Tag Archives: Nature

To Whom It May Concern

Sometimes having a blog with your name plastered all over it can hold you back from what’s really on your mind. When personal crises hit, you desperately want to write about them, but you can’t because you feel watched, like anything you say may be used against you. The same holds true for political opinions.

I’ve been a dimsel in damstress. The curl of smoke over my head rises from an existential blast zone that craves discussion, but I stand stupidly speechless. My honesty, phrased as diplomatically as a seasoned observer of crazy can express, has cost me. When a relationship—whether it work, family, friend, or love—demands more of your soul than you are able to give, we have the right to bow out. Wouldn’t someone want to know why? Not if the parties you’re dealing with are controlling, narcissistic, or immature, and you find yourself the target of blame-laced, ego-driven invective. These true colors, in shades of infection, necrosis, and death, cannot be countered. It’s like trying to respond rationally to an internet troll. I make my choices and take my beatdowns. But I will never, ever respond—that’s exactly what they want.

But frankly, this self-imposed whining freeze is getting old.  Thought I’d start with a few minor rants and work my way up.

Clicking around the blogosphere can be painful. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at one blogger’s About page which read ‘I’m a journalist and shit.’ It hit me hard that it’s a different world now, and helps explain the following sparklers seen on my home page…

By journalist who wants to be a pulp fiction writer:
The mayor has journeyed into swamp-like depths to help people stranded in buildings overlooking the murky waters that flooded their homes and their lives.

By journalist assigned the end of the world story:
World survives Maya apocalypse

By journalist covering the NYC subway beat:
Man faints in NYC subway, not struck by train

We have these ‘After 5’ walks in my town where the shops stay open late. Here’s a press release that showed up in my inbox a few months ago:

Xxxx Originals Gallery is having a Spring Fling and tossing out artwork at incredible prices! New artwork is on the way so we’re flinging out anything that’s been just sitting around. This is a great time to pick up fabulous deals on really spectacular artwork. So come in to the gallery and catch the deals we’re flinging out the door!

So where’s the What Not to Say to Starving Artists article?

I don’t agree with people who insist that humankind doesn’t have choices. If it is the custom of a culture to beat women, and for the acceptance of this to be passed down to sons and daughters, that may make them good citizens, but not good humans. Your culture is not an excuse for your cruelty. If beating, burning, cutting, raping, or murdering your wife or daughters, or the wife or daughters of your neighbors is the custom, and people defend it as that, then we may as well throw the words good and bad right out of the dictionary.

We saw these three beautiful babies on Carr Canyon Road about two weeks ago and stopped to let them cross. The mother had already crossed—but there must be several.

My yard’s been full of cactus wrens this year. They’re not usually so gregarious. Look at this silly nest they built on the tip of a branch—it barely contained them.

I’m fascinated by what people have in their refrigerators, especially when I’m asked to clean them. I arranged this little composition that I think covers all the food groups.

This is the first time I’ve ever seen a ghost bike, on a nearby rural road.

My town recently got its first pot dispensary. Some people with medical marijuana cards are annoyed though, because they’re no longer allowed to grow a few plants in their yard, but must patronize this place and pay big bucks. If you live within 25 miles of a dispensary, you have to do business there.

Our precious hardwoods are being defoliated by caterpillars. I think they’re webworms but please correct me because it’s hard to find pictures that look exactly like this. Plus, there are about three different kinds eating the trees—green, yellow, and black.

Check out their suction-cup feet, perfectly designed to climb trees and eat them. They’re everywhere, in house, driveway, yard, laundry shed. At first I thought they were cute—until there were thousands.

Caterpillars in driveway with their scat, which is also everywhere.

This enormous western polyphemus moth was found already dead in a customer’s garage on Carr Canyon Road, a Coronado Nat’l Forest road near Sierra Vista.

This javelina came right up to our car, then stalked off when we didn’t feed it. I think javelinas are beautiful and mysterious, like all wild animals, but I just read there is an aggressive pack in Tucson that is slated to be shot. This is what happens when animals’ habitat is destroyed by humans.

I saw this regal horned lizard in my yard just a few weeks ago. Kind of a rare sighting, they’re only found in southeastern AZ and Mexico.

