The Great Outdoors


San Diego Bay


We spent three full days last week camping on San Diego Bay. Temps in the 60’s, clouds in the morning, sun in the afternoon; it was heavenly. I spent most of my time outdoors. I walked on the beach or stared at the water from my lounge chair and ate meals overlooking the bay.  I watched sailboats and battleships go by.  We did a harbor tour, walked around the campground and visited the ocean via a nearby state park.  I thought about how much more time I spent outdoors when I lived in New York and Montana then I do now that I live in Arizona.

In New York I had my dream front porch, wide, covered and with a wide wall for a railing you could use as seating  or put candles or flowers on.  I had a small table and chairs out there along with a rocker and a papasan chair.  It was an extra room in the summer and fall.  I frequently ate breakfast or lunch out there, read and admired my roses.

In Montana I missed my front porch but had a park like backyard.  My infant son and I spent much time in the backyard with a blanket spread under a large tree.  I loved hanging out laundry while he sat in his little tree swing.

I don’t find the weather in Arizona conducive to being outside.  Mostly it is too hot or too windy.  I do not enjoy being outside in harsh wind.  I do like to sit under the covered patio and watch monsoon storms.  We don’t have the best vantage point from there but sometimes we get good views of the clouds or lightning.

The biggest difference in getting outdoors between here in the desert and up North in Montana and New York was being able to walk to do many errands.  Up North the few days when walking around would be hazardous or very unpleasant were scattered throughout the year.  My neighborhoods had sidewalks and walking to the store, bank, library or post office took paths down picturesque residential streets.  I could admire flowers blooming in spring and summer and holiday decorations in the fall and winter.  I also liked looking at all the different houses.

Here in Arizona walking for errands doesn’t happen much for two reasons.  First, six months out of the year the sun is blazing hot.  In the summer if it has clouded up you are in danger of being caught out in a violent thunderstorm.  And while the bank, grocery stores, a few restaurants and post office outlet are just over a mile away the walk isn’t pleasant in the best of weather.  There is no sidewalk along the busy 45 mph street meaning you have to walk in the also busy bike lane.  Along some parts people have trod a dirt path through the weeds and brush and I walk there where possible.  It is not relaxing though as you have to keep a sharp eye out for snakes and pricklies.   There isn’t much in the way of scenery, mainly cinder block fences, cacti and the backs of two story houses.  The mountains are to the north and west but they don’t change much and after a few minutes I lose interest in them.

What I loved about walking to do errands in NY and MT was being able to take different routes through residential areas admiring all the different houses, yards, porches and landscaping.  Here everything is beige.  Most houses look pretty similar and the landscaping is all the same.  There are a few weeks in the spring where there are some blooms but not many along the busy road.  Each housing area is self-contained so you can’t try and detour down  side streets.

Coming back from San Diego I tried to brainstorm how to spend more time outdoors.  Of course this isn’t the best time of year to start as it is triple digit heat and the sun is broiling by 8:00 am but I thought I would give it a try.  Of course there is the pool and I do try and swim every day.  This summer I am getting into the habit of getting up about 6:30 am.  I put on my workout clothes and go out into the backyard.  It is already warm but still pleasant in the shade.  I water the plants and simply sit for a few minutes and listen to the birds.  Sometimes I plan my day, write down my to-do list.  At 7:00 am I either jump rope (M-W-F) or come inside to do yoga (T-TH).

It is easy to spend time outdoors when you have a sense of purpose and decent weather.  In New York and Montana I didn’t have to think about getting outdoors, it just happened.  Being outside here requires more planning, effort.  You have to decide to go up the road to Mt. Lemmon, packing a lunch or researching a hike.  You have to check the radar for storms.  You have to get up early to beat the heat.  (Walking after dark in not an option for me with no sidewalks or streetlights and an array of wildlife to be leery of.) Some days my son and I get out of the pool and eat 3:00p snack on the patio.  Once the monsoon season starts we will sit under the back patio and watch the rain.  It’s not much but it is a start.  In the heat of summer that is all I ask of myself.