Thursday, September 23, 2010

Desert Daze

I liked the night so well, I decided to sit right here and sample the following day.  This is the busy season at the park campground, because in late September it is finally cool enough to bear being here.  In the height of summer this place is a frying pan, and at noon even today it was 90 degrees in the sun, but only 72 in the shade.

So I stayed in the shade.

I read all morning, evading the sun as it wound around the Daze, moving on when it caught up with me.  The Daze makes a serviceable sundial.  And I am the photophobic minute hand.  I spent the day quite literally close to home, circling the Daze in this way, thinking long thoughts about short subjects.

Hoodoo, Hoodoo, who do you think you're foolin' ?

This is, I suppose, about as green as it gets around here.  Lots of rain lately.  The largest vegetation is the Juniper, which dots the near distance with green.  The brightest color comes from the tiny yellow buds of the rabbitbrush.  The bees seem to like that stuff, though there is a strange dearth of rabbits.  I suppose they come and go in cycles.

Then of course there is the ubiquitous fragrant sagebrush.  Also a green and black plant called Russian thistle, which when dry is known to all as tumbleweed.  It says here that this iconic plant of Western movies is actually a Russian invader, first introduced into North Dakota back in the late19th century.  Immigrated out of Asia sans papers by hitching a ride alongside bundles of imported rapeseed.

The real Old West never had the stuff.  Once it got here, though, it made itself to home, thriving in niches native plants couldn't be bothered with.  It is sort of the kudzu of the high desert.

There's a lot of daily activity in this supposedly empty country.  A small silver and black butterfly is flopping around amid the bees above the rabbitbrush.  Ants ignore me, intent on their toil.  Some sort of black beetle flits and buzzes above them, occasionally striking down and raising a bit of dust.  I can't tell if it is eating the ants, or just annoying them.

Some sort of small peeping bird continuously claims the juniper the owl occupied last night, making patrol from branch to branch.  A large crow went cawing by, but didn't dispute her ownership.  While I was sitting behind the trailer, the wind picked up a small reddish torus of dust and played with it, which I thought entertaining until it turned on me and filled my ear with sand.

Not to mention my coffee.

A light green lizard whipped his long tail, skittering lightly over a warm expanse of rock.  When he reached shade he stopped a bit to regard me soberly, then moved on.  I am too big to be breakfast, and too small to be God.

Not much good for anything, then.

All these animals seem dignified, aware, and purposeful, busy getting on with their lives.  Only I am on vacation.  Only I am retired.  Only I am idle.  I understand there are authorities who claim that animals are conscious of everything but themselves, and humans of little but themselves.  The only thing I know for sure is that out here in the desert consciousness requires lots and lots of water.

Whenever I quit drinking, I fall asleep.



eskimoblueboy said...

I didn't realize Russian thistle was an invasive species. I fell for the old Western movie version of the west I suppose.

Ed said...

It was the movies and Western writers that made the tumbleweed a fixture of the Old West.
Bob, has the history of tumbleweeds correct. Anytime a story introduces tumbleweeds prior to 1877 - it isn't true.