Saturday, August 27, 2011

Saturday morning coffee

Funny bits and pieces of funny bits that might come up if we were having Saturday morning coffee in a cafe somewhere.

Earlier this month, Bojana Jovanovski, a Serbian professional tennis player, played in the Mercury International Tournament in Carlsbad, California.  The 19-year-old is currently ranked 54th on the Woman's Tour. 

When her flight landed, she saw no sign of the promised limousine driver, and called the tournament promoters.  They told her the driver was at the airport looking for her, but so far hadn't been able to find her.  "How can he not see me? I am the only person in the airport," she exclaimed.

Take a moment to make sure you can explain the foregoing facts without looking below, at the end of this foolishness. (Assume both the promoters and the player were speaking truthfully and accurately.)

The other day the newsfolk on the radio reported that Texas Governor Rick Perry did not believe the scientific evidence that human activities have caused or contributed to global warming, and would not support using government funds to try to fight the problem. A few minutes later an unrelated news story detailed Texas’s suffering from record heat and drought conditions.

How soon will they change the Republican Party symbol from the elephant to the ostrich?

The Purple Onion is a small restaurant open on weekends during the warmer half of the year in Mogollon, a high-altitude New Mexico ghost town. It offers pie for dessert because, according to co-owner Tom Miller, a magazine article some years ago said the restaurant was famous for its pies. "At the time, we weren’t making pies and we really had no interest in doing that. But people read the article and started showing up asking for our famous pies. So we decided we better start making some." (Some time during the next couple of months I’ll investigate and report on those pies, particularly if they include blueberry.)

Item reprinted in its entirety from the El Paso Times’s Living section last Friday:

      Blessing for backpacks
      to be Sunday at New Hope

      Students or teachers: Feeling as if you’ll
      need a little help from above this school
      Don’t miss the special blessing for back-
      packs at 9 and 11 a.m. Sunday at New Hope
      Lutheran Church, 4801 Sun Valley.
      All students and educators are welcome
      to attend.

We have a couple of Arizona ash trees out back. (They were living here before we arrived.) Apparently they normally live near river-beds – which there ain’t any of, up in Talavera; but the Texas ash is both better suited to desert conditions and a good deal more colorful in the fall. But you don’t see ‘em around here at all. One expert says that that's because New Mexicans would prefer not to buy something with "Texas" in the name if they can help it.

By the way, any New Mexican should be able immediately to explain the tennis player’s problem in the first anecdote above. If it puzzles you, the hint is that she could have seen some pretty impressive caves before her match.

Our friend the lady pharmacist used to mention that she often felt pretty beat up after several patrons in a row berate her because their insurance won’t cover a prescription or costs have gone up or no one can read the doctor’s writing. We asked her about that Tuesday morning at breakfast. She said it was no longer a problem. "I bought myself a pair of Hulk-gloves, those big green boxing gloves the Hulk wears? Any problems, I say ‘Wait a minute, please’ and reach down for the gloves and put ‘em on, then stand up like this," she said, adopting the classic boxing pose. Apparently people just laugh. When she was working as a relief pharmacist over in Carlsbad the other day, one man even came in the next day brandishing his own pair of the gloves.

The tennis player, of course, had mistakenly flown to Carlsbad, New Mexico. (She didn’t see the caverns or my friend the pharmacist, did stay the night in New Mexico, but got on another plane as quickly as possible and made it to the right Carlsbad just in time to lose her first-round match.)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Of Goat-heads, Purslane, Caterpillars, and Dragonflies


I almost think I’d rather have a few rattlesnakes around than goat-heads.

The goat-heads are far less dangerous, but hurt a little every day. Unlike the rattler, they make no effort to avoid you and don’t sound a warning when you approach. Rather, they hope to hitchhike on your feet or clothing to some place new where the seeds inside them can germinate. Why they think the inside of our house would serve them well is more than I can say, but I guess they keep hoping I’ll go somewhere new.

Anyway, we kept getting victimized by the damn things when we were here last year.

