Here’s to Spring

The first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is another.
The difference between them is sometimes as great as a month.
Fisherman’s Luck by Henry Van Dyke

Yellow tulips. Photo: Paula Nixon

Yellow tulips.
Photo: Paula Nixon

I just returned from a short trip to California and Nevada where spring is not holding back.  In Los Angeles hibiscus, azaleas, and birds of paradise were in full bloom; mounds of scarlet bougainvillea, visible from the freeway, decorated the hillsides.  On a morning walk in Boulder City, red roses spilling over onto the sidewalk tempted me to stop.

Back in Santa Fe, the arrival of spring is more cautious.  The willows are decked out in bright green and tiny purple crocus poke their heads up out of last fall’s leaf litter, but the robins, now visiting my birdbath daily, sometimes find a layer of ice if they show up too early.  After nearly twenty springs in northern New Mexico I would be more surprised than not if it didn’t snow another time or two.

But the countdown is on.  With each passing day there is a minute or two more of sunlight. Another tree unfurls its leaves and within weeks I’ll fill the glass feeder with sugar water to welcome back the hummingbirds.


Weekend in the Desert


Photo Credit:  Riviera by James Marvin Phelps

I first visited Nevada on a family vacation when I was a kid.  After spending a July night in the Mojave Desert  camping out at Lake Mead, we were all ready to check-in at a motel with a swimming pool on the Las Vegas Strip next door to the Riviera.  We were wowed by the lights and Englebert Humperdinck’s name on the marquee next door..

Last weekend my husband, Dave,  and I visited Las Vegas to see family and to take in a show.  The temperature hovered at about 100 degrees, dipping below 80 degrees at night, amazingly pleasant.  Last month National Public Radio (NPR) did a story about people who visit nearby Death Valley in the middle of the summer to feel some of the hottest temperatures in the world.  I wasn’t up for that, but did want to experience the Mojave in some small way.

As we climbed the steep driveway to my in-laws’ house in Boulder City, I noticed bushes with little “cotton balls” on them.  My mother-in-law, Mary, told me they were creosotes bushes that bloom yellow in the spring.  I have been visiting her at this house for more than twenty years and had never noticed them.  I went back outside and broke off a piece of one to take a closer look.

Creosote Closeup

Creosote bushes (Larrea tridentata) are the most common perennial in this part of Nevada.  Real drought survivors, these along the driveway thrive on six-inches or less of rainfall a year.  My little sample is all dried out after a week in a plastic bag, but it still has the distinctive smell of camphor that is especially noticeable when it is wet–in the the desert they call it “the smell of rain”.