Why summer in Tucson, Arizona is **actually** the best!
So it's summertime in the old pueblo. It's Tucson, it's 107 degrees Fahrenheit and it's a typical Friday. If it's below 90, its basically cold. Therefore I intentionally live in Tucson, the hottest place with the coolest vibe, and here's why. I've compiled this rather extensive list of the many reasons why I smile through the desert heat blast.
YOU SHOULD LOVE WHERE YOU LIVE, AND I LOVE SUMMERTIME.
It's something about that nostalgic feeling of SUMMER, am I right? I mean I've been out of school for many years now but I still just get so excited at the idea of June, late nights where the pavement emanates heat and the minimal clothing is a way of being. It feels like anything could happen, like we should go to concerts and spend the night dancing and chilling with our people. The days are longer so you have more time to do things, and then the sun goes down and you get a second wind of energy to do more things. Here are some of my favorite things, in no particular order, that are summertime staples. Enjoy.
GETTING INTO A VERY HOT, SUN BAKED CAR
That feeling when you jump in your car after it's been cooking in a parking lot all day. (They say when its 80 to 100 degrees outside, inside cars can get up to 130 to 172 degrees!) It's like a very dry version of your very own personal hot tub! It's such a change to feel such stifling s t i l l n e s s in the air- it hasn't been moved and I find it incredibly comforting. I feel hyper aware of my body and my skin and how the air is caressing it.
THE LONELY STREETS
Since this is both primarily a college town and a place where retired people come to winter, about half the population of Tucson clears out for the summer months. It's awesome! All your commuting time dissipates! I keep arriving early to appointments and classes because it basically takes 10 minutes to get anywhere.
I also feel a special kind of camaraderie with all the people who stay and tough out the summer. I mean it's not really an accomplishment of any kind, but it does feel like we're some rare bread of human/lizard species with mad temp tolerance.
Oh man, this bug. It's like mating season or something, and they hide out in trees and make this sound.. I can't even explain it (Here's a youtube version) but it's like a crazy humming/mosquito/reverberation/mating call and it fills the air for weeks. It is truly the sound of summer. When they are gone it feels obscenely quiet, and I'm a kind of a pro ambient noise lady. Also, you can find their entire body exoskeletons in amber tones all over the yard if you look close. Super rad.
IT AIN'T HUMIDITY!
I feel like humidity is the heat equivalent to a wind chill temperature. Personally, I am way more capable of enduring high temps when it's freaking dry as hell, which is a Tucson specialty for like 10 months out of the year. I love the beach but if I'm not within a Baywatch jog to the ocean, I don't want that sticky sweaty moldy humidity in my life.
SPEAKING OF DRYNESS
It makes laundry basically instant! Our sunshine dryer is working overtime, and makes laundry, dishes and car washing a minute affair. We even use it to kill pests- like bed bugs or whatever you just bag it up in some black trash bag and set it outside in the sunshine for a day and bam! Roasted. (Wow, that took a little morbid turn, didn't it?) The rumor of cooking eggs on sidewalks is true, but really sun tea is the way to go!
THE COOL OF THE POOL
And when you can't handle the heat, when in doubt, jump in a pool! Yes this is a desert and yes water is invaluable but we are still in a privileged first world country where any ole' apartment complex, middle class house or community center has a splash zone. Everybody knows somebody with a pool! It's an important requirement in friendship making. Joking.
THE YUMMY HOT CHOCOLATE TEMPERATURE OF
WATER COMING OUT OF THE "COLD" FAUCET
Call me crazy, but even in the summertime I'm opting for a hot shower. It's just how a shower should be. Hot. It's so warm here the pipes heat up and just stay very hot after a while. Anytime you turn on the sink or tub it's a warm, sun baked cup of tea temperature, and totally delightful.
