Yesterday we had a windstorm in the desert and I wrote about Callie finding a way to follow her bliss by climbing her favorite olive tree. The wind blew hard and dusty all night long but the morning dawned with a radiant golden hue and the foothills appeared molten. The sand settled down and calm once again has returned to the desert. I pondered on how the coyotes fair during storms and got an answer piled on my back patio this morning. A coyote decided to leave a calling card and had the brazen gaul to scale my wall and tour the backyard during the night. He was looking for Callie. I am always watchful when Callie is out in the back yard and don’t let her out of my sight. She is not allowed outside without an escort which can sometimes be a drag and Callie doesn’t always like it. There are times she wants to frolick and be free to explore the desert. She is actually a very obedient cat most of the time and rarely causes much trouble, and keeping an eye on her is the only way to keep her safe! The coyotes are extra hungry after a couple of days of not being able to hunt and are probably forced to be more resourceful after a big storm. But with the light of morning, the sunrise was breathtaking and a visual treat for anyone up early enough to witness it. The clouds blushed a lovely pink in the east and that is why the foothills were so golden. Callie had been house bound for most of yesterday, so this morning she climbed the tree closest to the back wall. The wind was still blowing but not as hard, and she climbed higher than ever before. She loves looking out over the desert and maybe she is hoping for a glimpse of those rascally roadrunners. The temperature has dropped considerably and it was a brisk and colorful morning. Autumn has returned to the desert and the relief of the desert dwellers is palatable. The birds I identified as possibly being Townsend’s Solitaire’s were in fact, Blue Mountain Birds. They returned to the bird bath for another quick splash in the water this morning and the males flashed a lovely sky blue when they took flight. It is a flock of maybe 15 birds and they look like they are having such a fabulous time. They come down from the mountains when the weather changes and are like little snowbirds following the sun. When Callie was ready for her breakfast and came back inside the house, she needed a nice warm and cozy place to sleep the day away. She chose the front guest room and squeezed her way under the covers. The morning sun filters through the window and it is the warmest room in the house. Such is the life of one very spoiled and adorable cat!
Nothing will keep Callie from following her bliss. Her beloved olive trees were being whipped and swirled into circular motions but Callie still found a way to climb up her favorite tree. A beautiful flock of possible Townsend’s Solitaire or some kind of mountain thrush flew in with the storm and landed on the tree, on the ground around the tree and a few took a quick splash in the bird bath. It happened so fast that I was not able to identify them nor take a decent photograph. A big gust of wind sent them careening back out and on to wherever they were going. They appeared to be having a blast and the wind made flying fun and exciting. I had to take the wind chime down and place it at the base of the tree because it was banging so loudly. With other animals, it can be a severe detriment to hunting, scavenging and searching for food. The winds were about 30 mph and most desert wildlife have to seek shelter until the storm blows over. If the storm is powerful enough inland, the dry side of the mountain, which is the desert, will receive rainfall. Today’s storm didn’t produce rain but instead blew sand and leaves and dust everywhere. I have given up on the idea of having a clean and dust free house. Instead, I have tiny litttle sand dunes below all my windows and doors. I have accepted that this is the way it shall be in the desert and I am appreciative that I at least have shelter. I wonder what the coyotes do, and the jackrabbits, quail and roadrunners? It can’t be as easy an acceptance as mine to deal with sand and dust everywhere. Some storms blow for days and I wonder how they manage to eat and sleep? Anza Borrego State Desert Park is one of the largest State Parks in California. If you live north and west of Anza Borrego, next time it rains where you live, reflect on what is happening in the desert. The storm has to have a powerful enough punch and clouds need to be heavy with enough moisture to produce rain in the desert. The mountains prevent the storm from traveling to the other side unless winds are strong enough to carry them up and over. Today’s storm was relatively mild compared to some storms and Callie was able to take a few moments to climb her tree and sharpen her claws, face the wind and follow her bliss.
