Glass cottage

 Tucson has managed to retain its historic roots, despite rampant growth. One of the city’s cultural traditions is the urge to put a guest house out back. 

The guest house is for visiting relatives. But the relatives rarely show up, so in this day of person-to-person internet marketing, the owners put the cottage online in hopes of getting a little rent from their back yard boondoggle. 

That is where northerners like me swoop in to scoop up tremendous deals––that is if you want to live in somebody’s back yard for the winter. 

This year, I hit the jackpot, a little two-room cottage in the 3-acre yard of a lawyer so busy running around the world lawyering that he won’t be home for the entire winter. 

Not that I’d mind meeting the man, but the privacy of being at the end of a gravel road means the only crunching of an approaching vehicle on the rocky gravel I have heard thus far has been the UPS man with a package. 

That’s about right. 

The cottage was designed, not to house visiting relatives, but as a writer’s retreat for the owner, who also publishes academic legal books. 

The cottage is made of glass, and I am its first winter-time renter. 

The two rooms are separate. You must walk outside to travel between them, hardly an onerous task in sunny Tucson.


The bedroom is a pie-shaped room pointed towards the Catalina mountains to the east. The kitchen is another pie-shaped room which faces the Tucson mountains to the west. 

And that’s it. 

Floor-to-ceiling glass with no curtains makes the bedroom a mountain panorama, which troubles the majority of humans who prefer to sleep in a cave. 

I would prefer to sleep under the stars but in a comfortable bed. Here, I have the next best thing. 

Despite my quest for isolation, I immediately walked over to meet the next-door neighbors, a delightful couple who once owned the entire 40-acre plot.

They warned me, with a little smile, not to leave any rare steaks on the back porch as there is a mountain lion in the neighborhood. 

Almost every morning, coyotes amble through the yard. At night, I can hear the little desert pigs, javelina, snorting around the yard.

Cute? Yes, but the javelina, with their tusks, are not to be petted. Just before I arrived, one inflicted a $200 veterinary bill, all in stitches, on a local dog. 

The rattlesnakes are in hibernation, but a harmless little lizard, a skink, darts around the yard during the heat of the day.

Two screech owls inhabit the exterior alcoves of the lawyer’s house. Burrowing owls apparently scurry around the desert floor, although I haven’t seen them, and Great Horned owls swoop down from the mountains during the night to snap up rodents on the desert floor. 

A second neighbor went outside to barbecue a few weeks ago had the feeling she was being watched. Eventually, she found the source of her anxiety: A bobcat was stretched out on the adobe fence under a tree scrutinizing her every move. 

She went about her work, but the bobcat was only feet from the BBQ and wouldn’t budge. So, she made a move to start the gadget, when she felt another set of eyes. 

She looked up. In the tree right above her was a baby bobcat. End of BBQ. The woman scurried indoors. You don’t want to get to close to mama bobcat’s offspring. 

Although I missed the holy and sacred deer hunting holiday back in Minnesota, hunters will note that two mule deer bedded down a few feet from the cottage three nights ago. 

It is not deer season here, so I didn’t shoot them.

My only complaint remains that Tucson song-birds continue to reject my offerings of feed. While the neighbors draw crowds of finches, my feeder hangs in abandoned silence.

Thinking the seed might be old, I dumped it out on the desert floor, where it was snapped up by Gambel’s quail, and refilled the feeder with a new mix. 

Five days later, nothing. At a neighborhood gathering this past weekend, I compared notes. I am doing nothing wrong, according to local experts, but the birds are apparently shunning me as a form of initiation. 

Or maybe its all the glass, which throw rainbows all over the yard during the day. The glints of scattered sunshine must scare away the skittish finches. 

So, I’ll have to be content with the cactus wren which is building a nest in a prickly cholla ten feet from the bedroom windows. 

You can’t have it all.