The right to survive


I’m sitting by the pool trying to think of a blog piece. I have time to write, I have energy, but nothing springs to mind.

A dove flies from white desert rocks over the water and into a flowering shrub. The birds are busy this morning and noisy. Hanging ferns cascade near my chair in perfect abundant health. Peppers sprout in the garden, next to perfumed rosemary, and a grapefruit tree that shelters fruit the size of basketballs. How can anything grow here? I’m confused. This is a brown place where houses have rocks instead of lawns – yet life springs forth in radiant colors and profuse blossoms.

When I wrote my sister Kristen about visiting Arizona, she said, it’s a different world with its vivid colors and dry, strange landscape. I never felt it was a gentle place but one that challenges your right to survive.

She’s right. The temperatures have averaged 109, which have been ten degrees lower than Phoenix. The result is like being under house arrest because nobody in their right mind would go anywhere to do anything for any reason – with the possible exception of my host, Joe.

Joe has the desert in his soul, its essence shines from his eyes. He grew up here and slept under the sky most of his childhood. Joe heads out the door like a lizard ready for a sunbath.  No problem. He and his brother Steve used to spend their day catching snakes when they were kids, snakes bigger than they were. They collected them in pillow cases and thought nothing of picking up a rattlesnake until one bit his brother and nearly killed him. Joe and a passing motorist cut open his brother’s finger and took turns sucking the poison from his young body.

Lucky the snake had a belly full of rabbits, Joe says, or Steve wouldn’t have made it.

A few months ago Joe was making sweet talk to a king snake. Come here baby. Come on pretty girl. He found it in the front yard and moved it to the back, where it could eat rodents and other rattlers. I think of myself as a nature girl but stories like those reflect the core of my inner wimp.

I am soaking in the light and beauty of this place today. I will need to remember it when the dark months come. Winter in Oregon is like having a fat lady in black pants sit down on your head, plus it goes on forever! I will long for this place in winter, and be willing to save grocery money to re-experience it. Just don’t tell me any more stories about snakes. I don’t like having reality interfering with my ideas about life.