Magic Mountain In The Sky

The lights of Tucson glow behind the mountain, glowing a silhouette, casting an ominous glow across the clouds.  How can I not be enchanted?

At first I was not in love with this harsh desert landscape.  Everything is stark, hard-edged.  Everything has spines, or bites!  Life in the desert leaves a very fine margin for error.  Screw up once, and you easily lose your way in the maze of cacti and endless leguminous shrubs.  

Where is water?  

Mostly underground or locked inside plants that are stoutly defended by suits of spiny armor.

Where is food? 

All around you, locked inside plants that are stoutly defended.

Or running fast: jackrabbits, desert rats, lizards, snakes; you have only to gain access.  Good luck.

Watch out for things that bite or sting.  And everything bites or stings!  

The most terrifying sight in the desert is a dusty-looking cloud moving along 6 feet or so above the ground.  As you get closer, you perceive a low hum, almost a vibration.  

Turn around and leave, now!  It’s Africanized honeybees.  They’ll kill you faster than any rattlesnake or scorpion!

I inadvertent walked underneath a tree in which Africanized honey bees were swarming.  I perceived a sense of movement, then the hum of thousands of wings….I held my breath, striving not to give off fear pheromones.  I’ve seen a person get swarmed by honeybees.  She was allergic, and saw one bee and freaked out. Suddenly the whole hive was on her!  So I tiptoed out from under that tree, trying not to tiptoe…

Having been kind of cornered in Tucson by bad weather everywhere else, I’ve had time to get to know this inhospitable environment.  I’m awed by its stark beauty.  It’s harder to photograph than many places I’ve been, perhaps because of the monotonous miles of….cactus. And shrubs in the legume family.

Sometimes Mother Nature smiles and puts on a light show behind the Magic Mountain, bending the light from the city and bouncing it off the clouds.

Coyote Lonesome

In broad daylight, this elder of the Coyote tribe showed him/herself to us as Atina and I were wandering in the desert near Tucson, AZ.  

I had just dragged Atina away from 

1) a pair of enormous jackrabbits–they were bigger than a Shi-tzu, with long long legs

2) piles and piles of horse shit in varying stages of decomposition, tossed over the horse corral fence.

As we were walking in the opposite direction from these distractions, I felt Atina go rigid on her end of the leash.  Miffed, I thought it was more jackrabbit or horse shit and turned around to yell at her, when I saw that she was standing stock-still staring at something.  I followed her gaze….it was a big red coyote, standing stock-still staring at us!

It was huge, like the jackrabbits were huge…maybe there’s a connection there?  I’ve been running across coyote shit that’s much larger caliber than usual, and mostly made up of rabbit hair.  

Anyway, this coyote was easily as big as my 75 lb dog.  Maybe it was a wolf!  I’ll have to ask a ranger next time I spot one.

The putative coyote stood there for long minutes checking us out.  It was so close I could see individual hairs.  I wished we could go and talk to it…but two different kinds of canines, one of them wild…so I talked to it from a distance.  It looked at me with mild curiosity and eventually turned and trotted off in the direction of the rabbit warren that Atina had discovered in a thicket of mesquite trees.

Night of The Flamingos

The full moon hangs over my patio, illuminating the palo verde trees, the bamboo, and….the flamingos.