Thursday, March 19, 2009

Crocuses and Lizards

When I was living back east in the DC area, the crocuses were the sure sign that spring was right around the corner. No guarantee that there wouldn't be anymore 12" or bigger snowstorms before winter was done, but a pretty sure sign that I'd soon be able to put away the cold weather trappings -- the long-sleeve bike jerseys, the winter motorcycle gloves, and the kayaking drysuit -- until fall and start being dangerously distracted by sundresses as I dodged traffic pedaling home through Georgetown. Though I never did it, I was long tempted to copy one of my Virginia suburb neighbors who planted crocus bulbs to spell out, in letters four feet high, the word "SPRING" across the front lawn.

Since it's only my second spring here in Prescott, I'm still a little vague on the signs of the changing seasons, but it has to be a harbinger of things to come that we were out bouldering at Groom Creek earlier this week, just a quarter mile or so from the spot where we were playing in two feet or more of snow less than a month ago. My co-conspirators included our 14-year old (clearly the best boulderer of our trio) and a friend of hers from middle school.

Never a great climber to begin with, I wasn't helped a bit by the winter layoff. Stuff that had been easy just a few months ago left me off balance, out of sync, and at least once bouncing gracelessly off the crashpad, reminding the chatting, distracted teenagers that we'd agreed to spot one another, which is kind of hard to do when you've wandered away to talk about the latest drama & gossip.

Feeling a bit beat-up, I didn't object a bit when the fun shifted from boulder problems to a friendly competition to find the most sun-dappled, most comfortable, most scenic bit of granite to stretch across for a mid-morning siesta. With the teens having commandeered the crash pad, I tried a few options (including a nicely weathered, horizontal pine trunk that was almost wide enough to lie along without teetering from side to side) before settling on a boulder that did the trick. About 20 feet high (with chalk smudges on the handholds marking the way a REAL climber would have gotten up; I shinnied up the easy back side), there were indentations at the top that seemed custom made for my head, shoulder blades & butt. The sun washed the whole top, but a friendly ponderosa pine offered just a little filtered shade to my face, so I could survey my domain without squinting or lifting my head.

I did have to share my spot -- with one of the first lizards I've seen in 2009. Like me, she (he?) was soaking up the sunshine and the warmth of the stone that seemed to chase away the memories of when this very spot was wrapped in a snowy blanket. The lizard probably didn't know that we've got a chance of snow in the forecast for early next week, but one thing we both felt in our bones was that the cold can't last, and that spring is upon us, crocuses or not.


  1. That was such a wonderful post! The crocuses are indeed out here on Sligo Creek and I got to go for a run without gloves and ear warmers - a nice treat.

    Reading your post, I was reminded of almost this time last year when we went bouldering together. Mia and I forged a bond by pretending to be lizards. First time my skin had seen the sun that year and it was such a special treat. So even though I am far from Prescott I could very much relate to your writing. Thanks for taking the time to do it!

    (dare I ask about the swiftwater rescue class?)

  2. Crocus are great signs of spring anywhere. Unfortunately neither they nor that other sign, grape hyacinths, last -- the javelina show up and much down on them. There are manzanitas that bloom in mid-February -- that's one sign. And if you have Calif. poppies, they start blooming about mid-March.(Oh, yes, sometimes, the javelina eat them as well, along with the pansies.)