|December afternoon scene in the Cienega|
Having visited this area repeatedly during the past 20+ years for birding vacations and feeling so at home here, it was easy for us to "say yes" when a home came up for sale that was on the edge of town and adjacent to the Cienega (desert marsh) area of the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge.
Buying this home seemed to immediately set the wheels in motion for other life changes: within a year, I decided to retire from my Magnuson Nature Programs job, and Uno from his recording studio/record label, and we sold our Seattle home of 31 years. Arivaca will now be our winter home and a sweet little apartment in Snohomish WA will be our summer home. As many friends have advised us, it's taking time to get used to this much freedom, but we are thoroughly enjoying the process!
I dearly love Magnuson Park and miss "my kids" and friends there, so I look forward to continuing to volunteer there during summer as a member of the Magnuson Children's Garden Committee. Hiking its trails through its wetlands, grasslands, and forests to look for birds, frogs, and other wildlife is on my "summer agenda" too! I also look forward to continuing to teach sustainable gardening classes for municipalities, garden clubs, and nurseries throughout Puget Sound while in the northwest.
|The newly-planted garden in December 2017|
Our newly-planted Arivaca garden is filled with native trees and shrubs, and it has been so much fun to build a brand new garden and learn more about desert plants. Because our land is so close to the lush forest, wetland, and creek of Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, we already have over 65 species of birds hopping, flying, and soaring through, along with butterflies and bees, dragonflies, little lizards and toads. Cous Deer and Javelina travel outside our gates at dawn and dusk, but Coyote and Gray Fox boldly jump over. At least one wily coyote even climbed one of our large Mesquite trees up to the roof one night, to eat the Mesquite beans that had fallen there!
|Sign in the Arivaca Libary|
I am pinching myself every morning when I wake up in this unique ecosystem within the Sonoran Desert: a high-elevation valley surrounded on all sides by small mountain ranges, with 20+ inches of rain each year (much of it during the "monsoons" of July and August). I designed the pond in the center of the garden to "slow, spread, and sink" those heavy rains, to prevent erosion on our property and allow all the surface runoff to filter down into the aquifer below. We also have a grey-water system that puts used laundry water into a smaller pond (off right side of photo) to percolate into the aquifer too.
Having an abundance of rainfall in mid-summer is such a change from Seattle. It means not having to do as much watering during some of the hottest weather, and a great chance to store storm water for fall and winter, when rain is infrequent. Cisterns on each side of our house currently store approx. 2600 gallons of rainwater from our roof, and we may add more. We've also been building a "compost fence"around my art studio building, which I always wanted to do in Seattle but never got around to it. It's slowly filling up with fallen Mesquite branches, dried grasses, and a few cones from our large Allepo Pine tree.
|One of our cisterns|
|Our indoor kitties love the view too|
The Arivaca farmer's market on "main street" every Saturday provides us with other organic crops to choose from, as well as local vendors with homemade tamales, jam, and all sorts of interesting items. It's also a short stroll to the mercantile, gas station, post office, library, and cantina (with live music).
We've been made to feel very welcome in Arivaca by everyone we meet, have made a lot of new friends, and are looking forward to sharing this place with all our dear Seattle friends who come down to visit us (hint hint) over the next few years!
Arivaca is also the home of two outstanding non-profits that are providing humanitarian aid to migrants: People Helping People and No More Deaths. I encourage you to visit their websites and learn more about what's really happening in our country's southern borderlands, because most of it is not being broadcast in any mainstream or alternative media. It's not easy to know the details, but it's important to us all no matter where we live.
Though I haven't yet had time for resuming my love of painting, I've joined the Arivaca Artists Coop in anticipation of that, and I will soon be releasing two music CDs that will be sold in the coop in addition to being available on iTunes. The first is a recording of songs I made years ago with some of my favorite musician friends in Seattle as a tribute to Hank Williams, and the second is a recording I made with John Olufs, a fabulous guitarist and friend, of some of my favorite all-time songs.
I've also begun taping a monthly half-hour radio show called Magnuson Nature News, which now broadcasts out of Magnuson Park on SPACE 101.FM on every Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday at 10:00am. You can also listen to it anytime on the show's website! Uno has a small recording setup here in the living room, which has been working out perfectly. The show is all about flora and fauna of Magnuson Park, and features fascinating facts, interviews with kids about their favorite nature memories, and news about upcoming events at Magnuson Children's Garden. Tune in and enjoy!
Believe it or not, I am finally "coming down the home stretch" on the autobiography I've been writing with our dear friend Foday Musa Suso.
Even with all this, and various home and garden projects, we still have time for relaxation and fun, participating in the wonderful community events around here, and even reading some books! I know it probably doesn't seem like I've actually retired, so maybe that's not the right word for what I'm doing... but no matter what it's called, it feels like the best vacation I've ever had!
At the end of each day, we sit on the patio and watch the sun going down and the stars beginning to come out. I'm so happy to have this chance to live a simple life, that is also more than I ever dreamed of.
|View from the patio|