We’ve had a incredible monsoon this year, in fact it’s not quite over. I’ve never seen this many tiny frogs, toads, snakes, lizards, bats, birds, rabbits. There was even a huge barn owl couple who sat on the street wires all summer and made these funny shrieking sounds. The hummingbirds go to bed at nightfall, then the Mexican long-tongued bats shift takes over and drains the feeder, which I refill in morning. Every night I stepped closer and closer to the bats, to where I can stand within a few feet of them. It’s awesome.

We’ve had a incredible monsoon this year. I’ve never seen this many frogs, toads, snakes, lizards, bats, birds, rabbits. There were even two huge barn owls who sat on the street wires every night all summer and made these funny shrieking sounds. The hummingbirds go to bed at nightfall, then the Mexican long-tongued bats take over and drain the feeder, which I refill in morning. Every night I stepped closer and closer to the bats, to where I can stand within a few feet of them. It’s so awesome.

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The Week in the Wastebasket

Freedom. It’s constantly held up as the ultimate human ideal, the be-all and end-all to the world’s problems.  We pay dearly in money and lives so we can help people all over the world be ‘free.’ Sometimes this means the freedom to abuse the group on the next rung down. So just how much freedom do you want?

You could move here, we have enough freedom to make you puke. Many folks here proudly stand by their freedom to be as annoying as possible because there’s no law against it. In seven years I’ve seen a distinct pattern emerge in my neighborhood—as old people who worked for the mining company die off, their relatives come in and dump the houses for whatever they can get. Still, many houses fester behind faded for-sale signs, and sometimes they are rented. Roll the dice. Sometimes groups of people buy them and turn them into their own exclusive heaps of shit and there’s nothing you can do about it. The houses collect more dwellers, junk cars, motorcycles, ATVs, and outside dogs. They degrade property values and quality of life for the few people left here who still care about the neighborhood.

The cars fly by on my street going 50 or 60, the speed limit is 25. A popular vehicle here is the ‘quad’ (satan.motors.com), a machine that is designed to be out destroying desert life, not raced up and down the street over, and over, and over. Ask nicely? Been there, done that.  So now I’m the girl, in an adrenaline-fueled fit, who firmly planted herself in front of a speeding quad. (I too have the freedom to act like an idiot.) The quad stopped, even though he would have been within his rights to run me over. It was a kid and I yelled at him to slow down. I didn’t know it was a kid, they’re all suited up and wearing helmets. Ten minutes later the patriarch of the clan walked onto my property and threatened me. Of course I called the cops, and a sheriff came. The next day the guy stood in front of my house taking pictures. More posturing, obscenities, cops. I was advised to seek a restraining order, which I was granted the next day. Now, members of the clan drive past my house leaning on their horns and sticking their heads out the window while adopting their best menacing glares.

Why? Because they can. There’s no law against childish intimidation tactics.

A couple days ago I received a summons back to court to respond to the neighbor’s legal appeal that the restraining order be dismissed (we all have the right to this). I hate living like this so I was prepared to drop it, under the condition that I be allowed to have an amicable, or at least neutral, conversation with the guy, with a mediator. I was feeling relief. All I want is for them to have some respect for their neighbors. When you move into a neighborhood, trash your house and yard and use the street as your personal racecourse, you have to expect that some neighbors will find this unpleasant. No, it’s not life-endangering—except for our collective blood pressure. I’m not the only one who has called the sheriff. They’ve pretty much alienated what’s left of our little swath of people who give a shit.

I sat in court waiting and thinking. This isn’t a power struggle, this isn’t about control. Trying to maintain your home as a haven instead of a snake pit by seeking just a tiny bit of respect is a basic human desire—but not to some freedom-lovers. I waited, the judge waited, the stenographer waited for half an hour after the appointed time. The neighbor never showed up. He went through some trouble to get this appointment, had the chance to resolve this, and he can’t even man up enough to show.  The judge had no alternative but to let the order stand.

Maybe it’s been bred out of them by the twisted survival instincts of overpopulation, but freedom requires a certain responsibility that many humans simply don’t have. Think twice about asking for it.

OK enough of the dark side. Here’s why I carry on:

Dove in nest tending to her babies.

A customer advised taking a couple of the little plastic tubes off a hummingbird feeder so bigger birds could also enjoy the feast. It worked! Male Bullock’s oriole drinking sugar water. Strength to go forth and multiply!

