As part of Sudbourne Manor given to Bishop Æthelwold by Kind Edgar C959-963 who then granted the land to a Benedictine Monastery, this ancient woodland has been owned by bishops, noblemen and moneyed landowners through the centuries until more recently it was acquired by Suffolk Wildlife Trust. It showcases, if I can use use that word in the same paragraph with ‘wildlife trust,’ a breathtaking display of bluebells in the spring.
Would you care to join me Restless Jo for a stroll in the bluebell wood?
A bench with a view,
Of a sea of blue,
There’s water here too,
But no beach for you, Jude.
As I sort through accumulated treasures of the last eight years ready for the removal men to box up our lives and whisk them away, I tear up now and again. I have petitioned for this move to England and yet . . . . we have been comfortable in our Arizona bubble of the good life.
My days consist of meals out, coffee with friends, swimming, shopping, yoga, reading, writing, blogging, walking amongst the desert flora, book club, watching wildlife from our balcony, writing group and wearing lightweight to barely any clothing all year round. What’s not to like?
Unbearably hot summers are alleviated with air-conditioning or going north. Our neighbor expressed it as eight months of heaven and four months of hell. Even now when it is 105° outside we’re comfortable, until the electricity bill arrives.
Our quest for the last eight years has been to look for the perfect place to live. With family spread around the world, there is no such place for us but all other factors considered we came close to it in southern Arizona. The weather has been kind to us in our ridge top apartment as we’ve watched monsoons and dust storms sweep through the valley from the comfort of our balcony. While the rest of the country endured an insufferably long winter we put the heat on now and again and wore trousers instead of shorts.
All photos taken from our balcony. Please click to enlarge. Go on! You can’t see them properly unless you do, especially the dust storm and the pink rain!
Monsoon rain, Fountain Hills AZ
Snow on Four Peaks AZ
Sunset glow on Four Peaks AZ
Sunrise, Fountain Hills AZ
Dust storm, Fountain Hills AZ
Sunrise, Fountain Hills AZ
Sunrise Fountain, Hills AZ
Cloud formation, Fountain Hills AZ
Moon rise over Four Peaks AZ
Pink rain! at sunset, Fountain Hills AZ
A moonscape? Not with palm trees! Fountain Hills at sunrise.
The next few months, year? two years? will consist of uncertainty, insecurity and temporary accommodation tempered by the warmth of family and friends. At least I hope they will be pleased to see us.
I have made a pact with himself, the green card-toting Englishman, who apart from his views on politics and guns could be a native Arizonian. For two or three months each winter – possibly beginning December 26th – we will cross the English channel and head south until we reach sunshine.
Right now I am in my anxiety default position – brain freeze and inertia. I gaze at our apartment with Native American and Mexican decorating touches and my American Southwest photos adorning the walls and don’t want to touch a thing.
Our year’s hiatus from travelling, cocooned in comfortable stationary housing, has turned into two-and-a-half years of spinning our wheels.
We were halfway to a campsite in northern California about to enter the wilderness of the Siskiyou Mountains. Our water tanks were empty-ish in preparation for mountain climbing and our batteries were big dead weights barely capable of lighting one light. Our only company for miles and miles and miles was trees.
Our bed slide was out, the runner was broken and the slide wouldn’t go back in.
As the California sun shone down on our tin box house we grew hotter and hotter trying to affect a makeshift repair. Our hearts were hammering and we were gasping and shaking with exhaustion.
It had occurred to me that we could be stranded for days with no electricity or water while help was summoned and parts ordered from Hoboken or Timbuktu though that thought was not articulated.
Nor did Jimmy share his bleak thoughts with me. We’d pulled the slide out possibly for the last time ever.
With the slide pulled out we couldn’t tow the trailer. If we pushed it back in the runner would break causing more damage.
We took the only option open to us.
We let bloody-mindedness take over.
The decision was reached by mutual unspoken assent.
We tried again and again and again. We just needed to unscrew one screw from the ceiling and put a washer on it.
Again. Gasp. Gasp. Gasp.
“Take a break,” I begged Jimmy. He was bright red in the face. I was probably the same but we each think we are invincible and don’t easily accept our limitations.
We tried again. Pull runner, engage screwdriver, grunt.
And again. And again.
“It moved!” Was I hallucinating? “Try it again!” I said excitedly, holding the screwdriver in place ready for Jimmy to put some muscle into it. The screw head moved a miniscule amount.
Each monumental effort, with both of us poised awkwardly and straining produced only about and eighth of a turn before the screwdriver would jump out and skitter across the runner. The screw head was acquiring a nice polished sheen and losing its sharp cross threads.
