
Wondering what to pack for a month in the woods. Not my computer or phone, how many books? How many clothes? What food to bring that keeps well. I like sardines well enough, but not for every day. I'm starting to ramble. Enough.

2 comments:

Kiva Rose said...

Don't worry, you'll be eating tons of fresh food, just bring lots of eggs and stuff. And you're extra lucky being here for two gatherings and during harvest season. Non-stop feasting!

When I lived in Tucson I had the very bad habit of waking up late afternoon and going to bed late morning, doing all my living in the middle of the night and spending a lot of time in the desert moonlight avoiding the heat.

Desert dawns are beautiful though, an incredible event every single day.

See you soon!

SaraMorgaine said...

Lucky, lucky you to be spending an entire month at the Anima Center! I would love to do that...I live in Florida right now, and lack of local herbs is so frustrating at times (although I keep looking...). The heat is bad, too, although ours is a humid heat, and nights only slightly cooler. The west is really calling to me, and I hope to make it out there next year to explore. I'd love to come on one of your herb walks!
--SaraMorgaine

"The mother of us all, the oldest of us all, Hard, splendid as rock, Let the beauty you love, be what you do. There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the earth"~ Rumi ~