It isn’t much, but it’s what we’ve got: Wading down the middle of the ancient San Pedro. Local archeological sites date back to Clovis people 12,000 years ago. When we get a really good monsoon, the river floods. It’s a vital riparian gem with enough water to host a huge array of wildlife. Saw lots of raccoon, deer, coyote, javelina prints and scat.

Some parts were deep enough for Jasmine to paddle. Many once-mighty cottonwoods lay across the river, fallen in previous floods, creating pools and dams and little waterfalls.

Tracks of water snakes that swim along the bottom, but I don’t know what kind.

Most of the tadpoles (pic from last May) will be eaten before they reach adulthood, but many also survive…see next pic!

There were thousands of these! One can never tire of witnessing this! Never!

The San Pedro can flood out during a good monsoon. Pic taken a few years ago, recent monsoons have not brought this kind of rise in water.

We had bought this box of Hornady ‘zombie loads’ a while back and kept the box as a novelty to keep on a shelf. But if that bad acid going around Florida spreads out here…

Monument Fire + Monsoon = Mudslides

Monsoon started about a week ago and so far it’s a strong one. There are various scientific methods used to predict the strength of an upcoming monsoon, but it turns out to be whatever nature decides.

But one thing is certain, and that is when mountain forests suffer major fire damage, natural waterways are not enough to absorb the heavy rains. The water has no place to go but down. On my way home today from Sierra Vista, mudflow had closed roads and I learned after stopping and asking that once again the people who live at the base of the Huachucas were told to evacuate.

Everybody here knows how the Monument fire started, but it has yet to be made official, and likely never will. I honestly can no longer see myself having a life here.

This is what Rt. 92 looks like all along Coronado National Park where the Monument fire burned for two weeks.

Monsoon rain is not like a normal rainy day. It comes in heavy bursts with high winds that can last for hours, stop, then start again. It's usually the best time of the year.

Miller Canyon Road off Rt. 92 was closed and the homes that firefighters saved will be in danger again for the next two to three months.

With the trees gone, mud comes down the mountains.

Natural waterways, called washes, are unable to contain the flow.

Streets flood with mud and debris.

We live near several prisons and often see "cons" doing various work around town. Today they had them making sandbags. The sandbags are loaded into trucks and placed around houses. I asked a con who helped me at the dump the other day what he was in for—two pounds of pot. What a waste of taxpayer money.

Update 7-12-11. Picture from KGUN 9 News. The mudslide was worse than I knew. It ruined homes and this is just the beginning.

Arizona in Extremis

Bisbee, AZ is cornered between two major fires, the Horseshoe (134,000 acres)  to our northeast and the Monument (3,700–4,600 acres depending on reports) to our west. Today Bisbee was engulfed in a miasma of smoke. I don’t know if smoke from the biggest fire, the Wallow (444,000 acres, north of us), is hitting us, but there have been reports that the smoke from these fires can be seen as far north as Iowa so it depends on the wind. It is the reek of the ruination of our forests and the animals who live there.

I had a disturbing phone conversation with my friend Janice this afternoon, who lives directly across from the Huachuca Mountains (part of Coronado National Park and the Monument fire). She was crying, doesn’t know if she’ll be evacuated, and is worried about her many dogs. She could barely speak as she has respiratory problems and the smoke is so thick. Rt. 92 is closed as they fear the fire may spread across the highway. Power lines are down. The Monument fire continues to grow, it is zero percent contained. Right now the firefighters are digging trenches. I read that even with all the modern technology, it is still shovels and axes that eventually get a fire contained. These are rugged, steep mountains which makes this job as difficult as could possibly be.

There is anger and fear here. We would like to see the people responsible for this slowly burn to death. If the smugglers burn all the forests along the border, how will they hide? How can they be so stupid and cruel?  They’ll never, ever, catch them.

Note: Just read the Monument fire has jumped Rt. 92. Evacuations unofficially announced by Cochise County. A shelter has been established at Palominas School BUT NO ANIMALS WILL BE ALLOWED! When will they learn that people will not leave their best friends behind?

Update 6-15-11:  5,200 acres burned.

