I am no longer a desert dweller! I find myself in an odd emotional state where I’m very excited about the future, but I’m also a little sad that I no longer live in the southwestern US. I’ve spent my entire life living in and thoroughly exploring Arizona and Colorado, and now I’m living somewhere completely different for the first time in my life. Don’t get me wrong. There are new things to explore and new adventures to be had in North Carolina and I’m thrilled to be here. But there are things I’m going to miss to miss about living and working in the southwest too. These include:
The Sky Islands
The mountains in Arizona are so beautiful! They swell up out of the valley floor at various intervals, breaking up what would otherwise be monotonous, flat land. They form little islands of tall montane habitats separated by wide areas of desert, so there are a lot of species found only in one mountain range and nowhere else. The mountains are full of trees and cool water. I was always so happy when I escaped the heat of the desert summers by going to the mountains! I don’t have mountains in my new home. Hills, yes, but no mountains. After spending my entire life in the Sky Islands or the Colorado Rockies, it’s strange to think I have to drive more than 30 minutes to get to the mountains now. Not necessarily bad, just strange.
I consider myself lucky that I grew up and worked around these iconic cacti. I absolutely love them. What bizarre, beautiful, and amazing plants!
Water in the southwest is a special thing. There are all sorts of streams and rivers. Flash floods are rather common and are major, earth moving events that can change the course of rivers and streams permanently. The streams have some unusual insects that do strange things, so they’re great places to work if you’re into aquatic insects like me. Southwestern streams and rivers can be absolutely tiny too! I can jump across many of them with little effort. I am very excited about seeing and working in the big rivers in my new home (I live less than a quarter-mile from one!), but I’m going to miss the little guys in Arizona too. I had a lot of good times playing and working in those tiny trickles of water.
It’s hot in Arizona, but it’s bearable because it’s incredibly dry. Relative humidities of less than 10% are common during the summer before the monsoons begin. However, dry air also means you can also see for miles and see bright, brilliant blue skies. I adore trees and I’m enjoying seeing trees that have standard bright green leaves that turn colors in the fall, trees that grow to more than 15 feet tall. Humidity makes those possible. But, it also cuts down on my visibility and the brightness of the sky. The violent storms you get in the southwest have largely been replaced with more sedate, well-behaved storms too. I can definitely live with that, but it’s very different from living in the high plains of Colorado or the Sonoran Desert where weather is extreme and the skies are the most brilliant blue you can imagine.
The Insects (Of course!)
Oh how I love southern Arizona’s insects! Colorado has some great insects too, but Arizona’s insects are special. There are many species of native bees buzzing around, crazy ant species crawling along the sidewalks, giant monstrous bugs and beetles, showy things that collectors covet throughout the world. It’s just not the same to start summer without my June bugs and the palo verde beetles! Granted, I’ve swapped out my June bug for one in the same genus that’s the same color, so that’s great. I am thrilled that there are fireflies here and I have so many new species to learn and explore. But, I didn’t see a single palo verde beetle this summer. I really love those guys and it just doesn’t feel quite like summer without giant angry beetles swerving around the night sky. Thankfully there were some large, surly beetles at BugShot so I was able to get my fix. :)
Ah, the southwest! What a fantastic place. I love where I am now and I’m very happy in North Carolina. Still, no matter how long I’m away, I think the southwest is always going to feel like home and I’m looking forward to going back to visit.