Monday, October 17, 2011

Last Week

In a week dominated by an old friend’s struggles with kidney disease, the beauty of our surroundings kept refusing to be ignored.

A well-camouflaged visitor

We were particularly delighted to find a live Texas Horned Lizard – which I’d always called, incorrectly, a Texas Horned Toad or Texas Horny Toad.

("He’s a lizard," Dael insisted; "and we don’t know anything about whether or not he’s horny.")

Catching the late afternoon sunlight
He eats ants, which is certainly fine with us. He seems to be happily dividing his time between two large ant colonies. Even though the ants from at least one of those colonies have a nasty bite, we left them for him. We’d taken pictures of one of his kind here last year, then found one dead this spring, and hadn’t seen one since.  Now we've seen this fellow three days in a row.

His uncle or cousin from last year
in an alternate universe . . .
. . . stripped of his camouflage

What we have seen several trillion of is grasshoppers. When we walk through the desert grass, it seems alive with little guys jumping out of our way, lighting, and jumping again.  Scores of little guys like this one, all but invisible -- and larger ones, some of which make a sharp clicking noise when they fly and reveal surprisingly bright blue or red wings. Only a few, mostly the larger ones, pause for photographic portraits.
This guy, who patiently posed for a long time as I lay stretched on the ground with the macro lens, we call the elephant cricket, but I've no idea what he actually is.

Of course, instead of tinkering with their photographs I should be outside pouring soapy water and chile oil on the two little pomegranate trees and the Mexican Elder, to keep these voracious little guys from defoliating them before autumn does.
But I'm a grasshopper myself, in the old grasshopper-and-ant story they tell kids.  I'm still leaping about like an idiot, instead of preparing for winter.
This pleasant sunset . . .
. . . feels more like this . . .

. . . or even this.

The full moon, of course, performed his monthly show.

Two nights in a row we sat out on the old deck, watching him peek over the peaks; and in the morning when I wandered out to water trees he was speeding toward the horizon, looking somewhat tired after ten or twelve hours of our company. 

I'd have preferred the moon rise a little further North

which might have looked like this ...

. . . or like this.

In the morning he fell, looking weary after nine hours of our world.

We hear coyotes most nights, and recently we've found their paw-prints and mesquite-filled scat around our place every morning.   Thursday morning as Bud and I sped into town toward his kidney doctor, I spotted a dead coyote just off the road, near the new high school they're building.  Must have happened during the night.  I'd a lot rather photograph 'em alive.  I think I'll slow down some.  Whoever hit him, it could as easily have been I.

He reminded me of the dead road-runner we saw on Baylor Canyon Road a few months ago.

Saturday we saw a live road-runner as we drove toward the Farmers’ Market. Didn’t photograph him, but paused to admire him. He moseyed along parallel to us, but pretty soon the ocotillo and creosote hid him from view.

Returning from the Market, we spotted the two golden eagles hunting near the road, a mile or two before our place. We stopped to watch. 
They soared like eagles.  Which seems a perfectly logical thing for them to do, but was a pleasure to watch.
Eventually one of them landed on a utility pole on our side of the road, just in front of us, and we moved closer.  They sometimes hunt near our house, talking to each other as they hunt. 
Saturday they weren't talking, but each obviously kept aware of the other's whereabouts.   I sat in the truck, nearer to them than usual, marveling at their strength and envying of course the freedom with which they floated up there on the breeze. 

Driving home I thought about the way Coyote and Road-runner, along with hummingbirds and comical families of quail, and the golden eagles on their occasional hunting trips our way, begin to populate our lives more than people do.

Thinking about it just now, I wondered if we’ve been coming to take our home for granted just a little. We love it here. This morning we chatted briefly in the market with some friends, who moved here years ago from California, and could still say we don’t miss the Bay Area. Yet I spend less time out contemplating and photographing our little world than I did during the summer.

Then Dael called from out by the smallest ash tree, and suggested I bring the camera.  A

small rattler lay catching the thin last rays of sunlight as the sun disappeared behind the West Mesa.  He seemed disinclined to move just because of our company.  There was something peaceful about him, though he was reminding us not to reach into places we couldn't see.  We suggested a pact under which he and we would leave each other alone while he'd shrink the rodent population.   I took his silence for agreement.

1 comment:

  1. great, varied show, Peter. I don't think I've seen an eagle here in the 38 years we've been in Las Cruces.