The Hilton Bosque

It’s lovely being here in Tucson.

So lovely, that I become lax on everything. I haven’t been posting to the blog (as you’ve undoubtedly noticed). I only answer some emails (a BIG stretch for me, compulsive email-checker that I am). I haven’t even been reading much.

I’ve been watching quail. Gambel’s quail, for those not in the know. At my folks’ place in Tucson, the quail come streaming along — they’ve got this amazing run where their legs move in a blur, but their bodies and heads remain still, so they move like ballerinas across the stage — spilling over the low wall into the patio. They drop like so many pieces of ripe fruit, cherry head-feathers bobbing. Lemon-drop finches cluster on the thistle-sock. A flicker sings a piercing whistle and hits the heavy seed feeder. The air is redolent with orange blossoms, which are in turn heavy with the hive-buzz of bees. They look identical to us, characteristic of commercial bees, and my stepfather threatens to have them followed, to exact his share of their product.

We visited Catalina State Park, and dutifully read the signs on the birding trail. Three habitats: riparian, desert scrub and mesquite bosque. The last is pronounced BOS-kay, from the Spanish for forest. We learned that our neighborhood flicker is an gila woodpecker (I linked it, just so you can see how pretty he is). The mesquite bosque surprised us with long, lush grass beneath the denuded shrubs. The sun heated my skin, welcome fire after the cold of winter.

This morning, we walked through the neighborhood. Past the patio homes surrounding Hilton’s El Conquistador resort. Here, off the roads, off the paved golf-cart paths and in my folks’ golf course-boardering patio home, we see all the birds and more. Vermillion flycatchers. A cactus wren or three. A roadrunner poised on a hillside fencepost. Bunnies and javelinas. David dubs it the fourth habitat: the Hilton bosque. Thoureau said travel was unnecessary; that everything could be witnessed in one’s own backyard.

So, I lie in the lounge chair on the patio. Watching the world come to me.

Everyone Is Named Nancy

My mom lives in Tucson half the year now. Snowbirds. As cliche as retirees from New York and New Jersey heading to Florida, she’s one of those Colorado dwellers who heads to Arizona for the winter. And part of the fall. And pretty much all of the spring. In fact, it’s really a 65/35 proposition at this point. They’re reliably informed by their Tucson neighbors that they’ll gradually be spending so much more time in the desert home that they’ll go full-time and sell the mountain one.

This is the third winter she and her new husband have spent down there. “New” being a relative term, since they married two years ago this May. They’ve had to consciously build friendships in Tucson, since their lifelong social circles were in Denver. So they invite neighbors for dinner, sign up for charities and various events — sifting through the people they meet looking for compatible couples and potential friends.

Through a strange coincidence, several of the gals in the couples they like most are named Nancy. There’s Jack & Nancy, Bill & Nancy, Jim & Nancy, John & Nancy. It’s so pervasive that, if they can’t remember the name of the distaff side of one of couples — which can happen, lots of new people, on top of the lifetime of names already filed away in their “friends” memory banks — they simply refer to her as “Nancy.” And they’re usually right.

They’ve never mentioned if there’s a standard man’s name they use. But it makes me wonder if, someday, when David and I are living in some senescent community, will we call all the women Jennifer?