Sunday, April 26, 2009

Wild Wild West

I've recently come to have a whole new appreciation for when Dorothy Gale first found herself in Oz, apprehensively saying to her little dog, "Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."  The land she was in, although familiar, was completely unlike the surroundings in which she grew up.  I can relate to that.


Anyone who's read my book, The Ones That Got Away – A Dating Memoir, knows that I grew up in New Jersey.  I spent 39 years there before I packed myself up and headed west; and although I vacationed in sunny AZ several times before my move, it does seem different, somehow, now that I live here.  I've noticed things.


One difference I noticed right away had to do with the wildlife.  Back home, for instance, when driving around, my conditioning was to be on alert for deer that may, at any time, haphazardly run out on the highways.  Within my first few weeks here, I found myself swerving to avoid a mountain lion that was gracefully flying across the road – a mountain lion! 


Similarly, at twilight in New Jersey, it is not uncommon to see bats gliding through the air.  Now, don't get me wrong, we have bats out here, but we also have many other winged creatures that like to come out and play in the night.  Again, just shortly after my arrival in the desert, one early evening, an owl with a six foot wing span just about overtook my windshield nearly giving me a coronary behind the wheel. 


Moreover, back on the eastern seaboard, raccoons can be found freely roaming about, scavenging – or, if they meet with an unfortunate fate, you'll find them puffed up and bloated with postmortem gas lying on the side of the road.  I've never seen a raccoon here.  We have other scavenging critters.  We have javelinas – savage, wiry-haired, tusked animals that resemble wild boar.  This past fall, my courtyard became a place of gluttonous revelry as a family of these destructive animals trashed my yard – twice!  Like a crazed Mr. McGregor I chased them away screaming and waving my arms like a lunatic.  (I now have chicken wire across my gate – it's pretty.  Not.)  These, too, are sometimes found puffed up on the side of the road, but not often – you see we have many other creatures out here that wouldn't pass up such a feast.  Nothing lasts too long on the side of our roads. 


And, speaking of roads, there are even major differences with them.  As I drove around the Garden State, I often found myself on roads like Ocean Avenue, or the Parkway – not to mention the myriad of ubiquitous Main Streets that crop up in every other town.  Out here it's quite another story.  Here you'll find Dynamite Boulevard, Bloody Basin Road and Stagecoach Pass just to name a few; plus we have a multitude of Mountain Roads: Red Mountain, Black Mountain, Lone Mountain, Daisy Mountain, Carefree Mountain, Carefree Highway ♪ ♪ ♪…  Sorry.  You can see what I'm getting at though, can't you?


It's different out here – and it's wild.  Why, even when I hike, I never know what I may encounter.  I've had bobcats and coyotes run in front of me up on the hill.  I've had diamondbacks cut short some hikes as I've been forced to turn around just to avoid crossing their path.  And, I was stung in the face once by a bee.  Someone had asked me if it was an Africanized bee.  I told them I really didn't know.  What I did know was it was a pissed off bee – that I was able to say with certainty.  As we get closer to May the bees will begin to swarm.  This is the impetus that will get me hiking in the morning again.


Ah, the morning hikes – one as to be alert in the early morning.  Many of the nocturnal animals are still roaming around and only beginning to retire for the day.  I keep an ear out when hiking, especially in the morning – I like to be sure that the steps I hear creeping up behind me are created by sneaker-clad feet and not paws. 


There is one gait, however – that although not typical, is not completely uncommon – which always seems to get me.  This one goes something like tcsh-tcsh-tp, tchs-tcsh-tp.  At first it perplexes me.  Can I be hearing that right?  Hard to tell with the deafening sound of my heart beating within my inner ear.  My adrenaline begins to rise as the sound gains on me: tcsh-tcsh-tp, tcsh-tcsh-tp.  Stay cool, I think – those are not paws.  Tcsh-tcsh-tp, tcsh-tcsh-tp – or, are they?  Just then a smiley, ruddy-faced geriatric with a dowager's hump and a walking stick scooches past me saying, "On your left, dear."  At least I think that's what she's saying – hard to tell, what with my cacophonous pulse raging in my ears.  I move to the right allowing her to pass. 


I tell you what; some of that older population is in really great shape.  We're a very outdoorsy community, people are active – we're on the move.  I can't help but wonder if I'll still be able to hike when I'm white-haired, hunched over and calcium deprived.  I guess I'll just have to wait and see…


As my heartbeat continues to pound and a slight tingling sensation overtakes my hands, I think to myself, "Damn you, butter," and it's then that I notice the three buzzards circling overhead.  "Hmph, what are they doing," I wonder – hopeful they've spotted a partially eaten, disemboweled carcass and that they're not waiting on me. 


See, that's another big difference between the east coast and here.  Back there, I'd stroll on the boardwalk where the biggest avian danger was getting pooped on or having a seagull take food from my hand.  Here, I climb mountains where turkey vultures await the possibility of a clogged-artery-induced collapse so they can peck my eyes out.  See what I mean?  It's wild; but don't get me wrong – the Wild West is the best!


Not in Kansas,

 - M

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Resurrection Sunday

Riding in to town like a king

Oh, the joy that comes with spring


Silently enduring bogus trials

Oh, to see the children's smiles


A nail for each hand, and one shared by his feet

Oh, the fun of an egg hunt cannot be beat


"Forgive them," he asks, "they know not what they do."

Who is he talking about – them, me or you?


"It is finished," he cried, just before dying

Oh, the thrill of Easter egg dying


His body was placed in a tomb, not a casket

Oh, grab hold of those bunnies and fill up that basket


Prophecies fulfilled, three days later he rose

Oh, the parades, fancy bonnets and bows


Why do we celebrate Easter this way –

Nesting sugary treats on fake beds of hay?


It's the resurrection of Jesus – have no doubt

That's what Easter is truly about


Happy Easter!

 - M