Sunday, February 22, 2009
I'm admiring my yard, which is progressing from overgrown to well-groomed. I hear children playing in the yard next door, and another neighbor is mowing his lawn. I smell the dirt, like its been kicked up and sprayed into the air. I don't mind the dirty smell though, and sometimes when my cat comes inside at night I stuff my nose in his fur and breathe the dirt smell into my nostrils. Luckily for me I can get that satisfying smell right now without subjecting myself to cat sniffing.
I could fall asleep right here, but I know it'd only be a half-sleep. My mind wonders too easily with outside distractions. So I'll end my thoughts and take one last breath of the delightful dust and go inside to start dinner.
Much like the Greater Roadrunner represented in the animated shorts, the Desert Roadrunner is also fast and cunning. The roadrunner’s scientific name is Geococcyx californianus, but the bird is also referred to as the Chaparral Cock. It is part of the cuckoo family because of its terrestrial habits, and if often noted as a ground cuckoo. The bird reaches lengths of 20-24 i
Although the bird can “fly,” it can technically only glides for a few seconds, so it much prefers to walk or run and can reach ground speeds of 20 mph. The unique shape of the roadrunner’s feet, two toes facing forward and two backward, allow the bird to maintain these speeds for a significant amount of time. In fact, the desert roadrunner is so fast it can catch a hummingbird or dragonfly from midair. It is a carnivorous bird and eats all types of small desert animals and insects. The roadrunner also dines on rattlesnakes, one of few animals to eat such a risky opponent. The bird will grab the snake by the tail and whip it around, smashing its head on the ground.
The female desert roadrunner will lay between 2-12 small white eggs. Both parents construct the nest, which usually sits in a bush, cactus, or small tree. Although both parents take turns incubating the eggs, the male is the predominate incubator.
When I was a child, about five or six, fruit bats filled the evening sky of our neighborhood. My mother would cut up bananas and apples and let my brother and I throw the fruit chunks into the air so we could watch the bats swoop through the air and snatch up the snacks. Two bats frequented our home, and although I can’t be certain they were the same two bats every time, my brother and I named one Curious George, and I have forgotten the name of the other one, but I imagine it was something like Ariel or Belle.
When I was in high school my science teacher called himself batman. No his name wasn’t Bruce Wayne and he didn’t wear black spandex. His specific area of interest, however, was a type of desert bat. He had spent the last several years tracking and studying the creatures, so he could learn about how best to protect the defenseless little mammals. Like Becca said, many of the bats die due to insecticides and rural development.
Now as an adult I still consider bats to be mysterious and captivating little beings. Any time I visit a zoo I leave the park noting that my favorite exhibit was the nocturnal sect, which was my favorite even when I was a little girl.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Here I am a day late with my final week three blog and I’m comforted to know I’m not the only one having difficulty finding time to write. I was thinking today that someday I won’t be bogged down with homework, work work, and life, and finally, then, I will be free to write away. But I also realized if I spent all my time writing I wouldn’t have anything to write about.
I empathize with Mel when she mentions in her blog, “Needfulness,” that two seasons aren’t so bad. I prefer to hot to the warm, but as long as the temperature doesn’t drop below 50 degrees I’m usually ok. Right now, however, proved correct by my husband, we are experiencing our rainy month. I suppose one out of twelve isn’t horrible; in fact, it’s a godsend. Without this month of rain the drought months of the summer would be devastating.
I seem to loose about five to ten pounds every spring (and usually gain it back during the holiday months) because I get outside more. I want to get outside and see the world. I want to hike, bike, and sunbathe. But now I just complain about the weather and dream about the spring.
Weather: Pouring Rain
It’s dark, cold, and wet. I was sitting outside and all I heard was rain. I stood there for as long as I could handle, letting the dogs get out all their wiggles. When out of now where fur begins to fly, growls overpower the rainfall, and I start running through the muddy yard to break up a dog fight.
My dogs don’t like intruders and this black lab was far from familiar. Loki and Mabel didn’t make him/her welcome and I imagine it’s something like walking into gang territory and being jumped. I squished through the mud and yelled for my husband to put on some shoes and come and help me. I know, had I reached the brawl before they disbursed, I would have jumped in between to protect my “kids,” despite my knowing how stupid that is.
Luckily, the black dog understood he/she was not welcome and ran away. My dogs chased him/her to the property line and then ran to the door, asking to be let back inside and out of the rain. Mabel was fluffed up and wet and Loki limped a little. I let them in and then went looking for the black lab to make sure it was ok, but whoever he/she was he/she was long gone.
*Both Loki and Mabel are ok—little stinkers!