I mentioned in my last post that Callie came across a scorpion and that because I rarely wear shoes and prefer to go barefoot, the thought of stepping on a scorpion some morning at the break of dawn, feels a little disconcerting. I love going barefoot and trying to put a pair of shoes on every time I go outside is going to take some adjustment on my part. But after seeing the scorpion in the sand, I may have a change of heart and force myself to slip my feet into a pair of crocs that I thought were so cool when I bought them, and have never worn since. They have been sitting in my closet collecting dust for years and I have moved them from a beach location to the desert and haven’t worn them even once. Crocs seem to look good on other people’s feet, but with mine, I look like a duck. When I saw the scorpion in the sand, what made my heart skip a beat, was that it blended in so perfectly and that if Callie hadn’t tapped it with her paw, it wouldn’t have whipped it’s tail into a vertical position and I would not have seen it. I am sorry that my husband had to kill it, but if you were me and you looked down at a not so small scorpion lying in the sand with a very threatening tail and stinger on the end, I think your sympathies would lie with me. And on another note, I am not sure I will be eating shrimp or lobster any time soon either! For some reason, seeing the scorpion has turned my appetite away from shellfish because scorpions look just like little lobsters. Has anyone noticed that, or is it just my imagination? I know that in some exotic countries you may see scorpion on the menu and order it deep fried or in a lovely tomato and garlic based sauce and I have also seen scorpions on skewers and children eat them like chicken on a stick. There is nothing wrong with that. But since I for one cannot afford lobster tail very often, I am going to pretend that lobsters are scorpions and scorpions are lobsters. That way I won’t feel deprived about not ordering lobster tail from Maine and scorpions won’t look quite so scary in the sand. Looking at those tails with a stinger on the end the size of a fish hook is something else though. Callie sure knew enough not to mess with it. But scorpion on the menu, it doesn’t sound very appetizing, now does it. So, to get back to my point about a change of heart. I really need to make an effort at putting on a perfectly nice pair of shoes I bought years ago and can make use of now before I step outside and into the sand. The desert creatures don’t always respect boundaries and would not know a private yard if it was pointed out to them, so it may just possibly save me from stepping on a cute little lobster one morning while Callie is blissfully climbing up the olive trees.
The desert is an unforgiving place and the animals and plants that live here have evolved to handle the worst that is thrown at them. Sandstorms and lack of water are an every day experience. When a scorpion happens to make it through our walled in backyard, it is probably searching for water. This is the third scorpion that Calle has confronted, and she knows they are dangerous. Any other insect or creature would be fair game for her, but she reacts very differently with a scorpion. My husband and I were sitting outside having a cup of coffee when Callie let out a primal sound that clearly meant for me to come and help her. I jumped up and raced over to her and she was tapping the scorpion ever so gingerly. I grabbed her and put her in the house while praising her for telling me about it, and Michael picked up a shovel in order to kill it. You can’t have animals in your territory if they can hurt you. It really is pretty amazing that Callie would know that they pack a sting. How does she know that? When she let out the scream, I knew right away that she needed help. She is one of the smartest cats I have ever raised and she communicates with me.When she is hungry, she chews, when she thinks it is time for me to go to bed, she circles me and heads down the hallway. She also taps you ever so gently on the arm when she thinks it is time to get up. That is one form of communication I don’t always appreciate. Callie and I have a remarkable relationship and I was very thankful that she showed me where the scorpion was. I still walk around barefoot indoors and out, and stepping on a scorpion would hurt, so I will do my best to put on a pair of shoes when I escort Callie to the olive trees. In the meantime, I will try to keep a good lookout for scorpions in the sand and can rest in peace that if Callie is by my side, she will alert me to the danger….
There is something very special about the dawn unfolding in the desert. The lighting is so diffused and the shadows on the mountains distinct and mysterious. Everything looks flat and the horizon so close you could reach out and touch it. The mountains almost look like they are cut out of cardboard and pasted dramatically on the backdrop of a theater stage. The San Ysidro Mountains blush a brilliant golden rose, and the whole sky lights up a pale and soft feathery blue. Mornings are for hummingbirds and Callie loves climbing up the olive trees to follow her dream of chasing and catching anything on the wing. I am always careful to protect all the little creatures from Callie’s grasp but she doesn’t seem to hold it against me. Her enthusiasm hasn’t waned after a year and a half of futile chases and I believe she just loves to climb for the shear joy of it. I usually get up before the light of dawn and have a cup of strong coffee and Callie waits in her red basket for the mountains to light up in the distance. When the light is sufficient for keeping Callie safe from becoming part of the food chain, I fling open the door and out she races. There are three olive trees in the backyard and her favorite one is close to the house and the hummingbird feeder. It has lovely branches that reach out parallel to the ground and she can climb to the top and still have a good foot hold. There are many hummingbirds at this hour flitting from branch to branch and Callie does her best to try to catch one. It is so quiet in the desert in the early morning hours except for the squeak and grind and funny little noises of tiny hummingbirds singing their hearts out. The flash on the neck of the dominant rubythroated male that tries to hoard the feeder is outmanueuvored by four, very smart, less brilliantly colored females. They work in cooperation and use their intelligence rather than their size to drink the nectar. I always put two feeders up about twenty feet apart so it is difficult for one bird to hog the feeder alone. He may be the biggest bird in the yard, but he is worn out by the sheer number of smart but smaller females. Callie is in heaven chasing multiple birds and the hummingbirds all have a chance at feeding because of the distraction. It almost seems like everyone is having a good time of it. May Callie continue to chase her dream without actually catching it, and may I have the pleasure of many mornings to come, watching the drama unfold.
