Thursday, September 6, 2007

Remnants

Leaden skies and steady rain await me this morning as I open my eyes. I want to curl back up in my blankets and go back to sleep, but instead I get up and started puttering around. It takes me almost until 9:30 before I came up with the brilliant idea of walking in the rain. Usually when it is raining around here, it is also thundering and lightening—not exactly the best time to be outside, but today’s rain is gentle and steady. I slide on my canvas sneakers and head out the door.

It has been a long time since I have gone for a walk in the rain. While the temperature is cooler than normal, it’s still warm enough to be out in a sleeveless shirt. I head up the road to the end of the cul de sac. On the way I remove my shoes and allow myself the joy of splashing in the water as it runs downhill. I’m not exactly "singing in the rain," but I am having fun.

Farther up the street I return my shoes to my
feet so I can go out to the edge of the desert. There is a spot up here where I can stand on the edge of the world it seems. Before me the desert spreads out wild and undisturbed. To the south are the Santa Rita Mountains, to the west I can see the towns of Green Valley, and Sahuarita. Beyond them the scars from a mining operation are etched into the hills. Immediately before me I can see down into the wash below, the silver gravel snaking through the mesquite, creosote bush, and cactus. Between the brush the grasses have turned green and lush. I hear the laughter of a Gila woodpecker and the inquiring call of a Gambel’s quail. Somewhere the silvery tinkling of a black-throated sparrow is ringing across the desert.

With the cooler temperatures the desert has come alive. Birds are flitting from tree to tree, or bush to bush. There is movement everywhere. I scan the wash for signs of other life. I wonder if there are coyotes or javalina hiding beneath the desert scrub.

The soft rain continues to fall, but it is tapering off. I am starting to see the sun trying to burn through the remnants of tropical storm Henriette. Behind me lies the neighborhood. I hear the strains of a Mexican radio station wafting out the windows of a home under construction. The rain has chased most of the workers off for the day, but someone is working inside a house.

I truly feel like I am on a precipice. Behind me is civilization; before me is the vanishing wilderness. Will the desert survive this intrusion of man? How many rabbits, birds, lizards, snakes and other animals will lose their homes to make way for the human habitations? I can’t but help ask myself, what is my part in all of this, and what is my responsibility? I am so moved by the wildness I see before me. It frightens me even as it call to me. Am I brave enough to wander out there and listen to the desert's voice? Am I willing to learn what it wants to teach me?

I turn my back and head for home with these questions rattling around in my brain. The rain has tapered off. The sun has re-emerged. My skin is slick with rain as I walk home and think.

2 comments:

Tony Heath said...

I too have faced the challenge you write of in the second to last paragraph. A practical idea of what you can do, in addition to what you already are (blogging, voting, having a political voice), is set habitat aside. Habitat destruction, as you touch on, is the biggest threat to the natural world and to the beautiful unspoiled lands that inspire us. If you can, take (or pool with others) your money and buy property on the fringe. Preserve it undeveloped and directly steward your wild neighbors. It may be a personal material sacrifice, but taken in the larger picture it is vital gift and good for your soul. Good luck and keep up your work.

Kathie said...

Tony,

I have learned this lesson the hard way. We did own a piece of land in Maine, 1 3/4 acres of woodland with our house on it. We only had grass out front, and mixed forest out back with 100 ft and 100 year old eastern white pines. In our trees we had pileated woodpeckers nesting, along with flying squirrels, gray squirrels, red squirrels and chipmunks. We had downy and hairy woodpeckers, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, nuthatches, chickadees, warblers, sparrows and more. We left the land natural as possible. I refused to use pesticides or herbicides and we hung up bird feeders year round. When we had to relocate due to my husband's job, we sold the house to other native Mainiacs, assuming they would care for it as we did, but they bought the house, cut down all the trees (for the paper mills I'm sure) then re-sold the property for more than they paid for it. They basically raped the land and destroyed that little wildlife habitat forever. It will take another hundred years to be restored, if ever.

Thanks for your comments and your encouragement.