I remember the first time I saw a saguaro cactus. I was twenty years old and my boyfriend (my now husband, Aaron) and I were driving from St. George, Utah to Phoenix, Arizona for his cousin’s wedding. Now, I’d seen cacti before—even a few house cacti that I murdered by accident—but nothing in my life before this moment prepared me for the awe-inspiring magnitude of thousands of saguaros lining the two-lane highway we traveled on. I had expected the cliché three prong cacti like the ones seen in Wile E. Coyote and Speedy Gonzalez cartoons, but some were short and squat with only one prong, while others were upwards of thirty feet tall with five or six prongs.
I rolled my window down and stared with my mouth agape, screeching with glee at Aaron: “Babe, look! There are cactuses! Real ones! Big ones! What the heck is that? Is it a saguaro too?” Aaron had seen them many times on his yearly summer trip from St. George to Phoenix. The hot wind rushed through the car and flushed my checks and ears lobes medium-rare pink. For a moment I imagined the life of a cactus. I predicted a lonely existence, overwhelming heat suffrage, thirst. But then I noticed that some cactus had holes where little birds nested—smart birds building a fortress of a nest. Some cacti housed sun-baking lizards, and others were all alone—piqued and eerily not like the rest.
At that time in my life I was a cactus. I had a hard exterior, which pricked anyone brave enough to touch me. I was strong and capable and I didn’t want help or support from anyone or anything. I didn’t trust anyone either. But I recognized that maybe these cacti didn’t have a choice but to trust the beings that became a part of them. I didn’t have to let anyone in, but I couldn’t stop anyone from entering either. I had to trust that those who wanted me in their lives would protect me, as I’m sure the little birds protected the cacti because they made a home with the prickly plant. They worked together to survive instead of against each other like I did with everyone around me. The saguaro opened my heart, soul, and mind to possibilities of teamwork and intimacy.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
I was born in the Pacific Northwest, right outside of Seattle. I am so much like my birthplace I long for greenery. I’m constantly growing and changing and renewing.
Most of my childhood was spent in mountains of Idaho, which I feel is a place I am so disconnected from now I wonder how I ever fit in there. Or perhaps, I never did and that’s why I’m not there now. I hate the cold and snow. I know wildlife survives there, but a snow drown town is more desolate than a desert.
When I was a teenager my desert home closely resembled my outlook on life. I was worn out, dry. I had many dreams, but no ambition. Now, after ten years here I find more inspiration in a single grain of blood-orange sand than I have anywhere. The desert has awaked my adult self. I am happy here. The summer sun may blister my skin, but the heat warms me through and through; I am never cold here. In times of sadness or loss, the desert sings me back to life and offers me space to find myself again. When I am lonely the desert keeps me company. This is who I am, this is where I belong.
Well, my husband was right about February being the rainy month. For the last few days we have had nothing but rain, from light drizzles to full-blown monsoons. Right now, as I sit on my patio, a dull, gray haze surrounds my yard and I can barely see beyond my property line, which isn’t very large. Although the weather is wet the temperature is not cold, around 55 degrees. But what amazes me most is that wildlife here seems to understand that rain in the desert is rare and, when it does rain, we all relish in the droplets as if we may not see rain for a long time.
I’m barefoot and the water feels good on my soles. I continue to breathe in the moist earth as I try to ease my mind of all the week’s stresses. The smell reminds me of fall; a leaves decaying, plants molding kind of scent. Birds perch and chirp in the trees, the cat chases a mouse in some leaves, and the dogs watch the cat, waiting for me to look away long enough to afford them time to run over and bother the cat. I’m interested in the grass patches emerging from the dirt, knowing that they will die away when February fades. But for now, I will keep a smile on my face as the rain hits my face and I let the Sunday storm replenish my soul.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
For the last week St. George has been experiencing unusually warm weather. Today the temperature is a glorious 66 degrees, which has been the norm for the previous few days. Not that I’m complaining. Every year when “winter” begins to fade, I fall in love with my red-orange surroundings once again. And although my husband reminds me that we always get a “fake spring” in January—February is cold and dark, accompanied with occasional rain—I’m soothed by a spring-time breeze flowing through my car as I drive through town with my windows down, trying to soak up the sun’s warming glow.
My February atmosphere is much different than my classmate’s, Amanda. I drive through my neighborhood on my way home from work and the streets are alive with dog walkers, joggers, bicyclers, children, and strollers, not to forget the occasional feral cat, mating bird, and door-to-door vendor. Most of which shoot me an indignant look as I pass them in my car, as if to say, “how dare you drive when you could be enjoying this weather.” I can see Amanda bundled up on an ice-covered porch as she watches her breath escape from her mouth, and I didn’t even wear a jacket or socks to work today—free as a bird.
Sunday, February 1, 2009
I made the “mistake” by clicking on the Ugly Overload blog listed on the blog network: http://uglyoverload.blogspot.com/. I was initially intrigued by the byline: “Giving ugly animals their day in the sun.” After all, I like to adore and laugh at platypus and Corgis just as much as the next person (no offense to the fore mentioned “ugly” animals). The most recent blog, “Alone,” was about a wolf fish; yes, it’s ugly, but interesting. I have a fascination with ugly animals, and I often think that the sole purpose for ugly animals is entertainment. But some ugly animals aren’t just ugly, they are terrifying.