A friend and neighbor has often offered us the loan of a weed-wacker; but that would not only take down the goat-heads but a whole lot of other stuff like datura (which, though poison to us, seems to attract caterpillars and moths and what-not) and other flora that amuse the crickets, butterflies, or hummingbirds.  In addition, we've recently learned that our instinctive deference to the plants around our place has other benefits, including the fact that leaving datura around means the critters that like to eat tomatoes and datura have a food source other than our tomatoes and our neighbors'.
So this morning Dael looked on-line for the goat-head plants, which (out back of our place, at least), look sort of like this:

They have yellow flowers and look harmless, but too damned many of these thorns have lodged between my sandal and my bare foot. It ain’t fun.
Unfortunately, selectively weeding all these plants - called "puncturevine", or Tribulus terrestris, would be difficult. 
An on-line business (at, not surprisingly, offers a "biological solution: Puncturevine Weevils." These are said to be host-specific fellows who eat the damned things. (They’re Microlarinus lareynii, first introduced for this purpose in 1961.)
But the weevils don’t like harsh winters; and I’m not sure how plentiful they might get if we released a bunch here.
Guess I’d better start wearing real shoes.

Meanwhile, in other Goat-head News:

                                there exists a motorcycle club that took the name

The folks who sell the weevils offer this handy drawing. 

After a moment you should recognize it as two people who just stepped on goat-heads.

I know the feeling.  

And goat-heads drove this guy, like me, to wear shoes.  His are called faux paws.
Or "ouchless faux paws."


There’s a plant called purslane. It turned up in the pot where the avocado tree lives, and has thrived.  I readily confess I didn’t have a clue what the hell it was until Dael told me, nor do we know how it started growing in that pot; but it tastes pretty good and is apparently an extraordinarily healthy thing to eat. (According to Dael's favorite book,  The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia , it's a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce cholesterol, and contains antioxidants, as well as being  rich in several vitamins.  It's highly valued in Europe and Asia as a medicinal herb.  In fact the book adds, "When I taught cookery in New Mexico my older Latino and Native American students fondly recalled verdolagas, as they called purslane, as a staple green from their childhood."  Chickens like it too - and egg yolks from chickens that were fed purslane contained 10 times the normal amount of Omega-3 fatty acids.)
We’ve been tossing it into salads and I’ve been adding it to the Sunday omelettes for a while now.
Thus we were delighted to realize that hidden among the amaranth now growing behind the house are a whole slew of purslane plants.
We were equally pleased, upon closer inspection, to realize that colorful caterpillars like hanging out on them.  And eating them, which leaves less for us, but they're small.
The caterpillars were this morning’s little surprise, but the down-side of spotting all these wonderful little critters and healthy plants is not wanting to put my big feet on ‘em.

The dragonflies I photographed late yesterday were back this morning [24 August].

Also on hand was a large bird, who posed for pictures in the locust tree. We’re guessing she’s the female Bullock’s oriole, but we don’t know. I should say Dael’s guessing, because as to most of this information I don’t even know enough to speculate. Readers of blog and column should be aware: I know almost nothing. I can paint what I see in words and photographs, but I don’t actually know much.

Dael inspects the amaranth crop

Variants of some of the images above:

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Courting of Roadrunners

Today’s excitement included an unusually close view of the roadrunners’ mating ritual and the discovery that an unfamiliar weed that’s been going crazy on our land since the rains started is an edible plant which, ground up, is one of the three ingredients in a Peruvian health food we sometimes eat.

Dael, as usual, discovered the roadrunners. She was out by the goat-pen, and so were they. They ignored her until she was quite close. She stood still as soon as she spotted them, and they moved toward her, curious, then went on with what they were doing. She called it "Roadrunner ballet, dancing about in the suddenly green meadow, waving their tails and cooing." When the male, standing on the goat-pen, cooed to his mate, he seemed to bow to her with each call. She said it was one of the most beautiful things she’d seen. (Neither of us had ever seen a bird do that when calling.)

She called me, and I wandered out to have a look.

The road-runner was on top of the old goat-pen, cooing and bowing to his mate, who was somewhere below and out of sight. Often he waved his tail, as well.

[NOTE: additional video of roadrunners courting dance will be inserted in the morning; and I'm sorry the video quality isn't better when viewed full-screen!  Quicktime versions are too big to upload here, MPEG-4's result in this questionable quality, and I need to find out the best way to upload video.]

I watched them for a long time. I moved as little as I could, except to move to a better vantage point. They cavorted in the fresh meadow the rains have made. Sometimes he leapt into an ocotillo and crooned to her from there. 

At times when, after a session of cooing, they moved behind bushes, it reminded me of the cowboy in the old cartoon films, taking off his huge hat and hiding himself and his lady from the camera as they kissed.

I didn’t want to intrude, somehow. (Well, I wouldn’t want someone running up close with a video camera while I was courting.)

