Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category

Maybe what makes snow so special for me is that we don’t get it very often in the desert. New Year’s Day we walked out to a winter wonderland, totally unexpected but a welcome change. Our dogs, Tito and Lalo, ran around and reveled in it much like kids would do. Seeing the white stuff on the cactus lifted my spirits and I enjoyed sprinting after the dogs. Lalo is a black malte-poo so when we came in the house, his face was white from sticking his nose into the snow. Tito, is white, so it didn’t show up on him.

By noon, the sun had melted all of it. The only evidence left was the dripping off from the roof. Our house has a flat roof so it must have collected a couple of inches of snow. All our garden plants were well watered. As much as I like the snow, I don’t like the cold that comes with it. Several years ago, we went to Minneapolis for a family reunion at Thanksgiving. It snowed and desert dweller that I am, I froze. A couple of years ago, we went to Boston so I could attend a writing conference. It snowed. Even with a heavy coat, boots, gloves, scarf, and hat, I froze. I’m not used to the cold.

Living at the base of Mount Lemon, we can go up the mountain whenever it snows. We rarely do so. Instead, I’d rather appreciate it when it snows on the desert.

Snow on cactus


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How Rude

Three and half-year-old granddaughter Kayla is an avid fan of reruns of the old TV series “Full House.” It was a favorite of her grandfather’s and mine when it originated. Kayla is a lover of words and expressions that appeal to her, so it comes as no surprise that she’s adopted Stephanie’s frequent saying of “how rude” into her ever-increasing vocabulary. Kayla knows how and when to apply the expressions she picks up.

Recently when we went up Mount Lemon for a brief vacation in a cabin in Summerhaven, we stopped at one of the popular points that looks out over Tucson. When we got out of the truck, and started to walk to the point, we had to make sure we didn’t step on dog droppings.

I said, “It’s good that people bring their dogs to enjoy nature, but it’s unfortunate that they neglect to pick up their poop.”

“How rude!” Kayla said.

We continued walking out to the point and found huge rock formations defaced with graffiti. I commented on how people couldn’t enjoy nature without messing it up for other people.

“How rude!” Kayla said.

The next day, we went for a walk in one of the Coronado National Forest picnic areas. It was the day after Labor Day and the picnic areas looked like disaster areas littered with the disposable debris of people’s picnics. One table not even twenty feet from a trash can still held used paper plates, balled up paper napkins, bunched up aluminum cans, and plastic forks. There were even lemon rinds and dried up strawberries.

“The people couldn’t even bother to pick up their trash and throw it away.” I said.

“How rude!” Kayla said.

It made me think about how inconsiderate people have become, how rude, how uncaring about other people. What happened to the values I grew up with, the values I taught my children, my students? The code of behavior that made us ensure that whenever we were using or enjoying something, whether it was a borrowed item or a picnic in a park, we returned it or left it in the condition in which we found it. We had expectations that others felt the same way that we did and that we would find things like picnic areas in a usable condition.

It’s annoying and sad that this is no longer true. It seems that many in our country have become people who look out only for their own needs and comforts and don’t think about others, whether it’s the people who come after them to enjoy the park or the people who have to clean up their mess.


Elena Díaz Bjorkquist ©September 2, 2014




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Spring Gardening

Spring is the perfect time for catching up on gardening before it gets too hot in the desert. The only problem is that as a supposedly “reformed” workaholic, I tend to stay out longer than I should and tire myself out. This morning I re-potted a huge crown of thorns (and let me tell you, it does have thorns!) into a larger pot, I weeded the path near the pool, I watered the roses after I fertilized them, cleaned the outdoor shower area, watered the pool portal plants and set out the geranium pots after retrieving them from under the frost protection. It seems once I get into doing something, I lose all track of time. Before I knew it, it was lunch time.

I had a late start, however. Little Lalo woke me up at 3:00 with his howling like the coyotes. I rolled over and fell back to sleep with a new poem in my head. Fortunately it was still there when I woke up later than I usually do at 6:00. It seems that Spring is a good time for me to write. Once I tell myself that I’ll be writing this month, the words flow unbidden. Maybe it’s like they’ve been germinating all winter and now they can spring forth.

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I can’t believe how much the cost of hosting a website has increased. I got my website  and one for Sowing the Seeds, my writing group, two years ago and paid $72 per each for two years. Now they want $135 for one year. I realize the first price was a come-on, just to get people started but I have a choice not to continue. So. . .I’m back on WordPress for both sites.

I’ve been spending more time on Facebook than on my website but now I will keep this site updated and upload the link to FB. This new year is already into April and soon it will be half gone. So many good and bad things have happened in my life the past three months, mostly ones I wish hadn’t happened.

It started in early January with a mini-stroke that led to a round of expensive testing that showed I’d had one but that no damage was done. The docs increased my meds in hopes I won’t have another more serious one. My youngest brother died in late January, alone in his home. No one had heard from him in a couple of days so his church friends went to his house and found his car in the driveway. I’m still grieving his loss and the wound is opened each time we go to his house to clear out his belongings.

At the end of February, our little clan of Bj’s joined us to help celebrate our 50th anniversary! The years went by so fast, it still doesn’t feel like 50 years but the faces around our redwood slab table told me it was true. We even have a great-granddaughter!

April is here and it brings Spring to the desert! We have a hummingbird nesting in the garage. She’s a harbinger of good fortune. We’re waiting for the eggs to hatch so we’ll have three hummers blessing us!


