While the East is buckling down for rain, mud, snow and general grumbling, here in the Southwest, we are welcoming back our snowbirds–people who live here to avoid the winter in other parts of the country.
Families feel the rise in house guests starting in September and peaking around February. I love showing people the area, but for the sanity of all, let’s just review some facts:
1. We do have seasons. We love the weather, that’s why we live here. But we also have searing summers where the temperatures go over 115 and the air-conditioning bill is often over $400. That’s the price we pay for not having snow. It does balance out. The apple you leave in the car in the morning is a baked apple when you come back. So let’s not rush to judgment that we have “no worries.” We have to paint our house trim, replace outdoor furniture and struggle with pool chemistry instead of shoveling snow.
2. We don’t have drifting sand dunes. The Phoenix area is in the Sonoran Desert. This is not to be confused with the Sahara. It’s a different kind of desert. Phoenix is surrounded by mountains, and we don’t have sand dunes and drifts. We have lots of small granite rocks. This area was formed by volcanic action millions of years ago. The vegetation is scrub-trees: acacia, blue and green palo verde, desert willow. Yes, we have trees.
3. All of Arizona is not Sonoran desert. Less than half the state is desert. The rest of it, from about 100 miles North of Phoenix to the border, is mountainous. That area gets snow. People ski at Arizona ski areas. There are more Ponderosa Pines in that area of Arizona than in the entire state of Maine. The road to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is often closed with snow drifts between November and May. If you visit Sedona in March, bring a coat and gloves.
4. Yes, the Grand Canyon is in Arizona. Even if the Colorado River made it, it’s still in Arizona.
5. There are many different kinds of Indians in this area. And they prefer to be called Indians, not Native Americans. They do not live in teepees, they live in houses. They do not wear feather war bonnets, those are the Plains Indians. Each tribe has different customs and a different language. Apaches did not speak Navajo. The Hopi and Navajo share some words, but the same word often has different meanings. “Pretty woman” in one language means “meat” in another. You can’t sling your words around haphazardly.
That covers a few misconceptions about the area. Now, how to get invited back as a house guest:
1. Ask before you come. Be honest about how long you want to stay, and let your host guide you. Last year, I actually took one house guest to the airport and swung around to the next terminal to pick up the nest one.
2. You are on vacation. Your host is not. Please do not expect your host to take time off work and create the perfect vacation for you. Plan what you want to do, rent a car, and be independent. Even if we work at home, we still have to work. Every day.
3. Adjust your morning routine to your host’s schedule. You might rise and shine and want to chat and eat a big breakfast, but if your host has an early meeting, stay in your bedroom till the house is empty. Listen very carefully for hints about the routine.
4. If you are a high-maintenance person (you know who you are), please stay in a hotel. The people you are visiting have a busy life and need to keep living it while you are there. If you need special medicines, certain times you must do certain things, have many food allergies, pet dislikes, and schedules with odd times, don’t inflict them on your host. Be your high-maintenance self in a place that will cater to your whims. That place is called a hotel, not the house of your host.
5. You do not have to bring a hostess gift. Really, we don’t mind. Particularly if it requires dusting. Taking us out to supper is a much better idea. We really love that, and it always matches.
6. On your last night, ask what to do with the linens. Some people want them in the hamper, some in the washing machine. My last guest made up the bed back into a futon and I had to unfold and unmake it before I dashed off to pick up the next guest.
We love guests, and we love showing off our beautiful scenery. A guest who helps out and is funny is a guest who will be welcomed back with open futon!
–Quinn McDonald is looking forward to her passel of house guests. She is a life- and certified creativity coach. She teaches people how to write and give presentations. She also teaches people who can’t draw how to keep an art journal.