18 July 2005

Now and Then

For the first time in my life, I live very close to the ocean---as in a few hundred yards from it. I took a leisurely stroll to the post office this morning by way of the beach. There are some very low tides for the next several days. This morning I was able to walk far out along the sandy beach. I looked at sand dollars and teased some anemones. I listened to the barnacles who were currently stranded above the water line. I even picked up the largest shell I have ever seen. Later, I took a walk down the pier and gazed at Seattle. Lots of small children and dogs were playing in the warm water. Everyone seems grateful for summer to be here.

But all of this is still new to me. I'm really much more of a desert rat by definition. I grew up in the Chihuahuan Desert where there wasn't much playing during a summer's day. It was too darned hot. Once the sun started to set and things cooled off, it was very different.

Instead of hunting for shells, we went herping. I know that this sounds like a wonderful way to contract a socially transmitted disease. What it's about is collecting snakes and lizards. Being ectothermic, these animals depend on outside sources to maintain their body temperature. At night, they come out to the highways and lay on the radiant asphalt for the night. This also makes for good one stop shopping for whatever you might be looking for: kingsnakes, skinks, and the like. There's good money to be had if you can collect something desirable. I've always had a thing for snakes, even though I've never owned one. (Yes, Dr. Freud, I know.)

If you're really looking for a good time, you could travel down the road to watch for the Marfa Lights. These are colored blobs of lights that dance around on the horizon. (The more beer you have beforehand, the easier it is to spot them.) There have been documented observations of the lights since the 1800's and some claim that native Americans saw them even earlier. No one is really sure what they are...although plenty of explanations abound.

Giant Film Production Sign by sashafatcat CC-BY

 The observation area is not too far from where the movie Giant was filmed. There are plenty of locals around to tell you about seeing Elizabeth Taylor at the country club. Even my next door neighbor got to ride around on Rock Hudson's shoulders when he mowed the lawn at her grandfather's house (where Hudson was staying during filming). For many years, you could see the "Reata" house from the highway. It was just a facade, of course. It eventually fell down from neglect. I'm still sad about that.

I have a different sort of life now. One that's providing some new avenues of learning and thinking. But I do have to smile when I think about the 3-year olds talking about the tide pools this morning...and wondering what would happen if they met up with some young desert rats.

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