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
Anyone who's read my book, The Ones That Got Away – A Dating Memoir, knows that I grew up in
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
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
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!