It’s 5:30 am in the suburbs of Phoenix. Summer is days away but the heat has arrived. Next Tuesday, the first day of summer, the temp will rise to 120º F (49° C). It’s the season of the dawn for those of us desert dwellers who wish to venture outdoors before the sun cracks open the oven door. So goodbye Stephen Colbert and Noah Trevor, you late-night purveyors of the politically absurd. It’s early to bed for me. You cannot compete for my one chance of fresh air.
Of course we here in the “Valley of the Sun” pride ourselves on our stoic endurance of the 6-month summer. Like people everywhere, we comment endlessly on the weather. “Hot enough for you today?” “It’s gonna be a scorcher.” Those who were here on June 26, 1990, when the hottest day on record hit 122º F (50º C), claim their bragging rights, their merely having been here validating their membership in an exclusive club of extremes.
Nonetheless, we natives shake our heads and wonder why the hell we are still here. We vow this is our last summer. As the heat rises from the pavement to drive us back into our burrows, we dream of moving to Seattle and fantasize about the rain. Some of us head north to the relative cool of Payson and Flagstaff. Sensible snowbirds fly the hot coop by the end of May. Only those who once suffered in snowbound lands and planted themselves here for good boast of their love for the heat. “Try shoveling snow in Chicago in January,” they say. “This is heaven.”
What the Desert Dawn Brings
Still, we natives find a stark beauty in the season. Dawn brims over the encircling mountains just after 5 o’clock with the cool promise it always holds—the chance to start afresh. When the sun climbs, each shade tree offers a small oasis. The bougainvillea and lantana spill opulently over stucco and sand. The utter stillness of the afternoon (when all sane people stay indoors) rings like a cosmic chime. Pale, flat geckos take shelter on patio walls; long lizards dart in the bushes. The dry air breezes like silk on our skin after a twilight dip in the pool. Doves sing their plaintive laments and cicadas rev the Palo Verde trees as the shadows deepen.
Maybe I’m still under the thrall of returning to the warmth after a cold and rainy stint in Connecticut. Maybe I am waxing romantic. No doubt I’ll be cursing the heat next week. But as long as I wake with the dawn this summer, I’ll be ready to embrace the day.
Thanks to guest host D. Avery at Charli Mills’s Carrot Ranch for providing the prompt of “dawn” for this week’s flash fiction challenge. And to blogger Irene Waters’s Skywatch Friday post for inspiring me to dig up my picture of the dawn. Here is a flash memoir.
A College Dawn
The night already a blur: the party at Esperanza’s house; the beer and tequila; the bilingual chatter and rock music; the cousin, Hector—hot, handsome, strong—pressing me against a wall in the yard.
I should stop the car. The road through Papago Park is dark and curved, the mountains impossible to see but for the absence of stars. I nod off. Once, twice.
I crack the window. I blink, keeping my eyes closed too long. There’s a brightening in the sky. I step on it.
I arrive home with the dawn, relieved. My father will be up soon.