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Desert path

The past couple of weeks I’ve been making trails in our two acres of Sonoran desert. It involves a pickax and a leaf rake—the former to dig out the noxious weeds that make the “velcro” seeds that cling to the dog’s coats and my socks and the latter to shape the trails. The pickax weighs 2.5 pounds according to the stamped number on it but it’s the right size for me. When it feels like I’m slinging a 20 pounder, then I know it’s quitting time.

I’ve been a trailblazer most of my life ever since my childhood in Morenci. My brother and I played with his toy cars and my favorite part was making the roads that we “drove” them on. Our deal was that I would play cars with him during the day and he would play dolls with me in the evening. I never told him that I loved playing in the dirt making roads even more than I liked playing with dolls.

Trailblazing was in my genes. The miners built their houses in Morenci on mountains so there were no sidewalks or streets to get us from one house to another. Instead, there were little trails, well-worn dirt paths that led to places people frequented. To go from our house to my grandmother’s house, we went on the same path each time. Our family trail intersected with others that led to friend’s houses. I don’t think someone carved the trails with rakes, they just formed from years and years of people walking the same paths until they were well-defined.

I stopped playing with dolls a long time ago, but I never stopped making trails. My first house after I married Kurt was a rental on a farm in Northern California. We lived there a year and I enjoyed planting a garden and making paths to get to and from the house. When we bought our first house in San Jose, I landscaped the lot. I dug the dirt, planted trees, bushes, flowers, veggies, and helped my husband lay brick for a patio. Even though it was in the suburbs and not a big yard, it allowed me to use my passion for moving dirt. Yes, I admit that is the appeal of making trails. Moving dirt and leaving my imprint on it.

Our next house had a bigger yard and again, I was able to landscape it myself. New houses in the suburbs have the advantage of bare earth to start with. I went all out with my trailblazing skills to connect the various sections of the yard. When we moved to Petaluma to a five-acre farm, I was in seventh heaven! Finally I had lots of land to make trails and plant gardens. Having a large expanse of dirt to work with, I could think in large terms about where the trails led to, how I could curve them so that vistas would come as surprises when you followed the trail.

We later moved to 40 acres in the Mendocino County redwoods and that’s where my trailblazing hit its peak! I landscaped two and a half acres around the house with paths, veggie garden, berry patch, flowerbeds, orchard, vineyard, and even a lawn. I worked on paths leading to our large pond in the lower 40 where I put in a trail around the pond. Another trail led to the upper pond and little trails led to secret forest glens where I could sit and enjoy nature.

Another of my passions connected with the trail blazing is pruning. Trailblazing in the woods involves pruning trees. The thing about pruning trees is that they don’t stay pruned so it’s a yearly job to make sure there are no over-hanging branches to disrupt smooth passage.

My trailblazing on this piece of desert I now call home was on hiatus for a few years because of health problems, but this Spring, I resumed my passion. Areas that I’d cleared and made paths through were overgrown. The desert has its own idea about planting trees and cacti, especially the ocotillo. Ocotillo branchlets “jump” and plant themselves where they want, including the top of your head if you’re not careful. Not one to cut down a mature ocotillo or even a baby one, I choose instead to curve a path around them. The land, palo verde trees, mesquites, saguaros, and cactus determine my landscaping and so my trails have a natural look to them.

In a way, my approach to the desert is reflective of where my head is at now. I pay more attention to everything around me, disturb living things as little as possible, and create areas where I can sit and enjoy everything around me—plants, birds, lizards, and even the huge black snake that crossed my path yesterday.

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Today’s the Day!

I’m excited to be receiving the Arizona Humanities Council Dan Schilling Humanities Scholar award this evening! Kurt and I are picking up Linda (who nominated me) and traveling up to Tempe from Tucson. We’ll be meeting our son, Adam and attending the reception for Rita Dove and the award winners before Rita’s lecture.  I’m looking forward to meeting Rita, a Pulitzer Prize Winner and Poet Laureate. What a great honor to share with my loved ones!

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Diabetes Diagnosis

Maybe I was in denial or delusional a month ago when my endocrinologist told me I was prediabetic. I immediately went on a low carb diet, started an exercise program and figured that when I went to the lab for my A1C blood test, it would be normal. Ha! I was still in denial when the test showed I was diabetic. I had lost weight was counting carbs and everything I ate and walking as far as I could, how could I now be diabetic?

I increased the Metformin per the doctor’s orders, stepped up my exercise, and met with a diabetes educator. That didn’t open my eyes. I am eating the right foods, exercising regularly, losing weight, taking my meds. I should be over this diabetes thing soon. Right? Wrong! I went to my first diabetes education and learned that it’s a disease that will be with me for life. It’s controllable but not curable—at least not yet. Not that I’m holding my breath waiting for a cure. I will be on the meds and will have to continue the life style changes I’ve already made for life.

I left the class,  devastated. I drove home in tears with images of my tías who had amputations, and were legally blind, and a cousin who was on dialysis for seven years before having a kidney transplant. I thought of my brother who was diagnosed a few years ago and didn’t heed the doctor’s advice for the life style changes. He is now on insulin and has kidney problems. Is this the fate that awaited me?

NO! I had not let Valley Fever or fibromyalgia or sciatica or breast cancer defeat me. Diabetes would not either. I was given a plan and I swore to follow it. If it means pricking a finger daily to measure my glucose, then I will do it. If it means taking Metformin regularly, I’ll do it. If I have to count carbs, then I’ll do it. If I have to exercise regularly, I’m there. I will do whatever I have to so I don’t wind up like my tías, my prima, or my brother. Diabetes is manageable and I’m the only one that can manage it.

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