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Letter From America: Autumn Comes

Autumn has finally arrived in Arizona, says Ronnie Bray. But autumn in that part of the world means that the coldest day between October and March is likely to be no cooler than sixty degrees Fahrenheit.

After what seemed like years, the cool weather has finally come to the Arizonan Desert Ė almost. This morning, the outside thermometer registered sixty degrees at six oí clock. The doggies got into the rig and said, "Dog park''. They are not loquacious. The drive to the park takes about ten minutes on a Sunday morning, fifteen on days when the traffic is heavy, so they donít get impatient with me for not getting them there sooner.

It is the beginning of Autumn, what the Americans call Fall, because of the falling of the leaves from the trees getting ready for their long winter sleep. Only where I live, the trees do not shed their leaves, because there are so few actual trees, and those we have drop a few, but keep most of their greenery through Winter and into Spring, and the ubiquitous cacti are preparing to blossom into flowers of tropical dimensions.

When the coldest day that is likely to come our way between October and March is around sixty degrees Fahrenheit, it does not encourage leaf shedding. All the shrubs in the garden continue to stay green, even to flower, and with days continuously warm and sunny so it is hard for a Yorkshire lad like me to believe it is ever anything but High Summer.

In the Dog Park, I sit on a plastic garden chair, and the dogs run around feverishly as if they had been chained up for years. It is a time for quiet contemplation in a three-acre grass field with a variety of delicious canines whose names, everyone knows, and most of their owners' names are known too. In Summer, the Morning Crowd gets there around five-thirty am, and sits under the shade of the eastern wall.

That keeps us in the cool. When the sun rises, the wall casts a long shadow more than halfway across the grass. The shadow of the wall slowly creeps towards us as the sunrises higher, until even in the shade, it is remarkably hot, and time to pack up our water coolers, our dog leashes, ball launching sticks, and head back to our homes with our critters eyes pleading, "Just five more minutes, Dad!"

Two weeks ago, the mid-afternoon temperatures were over a hundred. Last week they plummeted to the mid-nineties. This week they will be in the low nineties, and cooler to come as the month wears on. Soon we will be able to linger outside. Soon, the Snow Birds will come in their tens of thousands. You can always recognise them. They are the ones in shorts and tee shirts when the locals are togged out in long trousers, sweaters, and coats.

Our doggies like the cooler months best of all. Frankie and Belle have free run of the house. That sometimes works against my Master Plan of sitting in a comfortable Laz-E-Boy recliner with my feet elevated to help the swelling go down.

My Plan falls short when Belle, my Belgian Beauty, who is younger and more agile than me, and uses her seventy-five pounds weight to advantage, slides around behind me like a shadow and ensconces herself in the chair. She sits across the chair, her beautiful head erect looking like the queen she is, and I donít have the heart to move her. I lie on her settee. Her Plan takes precedence over my Plan only because she is faster then me.

When we get regular seventy and eighty-degree days, my beloved and I will sit in the back garden with our girls, and talk until the moon drives us indoors with its brilliance.

We like the cooler weather especially because we can take out two canine darlings with us when we go shopping, and leave them in our Explorer without having to ruin the air conditioning to keep them cool. I told my veterinarian that I couldnít leave Frankie at the surgery and collect her later because she suffered from separation anxiety. I could tell from the way he looked at me that he knew that I was the one with most anxiety.

For many reasons, we welcome the cooling of the desert. Not only because we donít have to run the cooling system day and night, or have to water the garden less, or because we donít get fried if we linger in the sun a little too long, and not because I will be able to walk on the path to collect the daily paper in my bare feet without scorching them, but because cooler weather brings a sense of relief.

It gives us time to think about going on our errands without our having to worry about the heat, and that is good. In another seven or eight months, the sun will superheat us all over again. But, as Scarlet would say, "Iíll worry about that tomorrow!"

Copyright © 2005 Ė Ronnie Bray


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