Yesterday I shared my hopes that the storm inland, would bring rain to the parched Anza Borrego Desert. I got my wish! We received torrential rain and heart stopping thunder and lightening toward evening. I wonder how the bighorn sheep managed in the storm? I have read about whole herds of reindeer dying from a lightening strike, and this storm brought a lot of lightening that hit the ground with brilliant flashes of light! You could see the silhouette of mountains and palm trees for a just a second and then all would go black again. It only lasted for a couple of hours but the sky opened up and rain poured from the heavens. We had a power outage too which made the evening even more dramatic and memorable. Callie was outside right before the storm hit and one particular crack of thunder was so loud that the house shook. Callie didn’t even flinch. That surprises me because my Jack Russel Terrier, Miss Adelaide, was so frightened of thunder and lightening, she would have taken off and hidden in the closet underneath the clothes and trembled for hours. I went on a bike ride this morning and didn’t see any damage from the storm. The desert sand absorbed most of the water and there was no apparent serious runoff or flash flooding. I will keep an eye out for the bighorn sheep and for changes in the desert flora. This storm will bring much wanted relief after the long, hot and dry summer.
I can’t help but brag about today’s sighting of Pennisular Bighorn Sheep. We have a herd of about 20,very healthy bighorn sheep that come down from the highlands in order to graze on the De Anza Golf Course. It becomes harder to find good grazing after the long dry summer months, and it isn’t until they literally run out of food, that they are forced to cautiously head down in search of something to eat and this forces them to come into contact with humans. There are several mature ewes or females that lead the way and they seem so wise and calm and have collars on their necks for tracking. The males, or rams, follow behind with their heads held low and heavy from varying degrees of horn size and curvature and some of the younger males rear up and collide with each other in play. The young males are the most mischievous and seem itching for a fight. You can tell it is difficult to keep the young males in line. We heard the collision of two such juveniles playfully ram each other while prancing down the trail, and the impact they made was loud and reverberated throughout the canyon walls. The young lambs are the last to come down off the mountain and they look like they have never seen a human before and are frightened and stare wth intensity. It is rutting season right now so the big males will fight for the right to breed and it is the stronger, older males that have access to the females. One particularly big horned ram followed the collared ewes and snaked his head back and forth and nipped at the females just like a stallion horse behaves. We were on our bikes and had separated the herd in half with the big males and older females on one side of the road and the young on the other side. We stopped our bikes and waited for most to cross and when it looked like the herd was going to panick and go back up the hillside, we biked as fast as we could without making eye contact, through the split herd while one brave and calm ewe kept an eye on us and the yong ones. It is so amazing to watch these wild animals navigate the desert flora and manage to do so and thrive. This herd looks very healthy and I am proud to live among them. I know there are clashes between the sheep and the country club dwellers and hope that compromise is the goal. The sheep were here long before we were and it is our water features and grass on the golf course that entices them to come into contact with us. We provide something green to eat when the scorching summer has dried out all the grasses and shrubs. Our golf course gives them a last chance location to graze before the autumn rains start again and they head back up to the higher elevations. At any rate, it was a good day for a bike ride, and a better day for the sheep. It rained inland today and I hope the rains come soon for the desert and all it’s flora and fauna…
There is nothing quite like celebrating my 61st birthday for five days in a row. I had my sister, Gayle, visit for three days before my birthday, my husband, Michael, spoiled me on my birthday and yesterday we drove to Palm Springs to check out the Wild West Art Exhibition at the Palm Springs Art Museum. This museum was founded in 1938, and is a regional art, natural science and performing arts institution. The current show is western art, and cowboys, indians and desert scenes are the dominant subject matter. Artists like N.C. Wyeth and Remington showcased the event. I happen to really appreciate desert landscape painting and hope to one day dabble in plein-air landscapes of Anza Borrego in the near future. It would be something I could do when I start a road trip with MIchael and Callie and the RV we are saving up for. Lara, my daughter, joined us for the day and I was very impressed with the exhibit and museum in general. It has fabulous, easy on the eyes lighting and the wood floors are kind on the feet and joints for us senior and soon to be senior citizens. The 3rd floor has a funny elderly couple that sit at the top of the stairs looking drearily out over an exhibit of modern art, and when you reach the top floor yourself, you walk right past them slightly out of breath. You are careful not to disturb them and so veer to the left and it isn’t until you round the corner and walk past them the second time, that you realize that they are part of the exhibit. I have been fooled twice now. The Palm Springs Art Museum has something for everyone. I loved the whimsical stacked plates, interactive blown glass sculptures and all the displays in general. It is a clean and well lit museum and just big enough to make you feel like you are getting your money’s worth without becoming exhausted. We missed the outdoor sculpture exhibit because we had arrived late in the day and the museum closes at 5. I will have to come back another time to check it out. It is well located in downtown Palm Springs at 101 N Museum Drive.
