And then Buckley and I started walking.

We started our treks after moving downtown in January, and we were in heaven: cool mornings, sunny skies, friendly neighbors.

From the window of a car, zipping by at 35 — okay, 45 — miles per hour, Phoenix is brown and boring. At a dog's pace, Phoenix is actually a hoot. We got to know the transients at Margaret T. Hance Park by name. We trotted around the little shops on Roosevelt and peeked through the fence at the Japanese Friendship Garden. We chased feral cats through trash-strewn alleys.

You don't understand how hot Phoenix is until you have a dog.
courtesy of Jen's Pet Sitting
You don't understand how hot Phoenix is until you have a dog.

Winter became spring, and we slowed down a bit. Buckley began insisting on regular "rest breaks" in the still-cool grass. (Frequently, we rested under the public art that my friends call "The Used Condom," at the Civic Space Park.) But we kept walking. In fact, we walked right into the hottest July on record.

And that's when something bizarre happened.

I started to like it here.

That wasn't true all the time, of course. There were days when I'd roll out of bed a bit later than planned and the sun was already scorching and there was gin coming out of my pores and I seriously thought I might drop dead, right next to the homeless guys. I'd wonder, would anyone even notice my rotting corpse? Would anyone take care of my little dog?

But then there'd be evenings when the sky was a sea of pink and the wind felt like a hair dryer on my skin instead of a freakin' curling iron. Buckley and I would be strolling along, and we'd hear the light rail ding ding ding as it trundled past — and I was suddenly truly happy to be here in this moment, to be alive and living in Phoenix in 2009.

It might have been because of War and Peace, which literally sucked up the better part of my July. Immersed in Tolstoy's epic, I was struck by how in the midst of adultery and death and the carnage of the Napoleonic Wars, the characters would occasionally step outside, take a deep breath, and notice the stars shining overhead. At that point, they'd realize that life was bigger than mankind's petty squabbles, that God is good, and that life is worth undertaking.

That's how I felt this summer, racing along with a crazy little dog in the feverish heat. Sometimes we'd be sweating and panting and we'd suddenly come upon a real, cold drinking fountain. Or we'd see the mountains off in the distance, and for a moment the heat would dissipate.

In moments like that, I would look down at Buckley's happy little face, and I was happy, too.

Summer in Phoenix is like summer nowhere else. The longest days of the year are the nastiest, not the nicest. I don't blame my neighbors for camping out in their apartments with the A/C cranked up, waiting for darkness to fall. Yet there was something great about embracing the 115-degree heat instead of hiding from it.

As a little girl in Cleveland, I used to taste the autumn chill in September mornings and think sadly about how autumn was on its way. For the first time since moving to Phoenix, I found myself feeling that way last week.

I never thought I'd say this, but I might miss summer.

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4 comments
Your Godmother
Your Godmother

So, Sarah... I have found a difference between us! I love the cold and hate the hot! I can just see you walking Buckley! This is the best human interest story your uncle has ever read. He thinks you need to be syndicated!

Sandy Gillen
Sandy Gillen

I loved the article about Buckley the Border Terrier! It described a Border to a T! I have owned and bred Border Terriers for 15 years and they are a delight. You absolutely can't stay angry about anything. They get the "zoomies"(which is running in circles with their tail tucked under them) several times a day and make you laugh. They live in the moment and love their "Person" unconditionally!

Sandy GillenHappy Hobbits Border Terriers

Katie
Katie

Hey cuz! Love the article! Buckley is way cute! Love you!

 
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