Jane McCutchen took this photo two years ago from her backyard in northwest Tucson. She calls it "Monsoon."


The four seasons of Tucson are a bit different from New York or most places I've lived. Here in the Southwest we experience a different climatic lifestyle. Here's how I see it.

Snowbird season

This is the season when full-time residents complain about traffic. After living in Southern California, I find it hard to believe that a 10-minute delay on North Oracle Road constitutes a "traffic jam." A traffic jam occurs when you get on the freeway in Pasadena to drive to Santa Monica, normally a 30-minute drive. You spend two-and-a-half hours getting there, culminating in a three-hour drive home.

In Tucson, year-round residents complain that restaurants are crowded. Many fail to acknowledge that the "snowbirds" filling these eateries keep many retailers in business. Without winter vacationers, we wouldn't have so many restaurants.

An added attraction during snowbird season is the abundance of craft shows. I can't place one more windchime on my tree without it toppling.

Reptile season

I'd wager this season is more exciting than the Antarctic during its spring. Instead of seeing glaciers calving or penguins mating, we get to observe diverse reptiles. People tell tall tales about the snakes they've seen or caught.

I've heard people talk about running over a snake and I've seen them when I walk my dogs. This sport has no appeal for me. I leave these creatures in peace. Recently I noticed a snake sunning on the wall in my backyard. Its head was leaning on the wall with the rest of its body in the grapefruit tree. It looked like it was smiling.

Not wanting my dogs to attack it, I got the broom to chase it away. When it jumped off the wall, I realized the snake had to be five or six feet long. It was beautiful. Someone told me it was a vine snake. Later I wondered if the snake would behave like a boa and wrap itself around my neck.

Gila monsters are absolutely gorgeous. One day I saw one slowly creeping across the yard toward my neighbor's house. Unafraid, I ran outside to tiptoe behind it. I know that little guy knew I was behind him but he was a cool dude. Resisting the impulse to pick him up and make friends, I let this prehistoric-looking creature go on his way. I found out later that a bite from a Gila is painful and poisonous.

Monsoon season

When I heard about the monsoon season and how dangerous it could be, I imagined India where it rains for 40 days and nights. Would my house be flooded? Would I need a new roof? Should I start building an ark? I almost bought a new raincoat and umbrella. Alas, when the rain came (twice last summer, as I recall) it was a disappointment.

My plants and I were dismayed by the lack of moisture. My diehard desert-dweller friends assure me all of this can change. We'll see.


This season separates the men from the boys. By that I mean the men who are willing to play golf in this heat. If only someone would invent an air-conditioned, lightweight suit of clothing so a person could play 18 holes without wishing they'd collapse on the fifth or sixth hole so they'd be taken off the golf course in an air-conditioned ambulance.

The summer is split into four segments: hot, hotter, sweltering and unbearable. This is truly a test of your air-conditioning system. My advice is to embrace the heat in a spiritual sense. I don't mean stretch out across your driveway and pray for deliverance of cooler weather. Just drink lots of water, or some other liquid of your choice, while you stay inside to meditate about the coming rain and the cool shopping days ahead.

Smile when you realize that in February you'll be out on the golf course instead of clearing snow with your snowplow.

Email Alexis Powers at northwest@azstarnet.com