In the gray

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, November 7, 2017 7:42 PM

We’re officially in fall. I know that much of the country has been in fall for several weeks now, but the desert seasons are a little different. It takes us longer. But it has finally become cooler, the days have shortened and the darkness has lengthened. The air conditioning has been turned off, and the windows are open, the daily breeze flowing through and coating everything in dust. It’s impossible to keep up with the dust in the desert, something I had been warned about previously. It’s not as bad in town but out where we live, where the winds are stronger and the land is more plentiful, the dust drifts in with the breeze and settles on our furniture, books, the floor like a long lost friend. 

Eventually even cooler temps will arrive though not for long. The numbers will drift down into the 20s and 30s at night. We might get a spit of snow. In the mornings, as we walk the dog, we will wear sweatpants, sweatshirts, and slip our hands into gloves, wrap a scarf around our throats. The temperature of the desert in winter is icy even when it’s not as cold as it feels.

This morning, we woke up to a coated sky. Gray and white, the kind of sky that would signal snow in the Northeast or Midwest. It hovers, a sky like this. There are no defined clouds, there is simply a seamless blanket covering the city, the county, the desert. 

The sky up here on the hill is different somehow. Perhaps it’s because we are so sparsely populated. It just seems bigger, and smaller. And today, grayer. When the sky is like this, we seem to sit almost at the same level, like I could reach out and feel the cool of the hovering moisture.

I love the gray. I love the way it changes the colors. The greens are muted and quiet, the houses blend more into the landscape. Even those with red-tiled roofs, Mediterranean in style, seem subdued. The black of the pavement softens and becomes more accessible. The sun tries hard to push through but it never quite makes it, and so the desert flattens and softens. It looks almost two-dimensional from up here. It’s a painted landscape that stretches 10 miles or more in every direction except north. North lies the hill. In the gray, it seems closer than ever. 

There is something about the gray that makes me start to feel the approach of the holidays. Perhaps it’s the diminishing temperatures, or the shorter days. The gray, gauzy sky is what I remember from growing up in the Northeast. A sky like this always ushered in winter and with it, Christmas. The sky doesn’t look like this in the spring or summer. There’s something about the cold that makes the sky cloudier with less clouds. When the sky was this color, we would wait and watch. A single flurry could be cause for celebration. Maybe if it actually snowed and snowed enough, school would be cancelled the next day. It had to snow a lot for that to happen.

Now, the gray just allows for cool, and the promise of cold. The weather channel says it might rain. I don’t think it will. This is the kind of sky that settles in for a long nap. It’s in no hurry to do anything or go anywhere. It hovers.

In the gray, I find solitude and wonder. In the gray, I can think less of the constant chaos, and more about the world’s potential. In the gray, I find peace. Perhaps the world needs more gray.


Shades of gray. Painting by David Pearce

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Experimenting with fall

by Lorin Michel Sunday, September 24, 2017 8:33 PM

Sometime in the past two weeks, and probably one night when I took Riley out after sundown, I noticed the air felt different. Not exactly cool but something underneath it that felt like cool, like something hiding under the blanket ready to spring out when least expected. Except that it is, of course, expected. It’s nearly the end of September. The cool is coming and with it, fall.

We’ve had an odd summer. It’s always hot; it’s the desert. But June was especially brutal, with our weather station up here on the hill showing temps reaching as high as 120º several times. When it’s that hot during the day, even when it cools off at night, it’s still in the mid 90s. No relief and lots of AC. 

July ended up being the wettest on record. We had storms nearly every day, totally nearly six inches of rain. It kept the temps cooler, though still in the 90s, but the humidity was high and the bugs were prolific. August was just hot and miserable. But then September eased in and temperatures started to abate. The last few days have only been in the 80s, and the nights have been comfortable if not yet cool. 

That changed last night. Last night, it actually was cool. I tested the concept by wearing my new UNH sweatpants, still with a t-shirt and flip flops but long pants have been almost non-existent for me for months, the only exception being when I was in Sacramento for business. I didn’t think it would be professional to wear shorts to my meetings. We sat out on the deck well into the evening, after the sun had set. We made the decision to turn off the AC and open all the windows. The cool air poured in; there was almost a chill in the air. 

