August 05, 2015
Those who aren't from the Southwest might wonder how Arizona folks can survive the summers with 3-4 months of sizzling heat waves and temps getting up to 115. Here are some of my favorite things about summertime in Phoenix.
1. Morning Dips in the Pool
Along with a cup of coffee, there’s nothing more refreshing in the morning then taking a dip in the pool. Where I was born in the Midwest, having a swimming pool was a luxury, but in Phoenix it’s pretty common to have a pool in your backyard - and almost a necessity to make it through the summer!
Every morning I grab my little cup of coffee and head to the pool with my towel. Even in the morning time, the sun shines hot, and the first dip into the pool cools down warm skin.
During the first froggy lap, all the muscles and joints loosen and relax in the aqua world without gravity pulling on them. Several froggy laps back and forth under the blue sky, enjoying the sunshine sparkling on top of the water (sin ropa is the best) and listening to the birds singing while your body floats in the water has got to be one of the most relaxing ways to start the day.
2. Eating Juicy Figs
Summertime is when the fig trees bear fruit, and the fig trees grow really well here in the desert. They have beautifully shaped leaves and they produce so much fruit!
There are two kinds - the green figs and the dark, wine-colored figs. Both are delicious! In my old house we had a fig tree right next to the pool, so we spent the summers swimming and reaching up while in the water to grab figs for breakfast. You wouldn’t think desert living would be so lush, right?
This summer the cutest thing happened. My oldest dog realized that figs came from trees and that she could eat them. Many times each day she would go out to check what was available at doggie eye-level, and one day I actually spied her climbing up a ladder to reach more figs!
3. Making Jasmine Magic
My other favorite plant that blooms in the summertime is the Night-Blooming Jasmine, the sambacvariety - some call it Arabian Jasmine. All the jasmines are amazing, but this one has a special place in my heart. The flowers are hardy and when you walk by the plant in the morning, evening or nighttime, you’re enveloped in a cloud of the most beautiful heady floral scent that fills up every pore of your skin with moonlit magic.
They bloom at night, so you can either pick them at night or early in the morning after they’ve had their moment to shine in the moonlight. One of my favorite things to do in the summertime mornings is pick all the jasmine flowers. If you want the plant to grow taller, you just slide the flower out of its green star-like sepals.
If you want it to produce more flowers, you pinch the pretty green star off the plant, so that it puts more energy into producing more flowers.
Jasmine flowers are edible, so they can be used for many things! You can infuse your own oil, extract, tea , ice cubes or even bake them in a cake or throw them into a smoothie. When you eat them fresh, they’re a touch bitter and they cool down the body in the summer. My favorite thing to do is make Jasmine-infused maple syrup, which I love for making Jasmine Foam Cappuccinos or Cafe con Leche with nut milks.
4. Savoring Sunsets
Sunsets in Phoenix in the summertime are extra fiery and it seems like every night there’s a good one. Each time a different array of rich, bright colors hangs around long after the sun hits the horizon.
There’s a boutique hotel in Phoenix called the Clarendon Hotel, that has a comfy sitting area and casual bar on the roof. You can head up there anytime and during the sunsets it’s a great place to be. However, in the summer, if there’s a breeze, you have to use your mental powers of relaxing your body and melting into the heat, because the breezes feel like they’re coming right out of your kitchen oven.
But! The sunsets from up there are beautiful because you can see the city and the horizon in a 360 circle around you.
5. Admiring Red Bird of Paradise Flowers
As far as I know, in the U.S., Red Bird of Paradise flowers only grow in southern Arizona. To see them elsewhere you'd have to go to Mexico or Southeast Asia or the Caribbean islands. If you come to Phoenix you might see the flashes of bright orange on the sides of the freeways, as they're commonly planted there with bougainvilleas. But from a distance you can't really tell how amazingly beautiful they are.
From up close they are like exploding fireball orchids with ruffly petals in bright yellow, orange and red, and deep, rich blue-green leaves. They are one of the only flowers that loves to bloom in the summertime. It's as if the plant eats the hot sunshine and pours the molten energy into their fiery flowers. And I'm sure it's no coincidence that this flower's quality is to spring you into action and get things done, despite wanting to take that afternoon siesta, as you're drooping and wilting in the heat.
6. Listening to Nighttime Birdsongs
I remember the first time I realized that the birds sang at night here. I thought it was the most peculiar thing! And beautiful. Mostly it’s the mockingbirds, who have about 15 different calls that they cycle through - and they’ll sing no matter how dark it is.
Usually mockingbirds travel alone, and as I listen to them go through all of their different bird calls, I can never figure out if they’re lonely and waiting for someone to respond, or if they’re just proudly showing off their skills.
7. Cherishing the Rains
When you have about 350 days of sunshine each year, there's nothing more refreshing than monsoon season. During the summer, this is when the rains come at night. Before the dense urbanization of the city, monsoon rains would come every night to cool off the desert. Mother Nature is so smart!
Now, all of the black tar in the city absorbs the heat during the day and radiates it back out at night. So monsoon rains come fewer and farther in between, but when they do pass through, the sky turns a beautiful midnight blue and the clouds roll in and bring the rains.
What are your favorite things about summer where YOU live? What are your favorite summertime rituals? Share with us in the comments!
Love + flower petals,
Photo credit: Amazing full-size sky photo by Taylor Rico.