THAT SWAMP COOLER SMELL
Aah, the delicious scent of cooler pads receiving water after drying out. I don't know how to describe this one either, but I'm super grateful for another dryness quality- that adding water to wind is basically all you need to instantly cool down. Swamp cooling is great, it's how our body naturally cools itself, and it's not harsh on your skin like A/C air.
THE EARLY HOURS
Since the sun is up and shining at about 5:30 AM, you gotta commit to getting up in time to get some stuff done outside before it's too much sun for our poor flesh prisons. And there's something about the quiet and stillness of 5 AM. A friend of mine once pointed out that you are only going to get the chance to see so many sunsets in your lifetime. You only get one chance a day! And this is also true for SUNRISES. I don't know about you, but it's rare to see a sunrise for me, and I need to try to enjoy them a little more often. And at the danger of sounding like the very old person I am, it feels good to accomplish a few tasks before breakfast, and get a head start on the day. Ha!
THE SUNSETS ARE SPECTACULAR
I just love a good sunset, and an soon as the monsoons even think about arriving, our cloud shows are STUNNING! It's also nice that the sun is setting much later, and it's easier to catch a good glimpse of the setting sun when it's going down around 8 PM, as opposed to the winter set at like 5.
THE CLOUD SHOW
A, the chubascos are coming! Our tropical summer rainstorms are beginning to percolate. Yes the humidity is rising, but it's totally worth it when those anvil clouds start to pile up. There is just so much sky here, it seems to just roll on and on. It is remarkable to see the clouds tumble around, clouds bigger than mountains, in white and gray and golden hues. They shape-shift and accumulate, big dense ones that just make me ache to touch them. And usually they are accompanied by big rolling thunder and electrifying lighting, crackling across the sky, echoing on and on and on...
I didn't even like rainstorms before I moved here because the rain I knew was stingy ice drops of cold dampness. Here they are fat, luscious drops of warm moisture. They make the sidewalk smell so good, and the creosote bushes even better. The sky answers our prayers, and the rain washes away the sharpness of those high temps. Dancing in storms is a requirement, and I take my responsibility of thanking the sky and absorbing those negative ions quite seriously.
THERE IS DEFINITELY SOME SELF CARE INVOLVED
When it comes to surviving the heat, self care comes in the form of HYDRATION. I'm up to like a gallon of water consumption per day and that is not an exaggeration. It's a huge effort, but it makes me feel good. Skin care is also a big thing, and I've got an extra cute hat this year to keep my face in the shade. I also try to indulge in naps in the late afternoon when I can, a ritual in the Southwest. (Is it though?)
AWE OF PLANTS
And the native plants here are like, it ain't no thang. They endure the heat, get chubby absorbing the rains when they do come, and stay green and full. And provide SHADE, which should be nurtured and coveted. It's another thing about the desert life, that leaves me inspired and grateful to be a part of it.
So there are some reasons to tough out the heat this summer, and with a smile no less. It's also super cute whenever you go in for a hug, somebody is bound to apologize for their sweaty body. And it's like same girl, same. We all here sweating our little booties off. And I wouldn't change it for anything.
My Dad raises a particularly good point when it comes to wrapping your mind around triple digit degrees for months on end, and it goes like this. You've got to look at it like its the dead of winter. It's our version of negative 14 degree weather, and it won't last forever. This is the most extreme era of the weather cycle, and after this its just sunshine, glorious skies and time outside. Hooray. See you somewhere in town, melting like the iced cubes in my coffee.
SOME ARTWORK INSPIRED BY THIS DESERT LIFE
These are for sale! Check out the SHOP to purchase.
ARIZONA PUBLIC MEDIA MADE THIS AMAZING DOCUMENTARY ON THE 5 SEASONS OF THE SONORAN DESERT.
If you don't catch it on PBS sometime, here is a link to this amazing video.
I CREATED SOME CHOREOGRAPHY BASED ON THE WAITING FOR RAINS, AND ALSO FOR WHEN THEY ARRIVE.
From a few years back, working with Safos Dance Theatre.
Photographs by Dominic AZ Bonuccelli.