Now, here’s why this blog was a mistake. After reading about the wolf fish, scrolled down the webpage to see what other animals received their “day in the sun,” and to my horror most of the highlighted animals weren’t animals at all (at least not in the so ugly they’re cute sense), most were in fact insects, bugs, and a category I can’t even name! spiders, scorpions, grasshoppers, flies, weird looking Skeleton Shrimp thing. So now I have the heebie-jeebies or the creepy-crawlies, I’m not sure which, maybe even a little of both. Mostly what freaks me out so bad is that most of the creatures look like something I could find here in the desert, so I’m off to bed—and yes, I will be checking the sheets for unwanted guests.
Since the first mention of finding a place to sit for twenty minutes a week and observe, I thought I would head out to Ivins (about twenty minutes from my home) to a nature reserve area with a few hiking trails and abundant wildlife. However, I spent Saturday afternoon in my backyard with my husband, our cat, and out two dogs, and now I can’t believe I ignored all the “nature” in my own plot of land!
My husband and I bought our house because of the quarter acre lot that our house sits on. We thought the space would be perfect for our two large canines. Yet, we were young when we bought our house and until recently our yard has been ignored, which allowed overgrowth and creatures to take over the space.
Who knew! I have birds, many birds, perched on the power lines that sing sweet melodies, and a large crow that sings not such a sweet song—more of a cackle-grown—that overlooks my yard from my neighbors tree. Perhaps mating season is abloom, because I saw a lot of swooping and what I assume is mating dances. I heard a woodpecker, but couldn’t locate where the sound was coming from. We don’t have one tree in our backyard, yet all of our five surrounding neighbor’s backyards do, so we get the pleasure of bird watching also.
In addition to the birds, we have lizards. This I already knew because our cat brings them as gifts that he so eloquently wraps in our sheets. But on Saturday I watched my dogs romp through a pile of dead bushes and flush out a lizard that Loki, our oldest dog, ate with gusto. I couldn’t figure out what kind of lizard he dinned on, but it was spiny.
I’m excited to see what else my yard will surprise me with. I’m already falling in love with a part of my home that I had forgotten, and that alone makes this venture worth while.
I usually say that I grew up in Sun Valley, Idaho, which is true, sort of. I lived in the potato state from the time I was five until I was fifteen. Then I moved to St. George, Utah. At first the bluffs and cacti were ugly and unappealing, but after a while I couldn’t imagine going back to the brown mountains and several feet of snow in Idaho. I’ve lived here for the last ten years of my life and I consider this sandy, orange landscape my home. I realize now that Utah has shaped me into the person I am today; this land has nurtured me and given birth to my adult form. Most people commonly believe that the desert is desolate and uninhabitable by humans, but people have lived here for hundreds of years. Native American tribes mostly inhabit the local reservations (we have Paiute and Navajo in this region) now, but at one time they roam the desert and set up camp near the river and other areas that made them forget they weren’t in a desert. The highlights throughout the history of my little town span every decade, and the more I learn about my area the more I love it.
My town is full of outdoor-loving citizens. Uniquely, however, many are unconcerned about the wellbeing of the land, and most desire to own the earth. I hear people discuss how the red rock bluffs are one of a kind, and then I see those people carving out the stone to build a house. I hear people talk about how population growth has threaten the existence of much local wildlife, and then I see those people beat a Bull Snake (non-poisonous) to death with a rock, because it crossed a nature hiking trail. These same people (myself included) spray our homes to kill Black Widows, scorpions, tarantulas, and, most commonly, cockroaches, yet why can’t we think of an alternative to killing these creatures—like better insulated/sealed homes or slowing rural development, among other things.
In many ways the desert is desolate. Not many people have gardens, and those that do only have select crops—pomegranates and citrus being the main crops—but many citizens fear the soil quality may be worse than buying un-organic produce at the local Albertsons, Smiths, or Harmon’s because the down-winder effects of the nuclear testing in 50s. We just began or first farmers market last May, and the one time I went I found more crafts than produce. However, I heard that by the end of October more local growers joined and the produce was in abundance, so next year I’ll give it another try.
I haven’t completely lost hope, though. My husband and I are starting a “friend garden” in our backyard. We are issuing the help of our friends to ensure the garden’s well-being. (For the record, I kill cacti, and, remember, I live in a desert!) We will all share in the gardening duties and all reap the benefits from our harvests. My husband and I have also started looking for and purchasing local produce, such as eggs. We also have started to buy from the regions closest to us and organic; however, if the organic blueberries in the local market are from a different country, we’ll opt for the un-organic blueberries from a neighboring state.
My hope is that by doing a little at a time we can take care of this desert land as it has taken care for us, and at the same time helping others see the value of our region.