Preparations for our move are creating changes in every one's routine. Shane woke Saturday at 5 a.m. He generally gets up early to explore his television shows or play PS2. He usually has the apartment to himself so he can do things he enjoys without having to compete with his sisters. He initially crawled into bed with me complaining he was cold in his bed. I was awake then.
I got up and went outside to see if the sky was clear. I decided to go over to South Mountain park to greet the rising sun and offered to bring Shane along. He first agreed to come then realizing he could have the morning do whatever he wanted, he declined. I set off for the park on the 202, banked onto the I 10, exited at Baseline, drove to Central and headed up the mountain. The entire drive I could look east and see the sky lighten up gradually. The road up the mountain is about 6 miles with several switchbacks and a few overhanging turns weakly protected by guard rails. I wanted to go faster as the brighter clouds in the east suggested the sun would be creeping over the horizon shortly. The darkness of the road with signs every 500 yards announcing dangers and recommended speeds of 15 mph reigned in my speed. The blueing east sky nagged me on creating the sense I would miss the more fascinating colors of the sunrise. I drove a little faster on the straight sections pushing a daring 25 mph at one point, scared myself and slowed back down. I could also miss the sunrise if I drove over the edge of the road.
I arrived at the summit to a grey blue in the eastern sky, distinct smudges of clouds marking up the brightening sky. I walked around taking pictures as the maintenance crew emptied trash cans and cleaned the septic system in the bathroom at the edge of the parking lot. This created a conflict of senses as there was a great visual show starting in the east but if the wind shifted right or I crossed the wrong path the air smelled of sewage. These smells may have worked their way into the photos taken on top of the mountain as my vision blurred a couple of times.
A family had gathered at one of the overlook platforms. Two women, two men and three children stood facing the sunrise. The oldest male had a long hooded robe. They spoke a foreign tongue only not Spanish. I greeted them as I passed and went to the other side of the park. They nodded and returned my good morning. As the first golden ray broke the horizon the man in the robe put a spiral shaped brown horn to his lips and blew a long note rising and falling in pitch. The horn looked like it had been on the head of an animal at one time. He made this note two or three times as the group stood with outstretched arms to the east, heads bowed, eyes closed. I watched briefly and resumed my exploration of the area, snapping more photos of the spreading pinks, yellows and blues. The sun completed its rise becoming a full round medallion of gold in the sky and I heard the horn sound again. I looked over and the group stood with raised arms and bowed heads toward the east for a few minutes then they stood talking for a few minutes more and returned to their cars driving off down the mountain.
I found a trail and hiked out for another hour. The landscape changed with every minute the sun climbed higher in the sky. The cactus flowers are all beginning to bloom. A Hummingbird came to feed out of an ocotillo cactus flower. The quail were busy walking around in the sand until I approached scattering them in a cacophony of madly fluttered wings and trilling chirps. The views from the top of the mountain were impressive with the valley spreading out for miles below. I cold see the city of Phoenix to the north, the Estrella Mountains to the west and Chandler and Tempe to the east. The temperature was cool making for a pleasant hike.
I slipped at one point extending my arm to catch myself. I planted my hand in the sand near a cholla cactus and was punished with a line of small needles in my forearm. I plucked them out and wandered back to the car.
We spent the afternoon with my coworkers from the Ak Chin clinic. I had spent about three months in the little clinic and had become friends with the staff there. We had been a tight little crew of four who worked the needs of the Ak Chin community pretty well. It was bittersweet to have time with them outside of work knowing it would be our last weekend here. The meal was a Samoan BBQ of chicken and ribs soaked in a soy based sauce all night and grilled over a fire. The host of the party was the clinic's secretary, a Pima, who grew up in the area and lived in the home her parents had owned. Her husband, a Samoan, prepared the food with the help of their daughters. It was a feast. We were entertained with stories of Samoan life and challenges we faced at the clinic.
The medical assistant at the clinic was Mexican. She and her husband told stories of her father and grandparents who still resided in Mexico. In Mexico her grandmother lived with no running water, a small propane powered refrigerator, a wood fired water heater, and land still worked with mules for farming. Recently our medical assistant's uncles were missing then found deceased by the side of the road. A reminder of how difficult things had gotten in the area. She often worried for her father as he continued to travel to a ranch he owned there. His visits to the ranch required him to drive through the rougher parts of Mexico, where known drug related violence was raging out of control.
We drove from there to Coolidge where the Casa Grande ruins stand. This was an area where the Hohokam Indians had built a community with the main large adobe structure still relatively intact. The museum described the life of the Hohokam in the area 1000 years ago. The displays suggested ancient herbal and traditional treatments used many years ago by this community. I recognized some of these treatments as they were still being used by members of this native community today
We went home to find friends in the swimming pool. Shane and Sophia suited up and spent the rest of the day in the pool. Traci went to spend her last over night with Lisa. Savannah spent the entire weekend at a Girl Scout camp near Prescott. We have missed her.