It’s not that I mind shooting animal pornography – like these crickets we saw out back, late one afternoon last year,
or the curve-billed thrashers who kept chasing each other around while we sat talking with the neighbors a few months ago.

There was something about the roadrunners, though . . .

The day’s other delight was our amaranth crop.

Our usually sand-colored desert is green with various new plants, of which one seems particularly plentiful. 

Thinking about it this evening, it seems to me sufficiently magical that once the rain starts the sand and rock of the desert gives way to such a vibrant green. (As someone said the other day, there must be millions of seeds just lying out there, waiting, maybe sometimes for years, for a good rainfall.) That so much of the sudden greenery is not only edible but very good for us adds another layer of magic. Too, we learned that by chance. Our friend the nutrition expert had a birthday last night, and just outside Nopalito’s I spotted one of these plants and asked her what it was. Without her we might or might not have figured it out from books or Internet.

It’s called pigweed around here; but it’s actually a form of amaranth.  (It's called kiwicha in Perú, and is one of the three substances in the health food a Peruvian friend makes. (Having shot a poster for him as a favor, I should have recognized the stuff, but I’m not too bright.) Red rooted amaranth. The new leaves can be included in salads; larger leaves can be steamed like spinach; the seed pods can be steamed like broccoli. (There’s a variety that produces even more seeds, and some folks use the seeds to make flour.)
Kiwicha is said to be high in iron, vitamin C, and B-vitamins; and even high in protein, compared to rice and other grains.  (Plus it's free, and we're on a limited budget.)

As flour, it’s a mixed bag. Mesquite and amaranth don’t have gluten. That’s an advantage if someone with a gluten allergy is coming to dinner; but they don’t rise, and thus don’t make good bread if used alone. Someone said that cakes or cookies made using mesquite flour alone crumble if you look at them.
We learned a lot about mesquite flour. (Another blog entry will offer some detail.) For a while when we went up to the land in Sierra County we wandered around like idiots pulling mesquite pods off the trees.

But today was roadrunner mating and amaranth day.

Yet, like bookends, they were preceded by the coyotes whose particularly excited howling awakened us just before first light and followed by the black widow spider who seems to hang out just outside our front door every night. (I’ve told her we’ll have to move or kill her when the kids come to visit, but she says that’s not till November and she ain’t moving yet.)

Today even a visit to town was magical: in a certain old quarter of town, where the streets were still unpaved when I first lived here, we passed a corner store / café that was painted bright yellow. Dael had spotted an interesting-looking old lady inside, and I’d spotted some interesting writing on the wall, so we drove around the block so we could stop and each see what the other had seen. The writing, which surprised me in such a
location, was a quote from John Ruskin: "The highest reward for a man's toil is not what he gets for it, but what he becomes by it."  The old lady, was playing Chinese checkers (which Dael had never played but which I recalled from my own childhood) and told us that she’d been born right in that building, second of ten children, and played Chinese checkers in childhood with one of her sisters. She had a beautiful smile. I wanted to rush back with the video camera and interview her about growing up on Mesquite Street very long ago.

As the sun dropped toward the horizon I remembered I wanted to go out and shoot some images of the amaranth to insert above. I did, and the setting sunlight kindly created nice sharp golden edges on the tops of the plants.

Of course, I couldn’t even do that and just come right back in. (Attention span of a nine year old.) A really sweet-sounding bird call drew me further and further into the cactus field, where I discovered a host of friendly dragonflies, their wings glowing gold in the late light.

I paused to say goodnight to the barrel cactus blossoms, all tucked in for the night already, and the light was so pleasant I couldn’t resist a shot of the locust tree we planted a couple of months ago.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Doing One Good Thing

A week or so ago we had solar panels installed on top of our garage.

The decision was a "no-brainer": 40% of the cost will be deducted from our federal (30%) and state (10%) taxes; we will not pay electricity bills; and El Paso Electric will effectively pay us 12 cents per kilowatt hour for the electricity we generate; and that 12-cent price is guaranteed for twelve years.

The system will pay for itself within eight years.

More importantly, we are contributing, in our small way, to solving one of this country’s many serious problems – and to a cleaner, healthier environment.

A recent opinion piece in the Sun-News, by a lady sympathetic to big energy interests, urged New Mexicans to repeal the program entirely. She trumpeted that coal and nuclear power are cheaper in the short-run, implying those are the direction New Mexicans should go. Coal is as dirty as power gets, and increasing our use of it would cost far more, in health and dollars, in the long run. Increasing use of nuclear power is simply idiotic.

