• Steve

Sah-wah-row, Choy-ya and Oak-ah-tea-oh

Updated: Dec 27, 2019

Mary Anne and I left Seattle just ahead of what came to be described as the "fourth-wettest 48 hours on record". When you're talking about rain and Seattle, that's saying something. But this was a couple of days in the future when we touched down at Sky Harbor airport in Phoenix for a pre-Christmas week in the sun.

We returned with joy to the Scottsdale condo generously lent to us by our Portland friends Wayne and Jane. We love the area for it's hiking, restaurants, and many interesting attractions. Though the list of places I'd send a visitor is long, I want to particularly mention the Musical Instrument Museum (one of my favorite places to spend a day), the Desert Botanical Gardens and Taliesin West, western home of Frank Lloyd-Wright.

I'm conflicted when I visit Phoenix. The folks are friendly, helpful and generally pleasant to be around. But they make stupid, sometimes brutally cruel political choices. I'm lookin' at you, Barry Goldwater and Joe Apairo. I won't dwell on this beyond saying that it creates dissonance - nice folks doing environmentally, politically and sometimes morally destructive things.

But enough of that, we came to walk the desert trails and return to a great holiday event, Las Noches de las Luminarias.

Walking in the desert is a lot like visiting the Australian Outback. At first, it seems like there's nothing much to see. But it grows on you and you begin to appreciate the subtle changes as you move across the land; a change in the color or texture of the soil, patterns in the often-dry stream beds, different kinds of cactus.

A word about cacti. They all have pointy things that are best left alone.

But this guy is special. Known as the Jumping Cholla, it drops cute little balls onto the ground. Touch one, and its long, springy spines will make it seem to "jump" onto your hand, where it will firmly attach itself in a dozen or more (painful) places. Sadly, I speak from experience.

I mentioned Las Noches. This is an annual event held in December at the Desert Botanical Garden. Visitors arrive at dusk to find the garden trails lined with luminarias - a paper bag with a candle inside. I believe the ones at the event are now some kind of fireproof plastic. But they still have individually-lighted candles. It must be a huge undertaking every afternoon to light all of them.

A different artist is invited every year to contribute to the event. This time it was an Italian art collective that brought large, lighted, plastic animals. (The glass cacti, by Seattle's own Dale Chihuly, have been in the gardens for several years).

But it's not all cacti and plastic bunnies. There's music and drink - and lots of both. There are at least a half-dozen musical performances going on at once - everything from bell-ringers to jazz to world music to rock to whatever. Here are a few that we saw this year.

Look like fun? Why not come to Phoenix and discover your own favorites.

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