Seeing me shaking with exhaustion, heat and anxiety Jimmy called the next break and I sat quietly with my head and arms flopping down at rest.
“I took the screw out of the other runner last week. Do you want to know how long it is?” Without raising my head I let my eyes swivel round to his hand where he held his thumb and forefinger four inches apart. Needing eight colossal attempts from both of us to turn the screw one revolution, I wasn’t sure we’d survive the repair.
We let despair replace any stabs at conversation or conjecture and stared vacantly until the panting slowed, then resumed battle.
As long as the screw moved a tiny amount we were motivated to keep trying. The sight of a whole inch of screw poking from the ceiling turned the tide of the war and we got a second wind. The next inch was easier and I twiddled the screw out the last two inches with my fingers.
It only remained to put the washer on and screw the runner back to the ceiling. Flush with triumph, Jimmy decided to take the next screw out and put a washer on it as well. So pumped up with success was he that he put three washers on it.
It was a good idea, in theory, until we tried to push the slide in but the extra washers blocked the slide. It wouldn’t go in.
A cartoon of my expression is appropriate at this point:
It was a minor blip as it happened and easily remedied. Victory was ours.
Our reward for perseverance was Sequoia National Park and among other BIG trees the General Sherman Tree – the largest tree in the world – not the tallest or the widest but the largest in volume.
The top of the General Sherman Tree:
And here’s General Sherman’s bottom:
See the little people above for perspective.
If you’re worried about us we had the runner replaced. And after a few more bruises I gave the hula hoop to Goodwill and took up yoga.
“Do you want to see something really cool?” Raven Longbow, Indian Guide, had crept up on us making us jump just like an Indian should while we’d been admiring the view of Palm Springs from the Andreas Canyon lookout point at Indian Canyons.
“Many years ago, a young Indian had his heart broken, so he came out to these hills . . . ,” he said, indicating, “Oh! I’m not even pointing in the right direction. Don’t believe what you hear about Indians’ sense of direction and never getting lost.” He turned 180 degrees, as did we, pointed at a far mountain and continued, “. . . and laid down to sleep to wait for his love to come back to him. Do you see his nose? And there is his chin. You can see the curve of his mouth.”
“I’m not with you,” I had to admit. I really wanted to ‘see.’
“There are his hands folded on his chest.”
“Ah! Yes! I can see his knuckles,” I said excitedly with more imagination than clear vision of the peaks in the distance. As I nodded knowingly he smiled, satisfied.
“Of course you have to take all Indian stories with a pinch of salt and a pound of sugar.”
As I admired his spikey, fearsome Mohawk-type hair, with the sides of his head shaved and long pigtail down to his waist I asked, “What tribe are you?”
“Apache. I grew up in Arizona where that means ‘filthy enemy’ in Mexican.” His friendly granddad’s face did not match this description.
“Raven Longbow (as displayed on his badge) is a great name,” I said.
“No. My brothers got the cool names – Grey Wolf and Great Hawk. Raven was okay in Arizona but when we moved to California it was a girl’s name. You try growing up with a girl’s name. Apache names are always macho, never ‘short fat bald man.’ I coped with it until I got put in girl’s PE because of my name. Still, I’m glad my mother wasn’t drunk when she named me. She would have called me Chickenshit.”
Without further explanation Raven continued, “Do you want to see something else?” He was in his stride now. We weren’t sure how much, if anything, to believe but he was entertaining. “Look at that rock.” A plinth of jagged rock jutted out above us. “Does it remind you of anything?” It did. I wasn’t sure what but yes seemed the right answer to perpetuate his commentary. “It’s the Lion King rock. A Hollywood producer visited our canyon and decided to use our rock for that famous scene.”
“Oh, yes. It is, isn’t it?”
Is it? I took the obligatory photograph which came in handy for comparison purposes. Depending on who you ask, that rock is in Chile, Norway, New Zealand, The Serengeti, Appalachia, some woman’s back yard in Austin, Texas or right there just a few miles from Palm Springs.
Before I could cast doubt on his last story he carried on, “Do you see those holes in the rock?” Smooth, perfectly round depressions in the boulders, rock mortars the size of a cereal bowl and others as large as a mixing bowl were used for grinding food and medicine we were told.
“The recipes for medicines are handed down through the female line in our tribe but I used to hang out with my grandmother and she taught me everything she knew so I am the medicine man for our family. We hardly ever go to the doctor.” Now you’re talking, I thought.
“What ingredients do you use?”
Raven gave me the Apache version of an inscrutable look and that ended our conversation.
Either I’d crossed a line or he’d run out of stories.