Nuclear power plants are dangerous, as recent events in Japan should suggest. Further, their waste must be contained for tens of thousands of years. When we build and operate a nuclear power plant we undertake to safeguard its waste for several times the number of years (2011) since the death of Jesus Christ. No government or company has lasted even a small fraction of that time. A safety "guarantee" by the U.S., New Mexico, or the nuclear industry may sound good, but will any of them be around another ten or twenty thousand years? As our economy tanks and governments and companies cut corners, how can we have faith that either will continue to try their best? Even with the best intentions and careful planning, events (an unprecedented tidal wave in Japan; perhaps an unprecedented tornado in the U.S., terrorism, or a strong earthquake in a region that hasn’t had one for thousands of years?) happen.

New Mexico desperately needs to increase its use of clean and renewable energy.

Several points are unarguable:
1. The country must find energy alternatives that are safe, clean, and do not need to be purchased from other countries. With energy so critical to both our economy and our security, we need greater control over our supply of it.
2. We’re at a critical stage in human contribution to global warming and environmental pollution, and urgently need to be burning less and less oil and gas if we hope to bequeath our children and grandchildren a liveable world.
3. New Mexico is one of the two finest states in the nation for solar energy.
4. Most of the citizens of Doña Ana County could use the kind of financial break you get with solar panels – and, since loans are available if needed, most homeowners can do as we did. (The tax credits can be used over several years.)

However, if you are thinking of going solar, think fast.

If you go solar this year, you get a better deal than you will next year – and El Paso Electric is fighting tooth and nail to get the New Mexico Public Regulatory Commission to weaken the incentives for solar energy.
The case for solar is simple: it’s efficient, particularly in New Mexico; sunlight won’t run out this century, and the sun doesn’t charge us $100 or $200 every month for using its rays; and there’s little or no harm to the environment.

El Paso Electric is asking the PRC to reduce the price paid for solar energy to 10 cents per kilowatt hour (and to two cents for some) and reduce the term of the contracts from twelve years to eight. Last year, in a similar effort that failed, EPE provided figures indicating that their requested reduction would save the average customer . . . less than a penny month. Asked about that, an EPE witness testified that this was highly significant to people on fixed incomes – as if that, rather than its own business interest, motivated EPE.
Meanwhile, El Paso Electric also just announced a 43% increase in profits, comparing the second quarter of this year with the second quarter of 2010. EPE correctly points out that profits spiked partly because of the weather; but EPE, whose stock continues to rise and survived the recent stock-market madness, is in very good shape.

The PRC should resist EPE’s efforts to weaken the solar initiative in order to maximize already healthy profits. The New Mexico Legislature should act to strengthen a program that is proving quite successful. New Mexico can be a model for the nation – unlike Texas, where the oil and gas industry is paramount.
We’re in an unfortunate corner of the world as far as mounting political opposition to EPE: in northern New Mexico rate cases, the Renewable Energy Industry Association and other groups routinely intervene; in Texas, El Paso Electric serves a larger population than it does in southern New Mexico; but since only a small part of New Mexico buys electricity from EPE, we’re under the public-interest radar. Last year only one intervenor – Mark Westbrock of Positive Energy, a New Mexico solar power company – filed testimony and other documents with the PRC.

You can help. Write the Commissioners. Their addresses are readily available on the PRC’s web-site, - just click on each commissioner’s picture.. (So are the parties’ briefs – you don’t have to take my word for anything!) "Our" commissioner is Ben J. Hall, but you should send all five commissioners a copy of your letter or e-mail.

[The above column appeared in today's Las Cruces Sun-News]
couple of other things for which there wasn't space in the column:

-- Ideally, you should visit with two or three local solar installation companies; we did, and learned a lot and felt all the more comfortable with our decisions; there are some issues and differences of opinion, and after hearing three perspectives we felt confident in our read on the issues and the people.
-- if you decide to go solar this year, do it soon; the solar installation companies aren't necessarily so backed up -- yet -- but the process isn't necessarily instantaneous: unless you are quite knowledgeable, a good company will want to analyze your past couple of electricity bills and talk with you before recommending a specific number of panels; then it can take a week or two to get El Paso Electric's signature on the contract, and you defnitely want that before you go forward.  In short, waiting until December could make it tough to get this done this year.

