an audience with the Queen!

It happens only once a year.  If you miss her arrival you have to wait a whole year.  This Queen of the Night clearly wants to maintain an air of mystery!  

For 364 days a year she masquerades as an ugly cactus, a mere stick that looks like something you’d swear was dead.  Then on one night of the year she musters up all her energy for a spectacular show.  She will not open her petals until dark has enveloped the desert and by morning’s light her petals will wilt.  Her beauty is revealed only in the darkness.  The interesting part is that all her sisters in the area bloom on the very same night!  The reason is one of practicality – they need to be pollinated and since they bloom for only one night during the year, they need to be coordinated. No one knows how they do that either.  A Queen must maintain her mystery!  Bats and sphinx moths are tasked with pollinating Her Majesty.  

 

Another part of this Queen’s mystery is that you never know for sure when she will arrive.  It is known that she will be here sometime over the summer but she keeps her exact arrival a mystery, usually until that morning.  As soon as she has made up her mind the people at Tohono Chul Park, where there are more Queens than anywhere in the world, send out emails to all on their mailing list that “tonight’s the night”!  Two thousand people managed to experience her in all her glory last night.  I wasn’t sure I’d be one of them.  I asked a friend if she wanted to go with me to meet the Queen but hadn’t heard back from her.  I would’ve tried getting there myself, a mere three miles from where I live, but yesterday was not a good day for me so I was thinking I might not make it.  But my friend came through and off we went.

 

 

We got there early which was a good thing since parking became nearly impossible later in the evening.  To be honest the Queen of the Night didn’t look like much when we first saw her but it was still daylight so she remained in hiding.  As darkness approached one by one she allowed her petals to open as people were pouring in to the park.  The ugly turned into the beautiful under the cloak of darkness.  Photos that had been relatively easy to take when we first got there were now much more difficult with the crowds seeking their own audience with the Queen.  

One of my issues yesterday was that I kept losing my balance.  When given space around me it isn’t too terrible since I just move my leg this way or that to accommodate the listing of my body!  But when there are people all around me that quickly becomes impossible to do.  I was leaning over to take a photo of our fair lady and, upon getting up, really lost my balance.  With no place to maneuver I did the next best thing – I grabbed on to the shoulder of the woman next to me, the one I would’ve fallen into otherwise!  Luckily she was quite understanding as I explained to her that, no, I had not been drinking but just had balance issues!  We both laughed!  They did have prickly pear margaritas at the park and I had one but, alas, without any alcohol in it.  So sad but someone who cannot walk straight doesn’t need alcohol!

We left just before the Queen of the Night fully opened.  I would’ve loved to have stayed but between the heat, humidity and my acrobatics I really thought it was better to leave before I had an accident!  After all, I had met the Queen and managed to spend some intimate, one on one time with her before the crowds interrupted our alone time.  She shared her beauty with me .  What more can you ask?  

[For those who like to know these things, our Queen’s official name is Peniocereus greggii, or cereus for short.  If you are interested in more information, please go to the Tohono Chul website. .  This particular page deals entirely with the Queen of the Night and has a video as well as information.  Well worth the click!]

©  2017 deborah kauffeld

home again!

It is certainly time for me to let you know that I’ve made it to Tucson safe and sound.  I’ve been here three weeks now and have spent most of that time unpacking, organizing and resting.  I might have been done with it all if I had the shelving I needed but it hasn’t arrived yet.  Well, technically the shelves are here but the upright parts aren’t yet so the shelves are useless in this moment!

Our very trusty and comfortable Penske rental truck with my less than trusty car behind it!

Our very trusty and comfortable Penske rental truck with my less than trusty car behind it!

I feel quite at home here, not just in Tucson but specifically in our apartment.  Given that I rented it sight unseen that’s a good thing!  One side of the apartment faces desert which makes me quite happy.  Every evening as the sun descends the coyotes can be heard singing their good night song.  I’ve seen a family of quail right outside my bedroom window!  Just tonight I saw an owl sitting on a chimney (yeah, we all have wood burning fireplaces in our apartments, something I doubt I’ll ever use but who knows?)

A rainbow as we left Sarasota.  I took this to be a good omen!

A rainbow as we left Sarasota. I took this to be a good omen!

The trip cross country couldn’t have been any better.  The weather was near perfect, the drive uneventful and I had only one questionable day.  That’s one day out of fifteen, two if you count the day we arrived here but that was just stress and overwhelm.

Storm clouds gathering as we left Sarasota, FL.  Our weather was near perfect with very little rain.

Storm clouds gathering as we left Sarasota, FL. Our weather was near perfect with very little rain.

There were several high points during the trip.  My favorite thing was finally getting to meet a Facebook friend (Linda Van Kampen) in Florida.  She was exactly the wonderful person I expected her to be.

A rainbow as we left Sarasota.  I took this to be a good omen!

A rainbow as we left Sarasota. I took this to be a good omen!

