Snipe on The Cienega, creeping, hiding, like a mammal in green tussocks.
The blue-green Stockpond is lightly ruffled by Spring breezes, on it bob a pair of Mexican Mallards and a pair of Cinnamon Teal. The male teal is a color deep and rich, carnelian and that very rich cinnamon of theirs. The black bill is set off by a red eye startling as a jewel set into the idol, Matrix, the Mother–Nature–from whence we came, to which we go, in which we are.
In what is called “Winter” here this landscape is as richly toned as the great black-and-white Hollywood romances of the 1930s–but that is gone by this last week of February, the Cottonwoods are already a splash of watercolor green and now they remind me of my mother tinting with Easter egg dye the black-and-white kodak snapshots of the 1950s (who could afford color film then?), green for a dress, red for her lips. While Arizonans pride ourselves on toughing out some of the wildest heat on Earth, we also resist letting go of the precious cold, but the season is being overpowered before our disbelieving eyes. It’s sinking in that we are not this year to have the dramatic canvasses to treasure of stark white Cottonwood trunks against a frigid blackening sky as snow flurries sweep in, no, not in this Winter That Never Really Was. There will be no dawn of surpassing enchantment of Silver Fog this year, when a white cloud is snuggled down over the mesquites and rises in level blanket to just above the treetops, each tiny twig and large limb feathered with frost that picks up and holds within it the sunlight sifting down into the mist from an utterly clear blue sky above the roof of that fog blanket. I realize sadly that neither are we to see the high double mountain to the south be draped for a day (or even two) in a stunning and surprising blanket of snow: no, Mae West will not be donning her white angora sweater. It is 77 degrees, on the radio the KXCI deejay tells that orange blossoms are perfuming the air in Tucson, the flower buds of lilacs in Cascabel yards are showing color, violets have been in bloom since December in Pat’s dooryard garden at El Potrero, Bladderpods are in flower in our seldomly used #4 Pasture, and Loggerhead Shrikes are already wandering off and becoming more scarce–been weeks since I’ve seen one–and I expect they’ll move out soon to wherever it is they do go for their own Arizona Summer. I already miss their sass and chatter and their cheery greeting and know that we’ll probably not hear much more of that until about the time the pastures are to be made ready in September for another Winter’s planting. Into the ears of even those whose ignorance of the Earth’s climate change is willful are coming these whispers–and shouts–of the possibility we come to be driven out of this already challenging place that ever has been close to the edge of uninhabitability to begin with. Or … will we find we are going to lose it all through one catastrophic change or another anyway, we who stay on here now and live in the wonder of how this naturalist’s and historian’s and cowboy’s paradise remains what we’ve wanted it to and what we love? Freeway bypasses … bedroom community subdivisions … drone test range proposals … the road getting completely paved some day … and now: SunZia’s massive sets of high tension electric lines tall as a high-rise, the construction effects collateral that will come with the installation of those lines, the ongoing access needs to service them, with the vehicles to do so, the warning lights that will flash atop them in what was once a desert of darkness inviolate. I am emotionally unable to watch this happen yet its coming is apparently unstoppable, with likely its first destruction flowing into this valley through the saddle between Mason Pastures and the Mae West Peaks, after the towers make that wildland pass from Willcox over which year after year we carry our grassfed beeves on the last trailer trip of their lives. SunZia would be a pill deadly to each of us here in personally different ways; for me the gaul in it is that I am expected to surrender with grace and peaceable resignation what is left in my life to love above all things, surrender it to someone else who through power-sucking video games and consoles can only live through a screen’s virtual reality a life as exciting as the one I do in real reality. My ranching existence as it presents in the Contemporary West will be sacrificed to someone else’s artificial existence as it presents in a fabricated Old West of, e.g., the gunslinging and fabulously popular, fabulously and deeply disturbingly violent game (complete with human gore oft-splattered onto the screen) set in an imagined Southwest borderland, “Red Dead Redemption”, which enthusiastic gaming reviews say “expertly captures the Wild West.” What it really captures is the market demographic of young males who are the usual rattlesnake bite victims hauled off to the emergency room. Cascabel and my life under the Mae West Peaks will be sold for a mess of wattage.
Not that I haven’t thought of leaving, or haven’t tried to leave and more than once, but … well, I’ll go, but will this be the year like 2001 when wildflowers bloom spectacularly again, so I ought to wait and see if they do, I mean, that can’t be missed … oh but then the warblers are soon to pass through after that, well, I can stay at least long enough to enjoy migration one more time, and the arrival and singing of our Mexican bird specialties … and calves! who’d want to miss the calves? … and oh yes, scattering the herd on the range, well I want to do that one more year, give one more go at it, I can hang around that long … the sizzling Foresummer, with all the world looking to the sky for the first grand thunderheads to form … the season of delicious and beautiful red Saguaro fruits … no, can’t leave when the Monsoon is about to make every creature human and otherwise happy, and excited, and bring raging washes and flashfloods to liven up the day, or night … wait, the Barrel Cactus are really going to go nuts with flowers this summer, you can see all the buds and it’s so much fun to ride out and compare them all one to the other … ah, no, better not leave now, maybe I’ll go next month, can’t do it with the skies of September about to bless us with their O’keefe cloudscapes and dazzling huge moonrises … oh hell, leaving can wait until after we watch the pastures we’ve seed-planted sprout and thicken and become as emerald as Ireland … got to see the snow return to the high country around us in all directions, then I can go … but look, there are so many millions of wildflower seedlings, this could be the best year yet for The Show though it had better rain damn soon or we’ll lose it … I’ll leave after that!
Sunset is fire, and lilac.