Sunday, August 28, 2016

August in the Desert

The desert comes right up to the doors of our home, and often inside.

This week we've removed from the house a scorpion and a vinegaroon – the vinnie, thrice.

Twice recently we've found vinnies mating at our front door. Neither our presence nor our cameras disturbed them. 

We like vinegaroons. Since they eat scorpions, millipedes, and roaches, I guess we're allies. Although they look fearsome, they mean no harm to us, as we mean none to them. 

Rattlesnakes are more of a mixed bag. Theoretically, they assist us in the war against the pack rats. But they seem a little lazy this year. (The coyotes who also consume pack rats, seem to be on vacation.) We seem to have reached an unspoken truce with the rattlers. When we meet, they do not coil and rattle and we do not necessarily move them. 

We used to move them miles away. This year we just say hello and wish them a nice day. One forced the point a little, by hunting in our front entry. I moved him (or her) down into the arroyo, near the goat pen. I've seen them furious at the indignity of being caught and dropped in a garbage can. This one never rattled. He remained silent as I carried him to the arroyo. Even when I released him he expressed no anger. 

Dancing beak to beak ?
Meanwhile the hummingbirds are performing their late-summer aerial battles. At dawn and dusk, or when it's cloudy and windy, threatening (or promising) rain, they are especially manic. Fortunately they are so absorbed in their bickering that they ignore the white-bearded figure with the camera.
Roadrunners also visit now and then. For several days a young one, whom we called “Dino” for his resemblance to a dinosaur, hung around. He was not at all shy. (Youthful innocence?)

Twice this year we've had testudinate guests for a couple of days. Early one morning there's a tortoise. We ply her with water (which she lolls in with childlike delight) and greens (which she ignores), talk to her, and shoot her portrait, delighted to welcome her; but the next day, toward in late afternoon, she continues (need I say slowly?) on the mission she briefly interrupted. She's going somewhere, for some reason known only to her, and will not be enticed to stay.

My camera is delighted also by bumblebees on the purple flowers of the Texas sage, “flame” dragonflies perched on the yucca. It likes the hesperaloe's quirky shapes, and the bright reds of ocotillo blossoms (a while back), and the whiskers on yellow birds-of-paradise. 

Meanwhile the rains arrive, belatedly, with light shows a 1960's rock band would envy and thunder reminiscent of Rip van Winkle; and when it ain't just teasing, and the heavens drop us an inch of rain in an hour, the earth welcomes the rain like alover returned from the wars. Cactus blossoms go crazy, in a variety of hues.

The closeness between our lives and these natural cycles is a key delight of living in southwestern New Mexico. Too, as a writer, though I don't mind mixing it up with politicians and other humans, it's these other creatures who really interest me.

I wish I could speak effectively for them, for the natural world we threaten to destroy with our greed, arrogance, and carelessness. I wish I left less of a trace on this earth than I do, and that I could write with sufficient clarity and power to make my neighbors pause. God told Adam and Eve to take care of this Earth, and we are failing miserably. God has kindly filled our current existence with unmistakable warning signs that we have fouled our nest and may soon have done so irreparably; but like the flood victim clinging to his soggy rooftop, spurning helicopters and rescue boats in the certainty that God will provide, we expect Him not only to warn us, but to spare us from the consequences of our carelessness.

Vinnie, are we worth it?

Moonfall with ocotillo and hummingbird

[The column above, unillustrated, appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News and perhaps other newspapers this morning, Sunday, 28 August.  It's also up on the newspaper's website and will presently appear on KRWG-TV's website as well.  I invite comments, questions, or criticism here or on those other sites.]

[I've spent more time than I probably should have in posting below a bunch of images from the past couple of weeks.  (The moonfall above is of course a composite of three separate images, shot within moments of each other one recent morning.  Cameras can't get all those guys in focus at once.)  Some others, like the turtles we saw a month or so ago, I'd like to add in later, if I get the time.]
Yellow butterfly on anithacanthus



A Recent Rainbow

A Recent Rainbow - artsy version

The Lecture

Dove at Dawn

Sometimes a Sentry . . .


  1. Love A Recent Rainbow - artsy version. Snatched it Medium, full credit and links here. Thank you in advance. if not suitable, lemme know and I'll delete.

  2. Fine. Permission granted. Glad you liked it.

  3. Peter, thank you very much for your wonderful commentary in El Paso Times 3 Sep: "Wishing to give a stronger voice to our natural world. I wanted to share it but can not find a link. if you have such a link, please send it to me. jpackerman53 @ Thanks.