This is early for us to have the AC off and the windows open. Usually it’s around the first week in October when it finally becomes comfortable enough to experience the fresh air of the desert rather than the staler air of the air conditioning units. We’ve only been here four years but each year, we look forward to this time. When we built the house, Mike couldn’t believe we actually wanted windows that opened. Evidently people in the desert are averse to fresh air. We were insistent; he was belligerent. But ultimately we won because we were paying the bills. We got windows that open in the master bedroom and the guest room, along with sliding French doors, two sets, in the great room. Both have screens. 

This morning it was 55º. The cool air was drifting in through the open windows. It was more than comfortable though not at all cold. We heard the paper get delivered. Just before 7, a road runner on the roof started tapping at the skylight in the bathroom. It sounded like someone was pounding on the window. Any thoughts of sleep now being gone, we decided to get up and start the day. I pulled on a pair of shorts and a long sleeve t-shirt. Kevin looked at me. 

“Long sleeves? Really?”

I grinned. “I’ve decided to experiment a bit with fall,” I said.

Here’s hoping the experiment lasts.

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The Saturday of a Labor Day weekend

by Lorin Michel Saturday, September 2, 2017 8:25 PM

On Tuesday, March 24, 2015, we finally moved into the house on the hill. Building had commenced on December 1, 2013 and Architect Mike thought maybe we’d be in by Christmas of 2014. We never really thought that was possible, but we hoped. December 2014 moved into January 2015. Mike said maybe the end of the month. January became February and Mike said the end of February. Then it was March, and we told him we had to move in. We had people coming to stay with us on March 24; we were throwing a party on Saturday, March 28. The truck rumbled up the hill early afternoon and the guys proceeded to unload it with me standing in the middle of the house directly traffic.

Roy and Bobbi got to the house around 11 pm. I had managed to get the bed set up and made in the guest room; put towels and a bar of soap in the guest bath. Ditto our own room. The kitchen was relatively put together because I’d been moving a lot of that in for days, taking Rover loads to the new house and arranging what I could. The rest of the house was a sea of boxes.

Over the next few days, I unpacked what I could but mostly stacked the boxes so that they at least looked neater. We put the couches, the floor lamps, the coffee table in place in the great room. We arranged the dining room table and chairs, and the hutch. We put together the new bar stools, and when the patio furniture arrived, we put that together. Because we were going to have a house full of people.

Kevin’s office stayed mostly a mess but mine had to be more put together because we had more people coming to stay on Thursday. I pushed the desk up against the wall, and we put together the spare bed we keep in the storage area. It’s a full size. I found more towels and another bar of soap. 

All of my boxes of books got stacked in the closet and there they stayed for the next two and a half years. The office itself has been highly functional though lacking some personality. The two bookshelves I had against the wall stayed there but mostly empty other than the errant stuff I stacked. The shelves stayed shrink wrapped in the hall closet. 

Several months ago, I started thinking that I might like to re-arrange my office. I had the desk at an angle but I didn’t like it. The empty book shelves were on the west wall, but I didn’t like those either. There was a lot of mess and no feng shui. I’m not necessarily a practitioner of feng shui, but I do know when a room feels right, and mine was just feeling off. But work is busy and I’ve had school, and my weekends come and go and nothing happened in my office. The top of the desk became a sea of papers that I needed to go through but didn’t. Dust gathered. 

For years, the day after Thanksgiving was my designated day to clean my office. I actually looked forward to it every year. But for the past four or five years, we’ve been going to Paso Robles for Thanksgiving, which means on that Friday, I’m happily ensconced in a winery or four, tasting wine and enjoying life while my office languishes.

This is another long weekend, and earlier this week I decided that I was going to use some of the time to clean my office and re-arrange the furniture. I started late yesterday afternoon, going through the mountains of papers on my desk and throwing out most of them. Then I decided to move the desk to in front of the window, the shelves to the east wall, and put my black chair and ottoman on the west wall. The corner shelf that had previously held a number of products from clients that I’m no longer working with got completely cleaned off. I put photos, and my 1920s typewriter, on that. I hung my cowboy hat from the corner. 