Update 6-16-11:  9,300 acres burned. My friend who lives on the north side of Hereford Road reports mandatory evacuation across street but not yet on his side. He wants to know where the hell is the National Guard? More than 40 homes have been damaged or destroyed. Officials are telling residents to expect a long drawn out affair and to plan for evacuation. High winds are forecast for Thursday and Friday.

Update 6-18-11: 20,000 acres burned, 50 homes destroyed, 12,000 people evacuated. High winds today, 50-60 mph gusts. Everybody is pissed off or crying, taking it hour by hour. Networks set up for pets of evacuees. Horses and cattle major problem.

Smoke from Horseshoe fire seen from Rt. 92 in Bisbee across from Safeway.

Smoke from Horseshoe fire seen from my backyard.

Looking in the other direction, west, from the street near my house, smoke from the Monument fire.

These red helicopters have been flying back and forth all day. We are used to seeing border patrol helicopters, but I've never seen these before two days ago. These are the slurry helicopters, they pick up thousands of gallons of fire-retardant material called slurry and squeeze into canyons where vehicles can't go. It's an extremely dangerous job.

Monument fire from Rt. 92 near Sierra Vista.

Monument fire at night. Photo by Kresent Gurtler.

Coronado National Park Fire Update (Huachucas)

It is fast becoming the worst fire season ever for Arizona. There are currently three major fires burning: The Wallow Fire in eastern Arizona, which has consumed 444,000 acres and is only 10% contained, the Horseshoe Fire in the southeastern part of the state which has burned 134,000 acres, and a new one that started at 1:00 pm yesterday in the Huachuca Mountains in Sierra Vista, very close to where I live and very dear to all of us. They’re now calling it the Monument Fire because it’s in the Coronado National Monument system, but the park is officially called Coronado National Memorial here.

I had to take a foster cat to Sierra Vista today to be spayed, and I waited to pick her up at my friend Janice’s house near Sierra Vista. We watched the mountains burning from her yard. We saw many people who had to evacuate driving by with trailers full of horses. The smoke is very bad and everybody’s faces are swollen and noses are running. This is nothing compared to what the animals who live in the forests must endure. The various ranges of Coronado National Park are comprised of “sky islands,” each an ecosystem unto itself. The animals that live in the various systems, called ecotones, cannot survive in another system.

I picked up the cat and on my way home I stopped a few times to take pictures. Many roads are are blocked by border patrol and police. I talked to some of them. Yesterday the news said the Monument fire had burned 100 acres, today it’s 3000 acres. I asked if this was true, they said easily—this fire started at the border. It is zero percent contained.

They said on the radio the fire started near “Smugglers Gulch,” right on the border. This forest is known for drug and human smuggling. Since the park has been closed to visitors since June 9th because of extremely dry conditions and high winds, it is assumed the fire was started by smugglers. There are many smaller fires that do not make national news. To see how beautiful this area is (was), see We Don’t Need No Stinking Guardrails, posted three weeks ago.

The destruction these fires cause has to be seen to be believed. We do need more border protection, but 2,000 miles of border, 370 miles of it in Arizona is a lot of land to cover.

Monument fire from friend’s yard near Hereford 6-13-11

Monument fire from Hereford Rd 6-13-11

Monument fire from Hereford Rd 6-13-11

Monument fire from Rt. 92 6-13-11

Monument fire from Rt. 92 6-13-11

I think this is a firefighting helicopter, I read there are four of them working on this fire.

Monument fire from Rt. 92 6-13-11

Beloved Coronado National Park on Fire

I worked in Sierra Vista today. The ride in was uneventful. A few minutes into the ride home, around 4:30 p.m., I started to see the monster and knew immediately where it was. My beloved Coronado Park, my refuge, one of the wonders of the world, is on fire.

The park has been closed since June 9th because it is so dry here, they had planned on keeping it closed until monsoon starts in July. This part of the Huachuca Mountains is a huge corridor for drug and human smuggling. They won’t say it in the papers, but it is assumed this fire was started by smugglers. Sometimes fires are started to divert attention, sometimes it’s just carelessness. Everybody here knows. The firemen tell me because I ask, the people who work in the park tell me because I ask.