We spent extra days in San Antonio and Carlsbad, NM where we got to do the Riverwalk and explore the caverns, respectfully.  The caverns were a really amazing experience.

The Riverwalk in San Antonio, TX

The Riverwalk in San Antonio, TX

 

The Riverwalk.

The Riverwalk.

We ate wonderfully during the trip and neither of us gained any weight at all!  We ate at a Chinese buffet, had stromboli/calzone, indulged in filet mignon, enjoyed a night of Mexican food with a mango margarita and I had my first In-N-Out burger!  We had fun driving in the truck, talking about just about everything we could and singing Willy Nelson’s On the Road Again each morning!  Davette, my trusty driver and friend, now considers herself to be Picasso’s second mother.  They became close friends during the trip.  Davette took a video of Picasso jumping from bed to bed and has shown it to quite a few people like a proud mother showing off her kid’s newest antics.  And speaking of Picasso, he was nothing but a perfect gentleman on the trip.  I even felt comfortable leaving him by himself in hotel rooms, something I’ve not done before.  It was clear that he was going to be okay with it and, yes, he was perfect.

No photograph could ever capture the majesty of Carlsbad Caverns.  It is something that truly has to be experienced.

No photograph could ever capture the majesty of Carlsbad Caverns. It is something that truly has to be experienced.

 

The dim lighting in the caverns made for some interesting standing for me!  Let's put it this way - darned good thing there were handrails throughout!

The dim lighting in the caverns made for some interesting standing for me! Let’s put it this way – darned good thing there were handrails throughout!

Another one of the high points came when we were in our room in Carlsbad.  We hadn’t even gotten settled yet.  I was coming out of the bathroom while Davette was fiddling around when a man suddenly walked into the room!  Woohoo!  The first man I’ve had in my bedroom in quite a while!  Sadly he was there by mistake, the front desk having assigned him the same room they just gave to us minutes before.  Thankfully we were all dressed although Picasso certainly gave him a good barking, all while wagging his tail.  Great watchdog, ready to lick a intruder to death.  Good thing he’s so cute!

Sugar cane fields in Louisiana.  We just had to stop at a distillery where they make rum from the sugar cane.  Of course we had to test out their wares!

Sugar cane fields in Louisiana. We just had to stop at a distillery where they make rum from the sugar cane. Of course we had to test out their wares!

So here I am in Tucson…or is it Florida?  My brain has known I have “gone back” but sometimes thinks I went back to Florida, not Tucson, so at any moment I might be thinking of going to Publix rather than Albertson’s.  My driving has been limited to a very small area but I do manage to get out a bit more than I had been.  My trusty steed, my car, has been back in the shop for the last two weeks.  The loaner car looks exactly like mine except for the fact that it has been emasculated by having been given an automatic transmission rather than a stick shift.  Supposedly my car’s clutch is just fine, thank you (I’ve heard this before), but a part of the roof (an air dam) needed to be replaced and has taken a whole lot longer than I would’ve expected.

The clouds were truly awesome during our trip.  This is but one example.

The clouds were truly awesome during our trip. This is but one example.

While I’m quite tired and my body is complaining about all I’ve been forcing it to do (packing, sitting in a truck for hours on end for two weeks, unpacking) overall everything is good here.  I’ve gotten to spend time with old friends I’ve not seen in a while, rekindled lost friendships and appear to be heading toward making some new friends.

Arizona!!!

Arizona!!!

Picasso loves it here.  As much as he hates the heat he seems to be doing quite well in the desert.  He has developed some new routines and has resurrected some old ones (howling in the morning as I grab the leash for his first walk as well as howling when I’m getting his food ready).  There is a “racetrack” in the apartment, extending from the kitchen to the dining room to the living room to the hall and back to the kitchen again.  Picasso especially loves to run the racetrack whenever I grab a paper towel to clean his face after he has eaten.  Perhaps he thinks I need the exercise but all it does for me is make me more dizzy than I already am!  He has also found playing “monster” to be a whole lot more fun here.  Of course I am the monster and he is running away from me.  Seems that running away from me is a real theme here!  On any given evening Picasso can be found in his kennel in the bedroom after having abandoned me in the living room.  He seems quite content.

Again!  The only reason my car was back on the tow truck was for a dead battery which was completely covered by warranty!  Whew!

Again! The only reason my car was back on the tow truck was for a dead battery which was completely covered by warranty! Whew!

Well that’s the quick version of how things have been.  I’m going to try to get this up on my website right away since the previous ones I’ve written never got posted.  I’ll throw in a few photos taken with my iPhone and call it good.  My camera has been taking a rest while I unpack.  I’ll try to get back to you again soon, after I’m done with the whole unpacking and organizing thing.  I will say that I’ve no doubt I’m exactly where I need to be right now.  It is good to be home again.

A Tucson sunset as seen from my apartment.

A Tucson sunset as seen from my apartment.

© 2016 deborah kauffeld