-- among the issues are:
a central inverter vs. micro-inverters, or a compromise (micro-inverters of some sort are definitely wave of the future, but they're also quite new, and produced by companies without much track record; and some of the apparent disadvantages of a central inverter are not as significant in our area as they might be elsewhere);
panels on your roof or on a free-standing array [free-standing allows for panels that track the sun, and are thus marginally more effective, but for most of us the roof is the better choice, since it doesn't screw up your view or take up space you could be using for garden or terrace or trees);
-- whether to get more panels than you need (beyond the number of panels that produces approximately the amount of electricity you need each month, you can still get paid for sending electrcity to EPE, but you get paid a good deal less; on the other hand, getting more panels than you need could, depending on your situation and roof space, (a) provide for future expansion, (b) be a reasonable investment on which there'll be a respectable return and which is highly "green."

An issue that -- regrettably -- wasn't much of a choice was whether to construct a system that would allow you to keep producing and using electricity even if El Paso Electric Company were completely disabled for weeks or months by some natural or other disaster.  For example, my friend Bud, who lives on our land just North of Doña  Ana County, has used a completely stand-alone solar energy system for more than a quarter-century, since his retirement as a professor at NMSU.  We're just too far from the nearest electric lines.  In thinking about getting solar here, I'd have liked, even at slightly more cost, to have a system that, if EPE went down, could function that way for as long as need be, with batteries; but it turns out that such a "dual" system just isn't cost-effective.  Rather than adding another ten or twenty per cent to your overall cost, it adds more like seventy-five or ninety.  This was my one disappointment in getting into solar energy, but was clearly true of all three companies we talked with.  I hope there's some change on this within the next few years; but I suspect there's not so much demand for it. 

-- It takes a couple of days for the actual installation, which may include making sure of the condition of your roof where the panels will be.  The folks who did our installation were businesslike, competent, and unobtrusive.   They were a pleasure to have around; and while I'm a complete idiot about such things, a neighbor who's more knowledgeable came by and took a look at their work and was impressed.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


To most of the world, the desert’s seasons are a secret. That’s why a few human visitors each year, relying on the obvious dryness of arroyos that look as if they hadn’t seen water for decades, park in them and lose their car, or their lives.

As everyone in Doña Ana County knows, the seasons this year have been even more extreme than usual: a record freeze in February that killed plants that had been around for decades; a record drought; and some violent rainstorms of late. It’s been cheering to watch the revival of various plants that appeared dead from the freeze.

Meanwhile, Dael and I begin learning more about the rhythm of the desert.

Our friend Bud, who has lived on our land just north of Dona Ana county for more than a quarter-century now, records everything. All summer dozens of hummingbirds buzz and battle around his place .  (After all, for migrating birds the Rio Grande is the Interstate, and our land borders the river.)  Every year but one they have returned on the same day. Only once in all those years, he says, have they failed to appear on April 1st. They were two days late this year, perhaps because of that freeze..

Among our friends is this fellow I photographed behind the house a year ago, when we were just visiting.
We were quite taken with him. Dael discovered him under a datura leaf. Datura plants are poison to us and many other creatures, but he loves ‘em.   He also felt safe in them from predators:

He’s a sphinx moth caterpillar, I’m told.   Manduca sexta.

To the thrasher, he’s delicious.

To our neighbor, he’s the enemy.

He’s also known as a tobacco hornworm in South Carolina, and mistakenly called a tomato hornworm elsewhere; because along with datura he likes, and destroys, tomato and tobacco plants.

We were happy to see him – or, more precisely, one of his descendants – again this year. We photographed him hanging upside down from a tomato plant; and here (at right) he looks as if he’s peering over a wall, looking for more plants to destroy. He has a neat face. (It took me quite awhile, actually, to realize that the end with the red horn -- green in young ones -- is the rear.)

This year, now that we live here and have our own tomato plants, he did us a good deal of damage. His green is so indistinguishable from the curved leaves of a tomato plant that you can look right at him a while without seeing him. Rather than killing him and his brethren, we carry them around back to various datura plants.

More recently we have found a several more, including some young ones, on a bush near the house.   Here’s a shot from this morning.  It suggests how effective her camouflage is.

At the same time, her elder brother whose photographs we took only two or three weeks ago, is no longer a caterpillar. At dusk and sometimes dawn, we seem him fluttering about. He still favors the datura plants, but also likes bird of paradise, the desert willow, and even . . . the hummingbird feeder:

He’s a colorful fellow, and big for a moth.