Traffic was redirected, I was not allowed to continue toward home on Rt. 92. Tonight I went on my roof and could see the flames, it is about 20 miles from my home. Last report earlier this afternoon was 100 acres burned so far, but that was hours ago. I have not been able to get an updated report online (I don’t have TV). See We Don’t Need No Stinking Guardrails for beautiful pictures I took in the park exactly three weeks ago.

Huachuca Fire 6-12-11

Huachuca Fire 6-12-11

Huachuca Fire 6-12-11

Huachuca Fire 6-12-11

Huachuca Fire 6-12-11

The Week in My World 5-26-11

What a week. I’m tired and discouraged. I’m no longer able to enjoy the simple pleasures of life, like roofing or unclogging drains.

BUT…Find an Outlet scores a double! The two dogs my friend Janice rescued from a foreclosed house (see Collateral Damage) got adopted! A lovely woman from Tucson saw the pictures on my blog and drove up here three times. She was only going to take the hound, but when she brought her 11-year-old overweight dog and watched the three dogs romp in the yard that did it. She adopted both dogs and they are living happily ever after in Tucson. I couldn’t be there to see them off so I begged Janice to take a few pictures of the dogs getting in the car and leaving. She promised she would. This is what I got:

Janice doesn't get electronics. She gets dogs. I was so excited when she gave me her camera to take the pictures off...until I saw them—this and two more just like it. My disappointment soon turned to hysterics.

Thank you Janice for all you do. She did all the work, all I did was photograph the dogs. Thank you to Border Animal Rescue for funding the spays.

ARIZONA IS so weird. Every liquor store has a drive-thru window, but I have to park my car and walk to the bank and have meaningful interaction with the tellers to cash a check.

I’M TAKING A BREAK from fiction because the sheer amount of it on the blogosphere is overwhelming me, but here’s an idea for a story:

A Pile for Charlie: About a man who develops an itch in an unmentionable region but becomes intolerable to his family because he refuses to purchase the ointment.

I have a fish story…

It was just a fluke that I met Marlin at the sand bar. He wore his hair in a mullet, but it smelt like scrod. He claimed to be a sturgeon but I never saw him operate on anything but a blowfish. He was such an angler—he reeled me in when he said I was as cute as a sea urchin. He tried to get me to perch on top of him but I told him I had a haddock and he accused me of playing koi. We smoked a salmon and floundered around for a while but he insisted on showing me his pike. I started laughing, you mean your minnow? Good thing he was hard of herring—but he tackled me, got a little roughy and wouldn’t leave my dorsal fin alone. “Don’t clam up on me baby!” he snappered, then told me I was a crappie date. What a crab. What did I expect from bottom fishing? I’m not going to be a grouper to some backwater slippery eel with no sole. Basshole. Give me a tuna-casserole type guy who knows the meaning of the word chum.


Border Animal Rescue is one of the saving graces of our town. They often take in more animals than they adopt. They don’t have a physical shelter and it’s almost impossible to find foster homes, so most of the animals end up at a few devoted volunteers’ homes. These puppies are at Dee's house, the heart and soul of BAR. She fosters many cats, kittens, and dogs. It's extremely hard to say no to people who are about to dump their animals.

The Mexican bird of paradise shrubs are blooming along roadsides everywhere.

The cholla (pronounced (choy' a) bloom in May and they're everywhere. The flowers then turn into those yellow pods.

Cholla buds about to burst.

The top of a century agave that looks like a giant asparagus in the spring. They don't really live 100 years, more like 25. After the stalk grows and dies, the plant dies. But the base sends out runners called "pups," so they have a chance at immortality.

The ocotillo (pronounced oco tee' yo) are in bloom too. They're about 20 ft. tall, I had to stand on top of my car to get this pic!

Yuccas are very common here. This plant has last year's stalk and a brand new one beside it.

The other day I was craving water. All we have is the San Pedro River, which only swells during monsoon. An earthquake 100 years ago turned this once serious river into a trickle. To think there used to be barges on it during the mining days!

I could barely wait to wade in the "river." I'm trying to catch tadpoles, there were thousands of them. It only takes a small amount of water to bring profuse life to the desert.

Tadpoles, which turn into frogs, aren't that easy to catch! Most will be eaten though before they reach adulthood.

Saw these perfectly preserved set of raccoon (I think) prints in some mud.