The Stockpond is visited by one of the few Yellow-rumped Warblers that make at least this part of the San Pedro their winter home in late years.
On Christmas Morn’ the San Pedro receives a gift of great splendor: the finest-wrought of shimmering topaz Cottonwoods, arranged along the valley at an artful and satisfying distance one from the other, set most skillfully in pewter strands of branches and crowns. And at day’s end, a star shines out over The Rincon in the dark blue upper sky, and below, the peak ridges are sharp against a bright aura of last, lingering sunset. Could any star over Bethlehem have been the more beautiful?
Christmas Eve. On range, on the mesa tops, we find the first seedlings of wildflowers of Spring to come, a sure green that keeps thought of life and growth. If the cow that’s missing is off giving birth as we suspect, shall we name the calf Jesusito–or Jesusita?
Even colder, the dawn sits her horse stiffly, at 27 degrees. Lady bugs appear at noon, though, when I find them on the wheels of the irrigators that must be cleaned of the deep ruffs of mud picked up by swinging across the pastures that haven’t filled in yet with a sod of barley and oats.
I awake with a species of contentment born only of light pattering of rain … am one with the Resurrection Fern out on our ranges, soak in the moisture in the air, unfurl. The day barely makes 50 F.
When I go out across the Bermudagrass Triangle to try to find the pair of pocket binoculars that yesterday had fallen out of, well, my pocket, I stumble on a large Cooper’s Hawk lying dead, its flesh picked about clean but the feathers still beautiful in its wings that are nearly three feet in span. What monster is abroad to have taken down this master bird of prey?
Azure sky, from zenith to horizons all around the same hue, a singular small lenticular cloud on the South but it evaporates like one that dares wander in during Foresummer to be extinguished in a near instant in air almost void of humidity. The 71 degrees today feel as ferociously hot as any dished out by the Foresummer, too: it is too hot to work in anything more than a workshirt alone.
More Red-winged Blackbirds are joining the herd and me at Mason’s–and they’re very welcome–and more Milk Thistles are germinating–and they’re very unwelcome! Tansy Mustard seedlings are also appearing.
One disaster after another, and I find myself out late, with the day almost gone to its rest. The Galiuros look alone in the gray sky with the way they’re set in the dark shadowed broad landscape–those peaks and sheer faces below them are white, glowing, and across those miles they cast light towards me in beams like a full Moon. They’re colored in gentle brush strokes of sage green, and bay. In a moment all are dusky violet-blue and shady pink, as if a switch were thrown and in the next moment the sky is lit afire overhead, and the land, hills, pastures old and sprouting are for a moment or two all a rose incandescence.
Seventy-five degrees again, bringing Mexican Yellow Butterflies back to the mud at The Stockpond (though they’ll be the last of the Sulphurs until next Spring), dragonflies there too; out on the pastures and over The Cienega they also swoop. The Cottonwoods that still have leaves are at their most scintillating, they shiver and pulse out their colors against the smokey blue of the mountains.
The herd, well familiar with the land and the route through it, and the people mounted or walking, and the horses, all come together in good ways and while not completely free of flaps and an unwanted excitement or two, the great chore of this cattle drive down Cascabel Road and up onto the mesas is accomplished, and I heave an equally great sigh of relief. A Red-winged Grasshopper flies up from the hooves of the lead cow as she goes for that water at the end of their trail up on range, two weeks after the last of these wonderfully colorful insects put on a show in the Mason bermudagrass. There will be no sight or music of this special grasshopper again until the long Summer of next year starts to thin down and the changing slant of the Sun calls them once again to their dance.
Grateful no cows had peeled off and got into the hopelessly jumbled Tamarisk thickets of the San Pedro’s riverbed, no horse got tangled in the old collapsed rusted barbed wire fences on the ridges, and that the people who help in this do so love to come partake in it, I go back to the bottomland pastures where only a few lonely cow kind have been left behind to increase their frames or to give birth for the first time in their lives in the coming months. Again insects are filling the air, catching the late sun. The peace of a well-finished chore drifts down and there is the feeling for the barest breath of a moment that work has come to be caught up and everything is right in this rural world.
Sad sweet notes of White-crowned Sparrows come on the 26 degree morning air. A pudding skin of ice covers The Stockpond and the bermudagrass is a filaree of white crystals of frost with Red-shafted Flickers looking bright against the tall white weeds.
A lot of the herd from the Mason Pastures will be moved downriver on the road over the next couple of days, to be settled then on the upper grazing ranges for the Winter; surely we’ve just brought them down from there only last week in that great heat and dust of June! The first waterer for them must be topped up, there fairly high up above the dry Hot Springs Canyon. Lesser Goldfinches drink eagerly, boldly, at the cracked hose filling that metal stocktank: on the desert, those who delight in having a garden or patio be visited by the variety of birds here that is the marvel of these Sky Islands and bajadas need only fill a pan with water, sit back, sip a bacanora, and enjoy.
Back at Mason’s at the end of day, the tiniest of midges dance on the surface of a now-thawed puddle in the native grass planting, each minute form catching the late sun before the very cold and long night comes down.