Category Archives: animals and language

What’s really wild

A little over four and a half years ago my family moved from Payson City in Utah County to a new home at the desert’s edge in San Juan County, Utah.  Living on the Colorado Plateau has been something of a dream come true. Besides reintroducing me to a more natural (for me) environment, living here helps me cope with the pressures of caring for a high maintenance, special needs child.  Even on days when I can’t leave the yard I can walk out on the rickety second-story porch and see the trunk of a rainbow standing only a few hundred feet away or take in the silky ripple of cloud shadow and sunshine across the pinyon-juniper forest stretching miles to the south.  Thunderstorms in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and southeast Utah ring and electrify our kiva-roof sky.  At night, a very good view of the Milky Way’s spiraling embrace and the ceaseless anthesis and waning of moonlight keep imagination astir nearly until the moment I fall asleep. Continue reading What’s really wild

Field Notes #5

From time to time, someone asks why I don’t write about the meaner, nastier side of nature, especially the predator-prey drama.  Until I go on that man-eating African lion-hunting trip or bag me an Alaskan grizzly or happen to be on hand when a puma takes down a mule deer buck, I just don’t have much to offer on predator vs. prey.  Sorry.

However, something did come to mind the other day, musings upon a kind of predator-prey relationship that I jotted down in my hiking journal as I strolled through Crossfire.  It isn’t pretty, but I thought I’d pass it along.

Warning: This post shows Patricia in a mood.  If you’re in a mood today,  you might want to skip this one.   

May 21, 2009

Overcast, humid, cooler-that-has-been morning.  I set out for Coyote Way, the trail leading down into Crossfire Canyon.  As usual, I pass my mouldering friend, the dead coyote  lying off to one side of the trailhead.  I stop to look at him whenever I take this path.  

After a month of decompostion he looks considerably worse for wear, though that lovely triangular earform still holds up well.  Gone, the shine and softness his coat had when he was first dumped.  Matted patches have loosened, as if he were going through a heavy shed, or they have been peeled back in the course of some other scavenger’s work.  A gaping entrance into his inner cavern has formed in his side.   His coat has taken on the patina of old carpet across whose nap mud has been tracked and into whose fibers a wide variety of liquids has soaked.  The flies that earlier clouded his vicinity have gone through their cycle; no insects are visible, though something must be creeping through the body. Every time I stop here, I wonder how and why this animal died.  Anything could have happened, but the dominant reason folks kill these animals—if, in fact, he was killed—can usually be summed up in this word: competition.

 A week ago, winds blowing up out of the canyon carried the scent of the coyote’s chemical crush into the earth.  Today, cliffrose pollen lightly perfumes breezes swirling past. Continue reading Field Notes #5

Dances with hummingbirds

Our homemade hummingbird feeders attach at approximately waist level to the two-by-four railing that runs around our second story porch.  This puts the hummers down with us when they stop by for refreshers between bouts of very small game hunting.  Once they arrive mid-April or so, we wind into the lives of these brilliant dynamos to the point of familiarity.  That is, we share the porch space freely, with the hummers chasing past our heads or otherwise threading their paths through ours. It becomes something of a dance, we humans walking along the porch or in the garden, the hummingbirds dipping, weaving, zipping around us.  Except for unusually marked birds, like one albinous male black-chinned that drops by, I can’t identify individuals.  Some of them, however, have no trouble recognizing me. Continue reading Dances with hummingbirds

Horse Opera

The neighbors that own the acreage surrounding our lot are horse enthusiasts.  Currently, they keep a small herd made up of a ginger palomino mare, a pale dun mare (don’t know what the coloration’s called but a black stripe runs down her spine), a white gelding, a palomino gelding, and a yellow dun stallion. 

Less than a week ago, the ginger-colored palomino gave birth to a pale palomino foal with a white blaze and one white sock.  Watching the equine tyke grow has been great fun.  The birth of the colt stirred up the herd.  Naturally, they were curious about who had come and wanted to pay their respects.  But the dam has been fiercely protective of him, biting and kicking to drive herd mates back.  At times, she’s separated herself and the colt from the herd, running with him down into the forested plot behind us to send a message to the others.  When she’s done that, they’ve neighed, bugled, and nickered, calling her back, especially the stallion.  Despite the dam’s threats, the dun mare has insisted on following, keeping a close if much discouraged companionship with the dam and foal.   Eventually the mares rejoin the herd, the dam, uneasily.  She stands ready to flash out a hoof or two if anybody gets too close to the colt. Continue reading Horse Opera