I hadn't heard a weather forecast so expected the clouds to bring some winter rain. El Niño had been a bust so far (at least in Southern Arizona), but with any luck we were finally going to get enough precipitation to make investing in a rain gauge worthwhile. Alas, it was not to be.
The next time I looked out, a swirl of large, wind-driven snowflakes was cascading from a gray sky, giving every indication of wanting to be taken seriously. There would be no leisurely bike ride today.
It soon became obvious this was going to be a real winter storm, the kind that makes us want to curl up in front of a fire with a good book and a cup of hot chocolate.
Unlike other snow events--characterized by wimpy flakes that melt as soon as they make contact with anything warmer than an ice cube--these flakes (as large and heavy as any I'd seen growing up in New England) weren't going anywhere and were, before the day was over, meant to be reckoned with.
We weren't the only ones caught unaware. Outside our bedroom window three deer were trying to make their way to anyplace that might serve as shelter. At the risk of anthropomorphizing, they appeared to be a family: a buck with at least four-point antlers, a doe and one smaller than the other two. My husband couldn't snap pictures fast enough.
Before the snow started we had asked some neighbors to join us for Mexican food at a favorite restaurant. Maybe Lydia has a sixth sense; in any case she prevailed upon us to forgo Mexican in favor of a home-cooked meal at her house. She promised comfort food, a fitting accompaniment to the weather. All we had to do was manage to get there.
Navigating the hill in a blinding snowstorm was no easy task. The small car we were driving--more at home on city streets than on slippery slopes--threatened to careen off the road and end its vehicular life as a wreck at the foot of a mountain, not unlike those abandoned, unreachable hulks we used to see rusting away in the lower reaches of the Santa Catalina Mountains.
We all marveled as we sat by the dining room window gazing at a surreal scene for Southern Arizona: the landscape cloaked behind a gossamer of white while city lights, usually prominent in the distance, were now gone as if they'd been a mirage ready to disappear at the slightest nudge from Mother Nature.
After dinner we faced the daunting task of getting home. Our hosts had graciously provided a garage space, but we had pulled in with no thought to the fact that their garage is situated at the bottom of an incline. At least four inches of snow had accumulated and there was no way we were going to make it up the hill in our traction-challenged car.
As we were slip-sliding away, my husband came up with the belated idea of backing in so we could get a flying start. Since our car is a featherweight, with a little push from our friends we were able to maneuver it into position and gun our way up the hill, fishtailing much of the distance.
Miraculously, we made it home without plowing into a snow-laden mesquite or dropping off a cliff into an arroyo.
The next day brought snarled traffic, fender benders, school delays and a flurry of meteorologists explaining the mysteries of weather patterns. It also brought an e-mail from my daughter heavy with exclamation marks: Tucson made national news! I wish I were there! You are so lucky! It's so beautiful!
Tuesday brought serious melting and an occasional THUNK as snow slipped off the roof to crash onto the front deck. The north slopes clung to their diminishing patches of white, but it was only a matter of time and temperature.
The buck also showed up Tuesday, making his way across the hillside into the wash. I didn't see the rest of the family, but I imagine they were waiting on the other side of the ridge. At least I hope so.