I have seen other cats use their paws to dip into water in order to lick it off. And I believe that Callie does this so that she doesn’t get water up her nose or if the water is too low for her to reach in a glass with her tongue. Even if she isn’t the only cat doing this, I still think it demonstrates a fair amount of intelligence. The first time I witnessed this behavior was when I left a glass of water that was only half full on the bathroom counter. I would brush my teeth in the evening and go to bed and in the morning I would use that water the next time I brushed my teeth. There is a California drought going on and I am trying to comply with less water usage. One day, I happened to look back before climbing into bed and who should I see, but Callie drinking out of my glass of water. She had made a beeline for the glass as soon as the lights were turned off and because she couldn’t reach the water with her tongue, she dipped her paw inside and used it as a tool. Can you imagine drinking from that glass the next day? She uses that same paw to cover up her poop in the litter box. I was horrified but at the same time I was very impressed and I thought to myself that she is so adorable being super careful not to knock the glass over. She gently dips her paw in the water and delicately licks it off her paw when it is wet. After my initial surprise, and relief that in the future, I will not be drinking water out of a glass that has been left over night on the counter, all I can think of is how grateful I am that I witnessed such intelligent behavior and that I discovered this behavior before I drank the water the next day! Who knows how long I have been drinking water defiled by her paw before I made this discovery! She is very feminine and acts like a girl when she does this. The only time I see her acting in a manner that is not befitting her cuteness is when another cat comes along and she turns into a demon. Her hatred of cats is frightening and any cat that comes close enough to her gets the message that it had better move along fast! But when you watch her dipping her paw to retrieve water, she is the cutest little cat you have ever seen. So, I have mixed emotions about what I have just witnessed. I have pride in her obvious intelligence and horror at having probably consumed fouled water in the past. My solution to this problem is to never drink from a glass of water that is left on the counter over night, and to purchase a water fountain so that she can have fresh running water at all times. She also has the swimming pool in the backyard that on occasion she drinks out of, and oh, the toilet bowl if the lid is left open. Thank goodness she is as cute as she is and that her cuteness excuses her when she performs lowly acts of animal behavior. So, my advice is to never judge a cat by it’s cover and to think before you drink!
I mentioned in my previous blog that my sister, Gayle and I have a shared love of horses. We were given a horse, actually, a Welch/Quarter horse- pony that we shared with my other sister, Janet, when we were children. His name was Little Geronimo and he was a kind and hard working pony. I must have been around 12, Gayle, 11 and Janet, 10… We had Regina Marie Anne, her foal, Buffy Saint Marie, and the list goes on. When I raised my daughter Lara and we had to choose a sport she could compete in… soccer did not make the list. We decided on an equestrian sport with Arabian horses. Champagne Flight became the love of my life and a wonderful trail horse when he made it clear he didn’t like being on the show circuit. My husband Michael has been vey supportive about my need to have a horse in my life. Gayle and I have continued with this passion and to this day we are still riding together as 60 year old women. When are you too old to ride? I hope to ride until I die. Gayle boards Bella for me and I try to ride several times a month. It is a 2 hour drive, one way for me, so the desire to ride is still a passion for me! Gayle also has 2 fabulous dogs, River and Murphy and we have so much fun together. Bella was a rescue horse, and quite bitter and angry when we first adopted her. Now she is a jewel to ride and even knickers when I come to visit her. So Gayle rides her Morgan/Quarter horse Sargent and I ride Bella. River, the white shepherd and Murphy, the collie joyously tag along. It is a great way to spend a couple of hours together, and if horses could talk, what would they have to say about it all? Gayle and I talk nonstop and Bella’s ears twitch back and forth the whole time. Because they are senior horses, we take care not to move any faster than a walk. I believe we are keeping them young and I KNOW they are doing the same for us.