Then I ran out of time. But this afternoon, I ventured back in and started pulling boxes of books out of the closet. I opened each and decided which I wanted on the book shelves in the office, which I wanted on the shelves in the closet, and which I really didn’t need at all and could go to Goodwill or the library. I worked for hours, emptying countless boxes, and ended up with four boxes to donate. I pulled the shelves from the hall closet, dusted them off and put them in place. I arranged books. I dusted. And when it was all done, I stood back to admire my work. And it was good. 

On this Labor Day weekend, I labored to finally clean and re-arrange my office. It’s something to celebrate.

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The shadow cast

by Lorin Michel Thursday, August 31, 2017 8:51 PM

I’ve written before about the creatures we encounter in the desert. Most of them are on the ground, but we do have plentiful birds and flying bugs. One buzzed by me this morning and I noticed that it cast a shadow. You know something is big when it casts a shadow. I don’t know what type of bug it was and I honestly don’t care. I’m not a big fan of bugs on the ground; less so of ones in the air.

It made me think though. Shadows are fascinating changes in the light. While they seem to block the light entirely, in effect they really only hide it, temporarily, and even then only some of it. If there’s enough light to cast a shadow, there is enough light to dance in the shadow. Every day, I look at the shadows cast by the towering saguaros in our driveway and watch them drift from west to east as the sun moves from east to west. This isn’t exactly news to anyone and I don’t mean it to be. It’s more of an observation. In those shadows and in others, there is still light. It’s just taking a break. 

I watch sports and am amazed when the baseball hit to deep left field or the deep pass thrown toward a sprinting receiver disappears in the interplay of shadow and light within a stadium. It’s there one minute; the next it’s hiding in plain sight only to drop out of the sky, often into a waiting glove or the capable hands of the receiver. I wonder how the players keep their eye on ball, how they find it in the interplay of light and darkness.

I marvel at the moving shadows cast by the ravens and falcons, the occasional hawk and the even more occasional osprey as they float across the desert, sometimes so close I can see their eyes, count the feathers in their wings. Depending on where the sun is, the shadow they cast can seem like a mini-eclipse. Even airplanes, high in the sky, when moving past the sun in just the right way, can shadow the earth below. It’s eerie and wondrous, dare I say illuminating. 

A person can stand and cast a shadow. A house casts a shadow; ditto a car. A dog casts a shadow; a cat, too. Deer, javelina, tortoises cast shadows here in the desert. Saguaros, ocotillos, prickly pear; mesquite and palo verde, even palm trees. And bugs.

The particular bug this morning was black and winged. Might have been a beetle, definitely wasn’t a grasshopper. As we trudged down the hill, it was coming up, flying against gravity. It buzzed up and around, a tiny Cessna, a single passenger bug-plane, and as it neared, it’s shadow buzzed along with it, beneath it, on the pavement, not quite keeping up but close. 

Then it buzzed by, taking its shadow with it, and I was left with a sense of awe as I so often am in the desert especially in the early morning when the sun has just started to warm the day and the shadows cast to the west are long.  Awe at the nature of it all.

I don’t know why this struck me today. There are shadows every day; sometimes there are shadows at night, if there’s a full moon. But I couldn’t help but notice, and think that if something casts a shadow, that means there is light behind.

There is a shadow cast across the country now, too. But somewhere there is also still light above. I’m not at all religious, but that light? It gives me hope.

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How much longer

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, August 23, 2017 7:35 PM

Are we there yet? It’s an age-old question, asked by many a child on a long road trip, tucked into the back seat, staring out the window as blurred scenery rushes by. Are we there yet? I have to go to the bathroom. How much longer?

I don’t know if children actually ask this question or if it’s one of those old-wives tales that has been passed down through the generations. I ask it now, sometimes, when Kevin and I are in the car on an especially long road trip. Are we there yet? How much longer? I do it for fun and it’s often followed up by the other old standby from years ago: Don’t make me stop this car. 