I hope to get a better shot of him soon, without some ugly man-made feeder in it.

Meanwhile, here’s a quick video bit in which he visits the desert willow (the other night) and the feeder (this morning). Unfortunately, the feeder remains of interest to others:

Dael says these critters live just 30-50 days.  They "wander" in search of a good spot, then pupate underground.  (They spend 18 days in their tiny burrows.)  As with hummingbirds and orioles and much of the natural world, the males are more colorful than the females.  There's even a word for that, I just learned: sexually dimorphic.

I'd like to say something profound about the brevity of their lives and ours, but it's dusk, and perhaps I can improve on that video right now.

Desert Photography

Thursday, August 11, 2011

In the Desert

We live in the desert, a world so quiet and calm that folks passing through briefly on the way from their cars to their houses might think it was peaceful. In fact, it’s a constant battle for survival.

In early afternoon I spot an unusually large bird flying low down an arroyo behind our house. Dael says it’s one of the golden eagles who nest higher in the foothills of the Organs. As we watch, the eagle dives suddenly and comes up with a rabbit. The rabbit is heavy enough that the eagle lands to enjoy his meal, so I wander out that way with my camera. 

I don’t get any particularly good shots of the eagle, but on the way toward him I spot a desert tortoise, upside down and long dead in the arroyo, so close to the house I’m surprised I haven’t seen him before. On the way back I turn him over, and look closely. The shell is intact, and rather an appealing pattern; and his head still stares out from the front of it, though the eyes are now just huge holes, like the eyes of the mummies in Guanajuato.

It has been a difficult year: record drought more than 200 rainless days surrounding a near-record freeze. Did the turtle die of thirst? Heat? Cold? Did a coyote toss him around in a vain effort to break through his shell? (I don’t think so.) In any case, he has a certain dignity, in death. Most of his body has dried out, or been consumed by ants; but those eye-holes keep on staring.

Hours later I’m standing on the old wooden deck out back, watching the late afternoon light catch Scott’s Orioles and make the yellow parts of them explode with brightness. Just below I spot a rabbit, just lounging around like a cat or a dog. The light’s lousy, except for the way the late sunlight back-lights the rabbit’s thin ears. But I’m laughing as I shoot the picture.

Next I pass the hummingbird feeder just as one of the birds pauses to fuel up.
The sun, even lower now but still bright, turns the bird’s throat a bright purple. As I walk, I glance at the screen on the back of the camera to see how the focus was.

Suddenly there’s someone else just in front of me, looking at me, motionless:
a snake, seven or eight feet of snake. He isn’t the young rattler I saw a couple of weeks go. I think he’s the local bullsnake. After a startled moment, we just stare at each other. He flicks his tongue, I flick my camera, and we both know neither means the other any harm. (Bull-snakes, it turns out, are among the continent’s largest. They sometimes use their similarities to rattlesnakes as a defense mechanism, beating the ground with their tails to simulate the sound of rattles; but sometimes people shoot them out of fear that they’re rattlers.)

I call to Dael, and tell her to join me but not pass me. The two of us stare at the snake. He’s beautiful and strong. He stares straight ahead, not much caring that we’re there, and then I realize why: hardly a foot in front of him, so still that I’ve been standing here a couple of minutes without seeing it, a baby bunny stands beside a small cactus. Apparently he hopes his stillness will deceive the snake. It ain’t working too well.

We watch awhile, wondering how it will turn out. Finally the bunny, afraid of us or the snake or both, jumps and tries to run, but bumps into the rocks, and the snake strikes and misses. The bunny, scampers away along the bottom of the rock pile. The snake turns and follows, but it’s not a close race.

We follow too. The snake slithers along through the rocks in the direction of the bunny. His sinewy form catches the reddish late-afternoon light. We feel glad the prey escaped – but apologetic for the snake’s disappointment. Maybe our presence distracted him at the critical moment.

We’re also grateful. It’s too bad something usually has to die, in order for something else to live; but it’s a fact of life, and – as with most facts of life – it’s better to see it clearly than turn away.

The deer eat the leaves off the pomegranate tree for which we dug a hole in this difficult terrain just a couple of weeks earlier. The coyotes’ nocturnal howling and the occasional scat of bobcat remind us to keep our cat inside. The occasional scorpion, tarantula, or black widow reminds us to pay a little attention even in the house. But these inconveniences also remind us we’re a part of something.

P.S. Below is a 47 second video of the bull snake on his search for the escaped baby rabbit: