When we first moved here, it was the middle of a blazing-hot Arizona summer. I laughed as we crossed a bridge with a caution sign that read, “Ice Forms First on Bridge” and the thermometer was sizzling in the triple digits. I thought the road crew was crazy. Ice on the bridge would have been a welcome sight!
As we wound our way up to our new home, wavy heat shimmers radiated off the asphalt street. There were no spreading mesquite trees to block the sun’s light or provide shade. Just one pink-toned stucco track house after another baking sparkles in the Arizona sun.
Inside our home, postal wrapping paper partly decorated the windows Hubby could cover before I arrived with my Mom. The boys, who had traveled to their new address on an earlier moving trip, were tumbling down the stairs in giant cardboard boxes. And the air-conditioning insulated us from the scorching temperatures. We collapsed in sofas and chairs, soaking in the refreshing cooler temp, assessing our most important next chore, and staring in utter amazement at the boxes stacked like building block towers atop the white, kitchen tile counters. I worried they would weaken the tile overhang on the breakfast bar area and kitchen island. But the first chore would be postal wrapping more of the windows for privacy.
We stretched the brown paper make-shift curtain about two-thirds of the way up the windows, leaving an opening to the Arizona sky, sun, heat, moon and stars. While the heat baked our bedrooms in the daytime, and awakened us with the chickens each morning, this one-third opening held breathtaking views as the gentler evening sun sank in the West.
Colors from an artist’s pallet streaked across the the celestial canopy in hues from baby blue and pink to burnt orange and crimson red. Someone in the house would catch the first glimpse peeking above the paper curtain and call everyone else to the window. There we would stand, mouth agape, filled with awe, entranced by the beauty drifting across the sky. There, looking in wonder at God’s artistry, I found joy in a land that had seemed hostile, that made me bristle like its native cacti, that left me dry and hungering for all I had left behind.
These moments became a regular evening occurrence during the summer months when everything else about the desert blistered our sensitivities. Someone would be looking for the spectacular in the heavens and would notify the rest of us. Born of beautiful repetition, these events became known as “Sunset Alerts”. Just two words was all it took to tip the house to the west as we all ran toward the magnificent view outside our windows.
For years, this lived as a summer ritual for our family, even after we peeled off the postal wrap and enclosed ourselves behind wood blinds and Plantation Shudders. Then Mom became ill, not able to move as quickly, and some of the zest whooshed out of our “Sunset Alerts.” Life became more routine, focused around care for the family, getting dinner on the table, making sure homework was done, checking that Mom had taken her medicine, and eventually tucking all into bed. Occasionally, someone’s eyes would drift upward through an open window and note the painted sky.
It was just this summer with new camera in hand and a blog to publish our discoveries that “Sunset Alerts” became the evening’s highlight. The desert joy that we once experienced was renewed, and we could not take our eyes off the heavens.
May our summer repertoire bring you as much joy as it has brought us.
“May his name endure forever; may it continue as long as the sun.” Psalm 72:17 NIV
In what difficult situation have you found joy?