When we were kids, we never flew anywhere. That was a luxury normal people like us, middle class but nothing more, could never hope to afford. It never occurred to my parents that a family vacation would involve buying five round-trip airfare tickets to somewhere. Instead, we always climbed into my dad’s company car, always a boat of a vehicle, and off we went. Often it was to Maine, to a little place we found on the water in Prout’s Neck called the Braden Cottage. It was an odd house, upside down in a way, with all of the bedrooms and one large bathroom on the ground floor and the living room/kitchen above. I suppose it was like that because the view of the water was better from up there. We always went in June, because it wasn’t yet high season. We always drove.

When I was nine, making my brother five and my sister three, we took a big road trip south, to Florida. The destination was Disneyworld. This was long before there was Epcot Center. It was probably 1971. It took us at least two days and probably three to drive all the way down the east coast to Orlando. I remember my mother, who was always prepared, having created daily packets of stuff for each of us to do while safely ensconced in the backseat. Crayons and coloring books, small games, and other assorted distractions. Anything so as not to hear three kids continually whining: How much longer. 

This morning I read the news. As usual it was filled with chaos and strife, gnashing of teeth and shaking of heads. There was no immediate crisis, just the rolling continuation of this abhorrent presidency. The toddler came to Arizona yesterday, dropping down into the valley of the sun – a balmy 107º – to bring his particular brand of hate and crazy into a state known, mostly in the suburbs and rural areas, for both. Phoenix, like Tucson, indeed like most cities in the country, is a bastion of blue, a melting pot of people and cultures and ideas. I think it’s one of the reasons people congregate in cities. They share a love of differences, and enjoy celebrating that. 

Not our president. I shudder that I even have to type those words because he is so obviously and completely unfit and unwilling to actually do the job to which he is assigned. He celebrates only one thing: himself. He has a pretty high opinion of himself. He’s in the minority. He’s a petty, vile, ugly little man. 

As I read about what he had to say – I didn’t watch the rally (definitely not a speech) and refuse to ever watch him if for no other reason than to keep my blood pressure low – as I read about how he lied about what he has actually said recently, about how unfairly he’s covered when what he actually says is broadcast; when I listened to him rail about trade agreements and race and crowd size and pardoning a despicable man of law enforcement who broke the law repeatedly; as I looked at his bloated, orange buffoonery, his stupid little hands, the thumb and forefinger perpetually pressed together, all I could think of was how much longer. How much longer can this go on? How much longer can we stand it? How much longer before something horrible happens? How much longer before he does lasting damage to us, and the world? How much longer?

Are we there yet?

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Red Rover, Red Rover … uh, red Rover?

by Lorin Michel Sunday, June 25, 2017 8:20 PM

Kevin has a 1992 Range Rover Classic. Along with his Gold Wing, it’s his mechanical pride and joy. We bought it in July of 2016 after months of searching. He needed a truck, but didn’t want a traditional pick-up. He wanted something that was enclosed so that if he had to haul things a long way, those things wouldn’t be subjected to the harsh elements of the Sonoran desert. That meant an SUV but one that was big enough. He also tends to like classics. Yes, they’re more temperamental in some ways, but in others, they’re also easier to fix since they’re not completely governed by electronics.

Before we got married, he had a 1992 Toyota Land Cruiser. It looked like an SUV but at the time, which was before the rush of sport utility vehicles, it was classified as a station wagon. He had always loved the look. Big, boxy, square. The interior was fairly utilitarian but it was comfortable. It was also in phenomenal shape. He put brush guards on the front and it was a head turner. It also had leaf spring shocks making it a very rough ride. I got to the point where I didn’t particularly enjoy riding in it. That’s when we bought our first Land Rover, a Discovery Series II. In Land Rover forums and when buying parts at places like Atlantic British, people call them Discos. 

My current vehicle is my second Land Rover Range Rover, this time a Sport. The first Range Rover we had was a fabulous car. Truck, the mechanics called it. Not like a truck I’d ever ridden in. It had heated seats, dual climate control, the ability to raise and lower the vehicle depending on what was needed. It rode on air shocks. It was red. Unfortunately, this particular model of Range Rover, designated a P38 by Land Rover, had a fatal engine sleeve flaw. Eventually we had a choice to make: rebuild the engine, or buy a new car. That was in 2012. 

I loved my first Range Rover. It was big, comfortable, flawless on the exterior and interior, and had a bitchin’ sound system to boot. When we had to get rid of it, I was not happy. We had fallen in love with the Range Rover Sport when they first came out in 2005, so we decided to get one. Kevin: “Don’t you even want to look at something else?” Me: “No.” 

Not only did we not look at something else, we bought another red one.

There is a review about the Range Rover that basically describes it as a limousine that can climb a tree That’s fairly accurate. They’re built for off-roading, for traversing mountains and streams. My beloved Sport does none of those things. I’m a typical limousine SUV owner. I love the bigness, love the luxury. Use very few of the off-road capabilities. I baby this car. I don’t like it used to haul things. 

So when we moved and Kevin decided he needed a truck, we looked at old Land Cruisers again, and settled on an old Range Rover, the models before the P38. We looked here in Arizona, even driving up to the norther part of the state to test drive a couple. Our budget was $5000. The trucks we test drove were in appalling shape. Then we found one on Craig’s List in Chino Hills. It was a 1992, with 188,000 miles on it. For $3500. Also, it was red. We talked to the guy, looked at the pics, and decided that it just might be perfect. Kevin flew to Ontario, Ubered to the guy’s house, test drove it, bought it for $3000, and drove it home that night. 

He loves it. I love it. We both love that it can haul whatever he needs to haul, without having to employ the use of my beloved Sport. They’re both beautiful trucks.

This morning, we were outside, with two of the garage doors open. I started to laugh. Red Rover in stall three; Red Rover in stall one. And there in the center, the most beautiful red “rover” we have, our beloved Riley Boo. And he’s always worth celebrating.

Dust

by Lorin Michel Saturday, June 24, 2017 10:27 PM

In places like Sudan and Phoenix – which this week have been scarily similar in temperature readings – violent, oppressive winds whip up giant walls of dust. In Arizona, these walls are created from the winds that rush out of a collapsing thunderstorm, with the cold air that’s in front of the storm rushing down at such an incredible rate that it picks up massive amounts of dust and sand. Eventually, as it builds, these walls – which can grow as high as 3000 feet and stretch as far as 100 miles wide – will completely block the sun. On July 5, 2011, Phoenix recorded a dust storm over 5000 feet tall. We call them haboobs, from the Arabic word for “blown.”

When this dust settles, which it does eventually, it wreaks havoc on the air in general, and people and pets in particular.

We have never experienced a haboob and don’t want to. I’ve seen video and heard horror stories about what you’re supposed to do if you’re driving, how to shelter in place, blah blah blah dust. 

One of the first places we went when we moved to Tucson, before we’d even started building the house, was a wine tasting place called Wine Depot. It was an interesting establishment that served Old World wines from Germany, France and Spain. We were desperate for a place to go, having been so spoiled in California. We went on a Saturday, late afternoon. It was hot, and there weren’t many people there. The owner, who was German and his wife, who was Mexican, were both pouring wine. Soon enough, we were the only ones there and so we fell into conversation with the wife. 

We told her we had just moved to the desert, what our plans were. She asked where we were living and where we were building. She said to be prepared for the dust. The dust? we asked. It’s constant, she said shaking her head. You cannot escape it. 

She went on to tell us that if we had a dog, we needed to be careful it didn’t get mixed up with a Gila monster because, while not poisonous, they will bite and latch on, lock their jaws, and not let go. She told us of having to rush her dog to the vet with a Gila monster hanging off its neck. We laughed nervously. 

We haven’t experience the Gila-latch, but we have experienced the dust. Have we ever. It’s impossible to remove; impossible to get ahead of. You can dust using a rag and spray, and it doesn’t seem to matter.

Even the dust has dust. 

I dusted today. As I did, more appeared right behind where I had wiped my cloth. Miscellaneous and errant dog hairs also took up residence. It’s prolific, the dust, all-consuming. It makes the house look dirty even when, technically, it isn’t because I just dusted the other day. Thank dog I don’t have a lot of stuff. It would be impossible to keep it all clean. I’d no sooner get done dusting than I’d have to start all over. It would be an endless loop, a hopeless cycle, a horrible way to spend my days, the stuff of Stephen King novels. 

Kevin has the same issue with bugs. We’ve been inundated with box elders. Thousands of them cling to the house and the deck, dying slowly from the “kool-aid” that Orkin pours along the perimeter. Each day, he takes the power blower and blows them away. And as he walks away, ten more appear behind him.

Dust. Bugs. Haboobs.

Life in the desert in June.

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Simmering

by Lorin Michel Sunday, June 18, 2017 10:27 PM

As a rule, heat doesn’t bother me. Unlike Bobbi, who despises hot more than anything, I prefer it to the alternative. Bobbi prefers cold. They keep their AC set in the 60s if memory serves. Poor Roy walks around in a parka. 

Southern California gets hot, especially in the San Fernando Valley. I remember days driving from Pasadena/Glendale, west toward either Calabasas (where we lived first) and later on, toward Oak Park. Both were out of the Valley but Calabasas was closer. Calabasas actually starts in the Valley and then rolls up and over the appropriately named Calabasas Grade. Woodland Hills comes right before Calabasas. Both are tucked up against the hill, so the heat gets stuck there. Does it ever. It wasn’t uncommon in the summer, under the late afternoon sun and hanging smog to see the temperature gauge on the car climb into the low 100s. I think the highest I ever saw it was 116º but I didn’t really believe it. I figured it was the heat of the asphalt and car engines that drove it up. 

Still, it was smoldering. 

It was hot. We like the heat. So naturally we moved into the inferno known as the Sonoran desert. It’s a fascinating place, where it freezes in the winter – and sometimes snows – and boils in the summer. We’re not in summer yet, technically. Evidently someone forgot to tell that to the weather gods, however. It was 113º here today up on the hill. Absolutely smothering, smoldering, sizzling heat. The kind of heat where you really can’t go out. The kind of heat that, when you take the dog out to pee, you become very impatient. No sniffing; no dawdling. Just pee and get the hell in the house. 

Several weeks ago, we bought an air conditioner for the garage. A portable one, with a big hose that can vent out one of the high windows. In order for it to reach said window, it has to be raised. Kevin has it sitting on one of his saw tables. This morning, I turned it on early. We did some planting down at the bottom of the road, then came back up the hill. We left the Classic outside in the driveway to bake and keep the garage cool. We had breakfast. We talked to Kevin’s brother and sister-in-law, we read the paper, we cleaned up the kitchen. And then he went out to do some garage clean-up. Our little AC unit kept the area decent. Not quite cool because it’s simply too big of an area and too small of a unit, but it wasn’t horrible. Especially given the outside temps. At one point, when I took Riley out to pee in his designated area which is out the man-door off the back of the garage, and then came back in, I was amazed at how much cooler it was in the garage. 

This afternoon as the sun was drifting down to the west, alighting the smoke of a fire that’s burning somewhere far away from us, we took stock of the weekend. We watched the desert fade into dusk and marveled as it flattened out.

The only word I could think to describe the day was simmering. Something cooking slowly. And yet still beautiful, even in its infinite harshness. Worth celebrating.  

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Anadotal. The evidence is in.

by Lorin Michel Saturday, January 28, 2017 8:47 PM

My husband loves to mispronounce words. He does it on purpose, mostly to aggravate me. And mostly I let him do so. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer, and an English major before that, but I’m a stickler for proper spelling and proper pronunciation. I strive to do both; sometimes I succeed. Usually when I don’t it’s not on purpose, as opposed to the husband unit.

We’ve been engaging in this dance for quite some time. Whenever I bring it up he usually tells me that it has something to do with some comedian named Norm Crosby who evidently made a fairly decent living mispronouncing things. In fact, Crosby was known as a master of the malapropism, the use of an incorrect word resulting in a “nonsensical, often humorous utterance.” So sayeth Wikipedia. So sayeth my husband, too, a man well-practiced in the art of the malaprop. 

Yesterday, in the shower, he started talking about anadotal evidence. I don’t know what the original conversation was about, and it was probably about politics, because as soon as he said anadotal, my mind went blank and my brain started to steam. 

“Anadotal,” I said in a tone so flat as to be shoe leather. 

“Yep,” he said, scrubbing shampoo into his hair. “Ana Dotal. She sat in front of me in 4th grade.” 

