Saturday, July 08, 2006

Playing Outside

My question for this week is “Did it snow where you lived as a child? What did you do in the snow? Describe some other outdoor play.”

Well, you know by now that I grew up in Tucson, Arizona, so the answer to that is a big fat NO!! Although the handful of times it DID snow were so magical (and it melted by 10am), we put tube socks on our hands and had snowball fights, sledding, and built tiny, skinny snowmen.
I remember when I was 7, my Uncle Matt and his friend brought down a big truckload of snow from Mt. Lemmon and dumped it in our yard so we could have a snowball fight and build a snowman. THAT, my friends, is the way to play in the snow. It’s 60 degrees outside, but you’re wearing gloves to play in the snow as it melts into the lawn. We always got excited about snow, but it was mostly in theory. Anytime I actually have to BE cold (and live the snow lifestyle), I get furious. I am not now, nor will I ever be, a skier, a sledder, a snowmobiler, or even a fun mom who plays in the snow with her kids. My arctic in-laws or husband have to take the girls out in the winter now—I stay in and make the hot cocoa! All that said, I love to LOOK at snow. The winter gets so dreary when the fresh snow is gone.

We did play outside in Arizona. In the summer it was too hot for anything but water play—swimming pools, sprinklers, stock tanks, or—my personal favorite—the monsoon rain. In Tucson and most of SE Arizona, around mid-July, the rains starts and lasts through September. Here’s how it goes: the sun comes up and starts frying the earth—it’s 90 degrees by 8am, so you’d better have the lawn mowed (or what ever you need to do outside) by then. The air gets terribly hot and people either (a) stay inside in the air-conditioned comfort, or (b) get in the pool. But then, about 3pm, the storm starts to brew. Tall dark clouds build up to the southeast and the wind starts to blow. Then come the lightening and thunder, and if you’re in the pool, they usually make you get out lest you get struck by lightning and the pool becomes People Stew. But if you’re not in the pool and you’ve been waiting for some outside fun, now’s your chance.

The clouds break loose and rain pours for an hour or so (it’s especially cool if the sun is still shining from the west and you’re getting doused on the eastside; and the smell—oh, the smell! Sage, Creosote, Mesquite, wet sand---I wish they could bottle it!). Tucson has an intricate system of washes, or arroyos en espanol. They are basically drainage ditches that pour into big river-sized washes, and eventually into the Rillito or Santa Cruz “rivers.” There is some technical reason these things are called rivers, but there is rarely water in them. They are, however, a great place to ride ATV’s and have bonfires (NOT during flood season, though). Anyway, most streets have a small wash where the rainwater flows to drain into a bigger wash. The water usually gets about 2 feet deep in there and it’s so much fun to wade in there as the rain falls and the weather cools. I remember the summer before I turned 11, I had a cast on my leg and I even Duck taped a trash bag around my cast so I could go wading with my crazy siblings.

Of course, six months of the year, the weather is perfect for just about anything else you want to do outside. There’s lots of hiking, climbing, and rappelling, there’s golf and mini-golf, horseback riding, biking, walking, and pretty much any sport. My mom loved softball, so we played that a lot, and volleyball, too. We did a lot of general playing in the park—running around, playing in the playground. Being the nerd I am, I played inside the house a lot, too, mostly playing school or house or something that involved all my siblings having an imaginary adventure (like Shark—we scattered every pillow in the house on the ground and if you touched the carpet, you got devoured by sharks).

Now that I live in Montana, I understand why people up north get so excited about summer. All the things we did for most of the year in AZ can only be done between Memorial Day and Labor Day (and even some of those days are too cold!), so people really pack in all the fun before the harvest and the winter. It’s really cool having 4 distinct seasons—a totally new experience for me!

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