“Anadotal. Ana Dotal. So… the c is silent?” 

He grinned and stepped under his shower head to wash the suds away and down the drain. 

So we have anadotal evidence of things that aren’t necessarily true or based on fact, much like our current administration. There is no truth or fact because we are living in the world of alternative facts and truthy truths. 

Which leads me to today in the desert. I was in the bedroom, making the bed, or cleaning up or doing something worthwhile when I heard Kevin call to me. He sounded full of angst and/or pain. I came out quickly, wondering what could possibly be the matter. He was grimacing, standing in a weird position, with his body thrust forward, his butt pushed back. 

“What?” I asked, concerned. “Are you ok?” 

“Is there something…” he turned around… “here?” Stuck to his pants was a rather chunky piece of cholla. 

“Yep,” I said, laughing. “Want me to remove it?”

He glared at me. I grinned back.


The cholla I pulled out of the husband-unit's butt

Anecdotally, the husband unit had a piece of cactus stuck to his butt. It meant something, likely that he should stay away from cholla, and that he shouldn’t put his butt in places it doesn’t belong.

Anadotally, of course.

There was a dead snake along the road this morning

by Lorin Michel Saturday, October 1, 2016 9:09 PM

It was just after 8 am. The sun had long since risen above the house and was busy warming the day. Riley and I got a late start on our walk but since it was only hinting at 70º I knew we’d be fine. We trudged along, me saying “slow” about every ten feet. I’m trying to train him to not be such a puller and I’ve never liked the word “heel.” Dogs know the words they taught, and I’m teaching “slow.” His leash was wrapped around my left hand; I was keeping him close to me.

There were workers at the Strobel’s house. Kevin had mentioned that he heard what he thought were trucks and trailers down below, where the house is being built. He asked me to take a look as I went by, just to see who it was and whether we should call the sheriff. It was the contractor – I recognized his truck – and several others. All were busy working. The contractor saw me and waved. I waved back. 

We trudged along, Riley and I. No one else was out. No cars passed us. I always keep my eyes open for creatures, namely javelinas or coyotes. I look to the right and the left and dead ahead for the entirety of the walk. Javelinas can be nasty and dangerous. Coyotes not so much because Riley is a big dog. But I fear Riley would freak and cause a scene. I watch for Gila monsters that can bite down on a dog and not let go; I watch for tortoises that will bite if provoked and attacked. I watch for snakes. 

As we rounded a gentle curve, and began to walk down a small decline, there was one on the side of the road. A rattlesnake. We haven’t seen many snakes up here. We know they’re around; how could they not be given the terrain and the climate? I saw one in what was call the Cooper Area, where we take the dog to pee during the day and before we go to bed at night. There was the one that somehow got into the house. Another that was on the road another morning. We kept Riley close and made a wide circle to get around it. When we returned it was gone. 

I pulled Riley’s leash closer. He didn’t see it, but I kept my eyes on it as we continued by. When we came back past, it was still there, still in the exact same position, part of its scaly body looped over the other. This time, Riley saw it and stopped. He stood staring, his body extended in the direction of the snake, his head forward and down. He didn’t try to pull. He just watched, waiting.

Slow. 

I picked up a rock and tossed it. The snake didn’t move. It was dead. Completely intact. No apparent trauma. Perhaps one of the falcons or ravens had grabbed it up and then dropped it from a great height. Maybe it just died of old age. It didn’t matter. What mattered was there was a dead snake along the road. 

We continued toward home, my dog and I. I watched and listened for other predators. I nodded toward the contractor again. I thought about the snake and its symbolism. Rattlesnakes are lethal creatures, striking to kill. But it was dead. Could it be that it somehow also symbolized the death of fear?

We all live in fear, sometimes it can be crippling. Most times it just gnaws at the back of your soul. Fear of failure, of loss. Fear that we’re not good enough, fear that we’ll never be what we dreamed of becoming as children. Fear of life. 

A rattlesnake is but one creature representing the personification of fear, but it’s a just representation. If it can die for no visible reason, could our own insecurities and fears die as easily? Can mine?

The death of fear. The death of anger. The death of lashing out, of striking out. All manifested in the death of one snake along the road this morning. Something to think about.

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