The desert in southern New Mexico – arid, wild winds – sand paper skin, cracked heels, vast views, blazing night skies. Rabbits, squirrels, mice, rats, deer, coyote, lizards, birds, cholla, yucca, pear cactus, piñon, juniper….and silence.
Staying in the desert on in retreat, I was gifted with the Presence of animal friends.
. . .
On a recent brisk morning in the near distance I saw a group of female deer grazing in the desert. When they detected my presence, five pairs of highly tuned antennas turned in my direction.
The group stared at me for a few seconds, then in unison leapt with precise agility over a fence made of barbed wire and tree limbs.
One yearling could not jump high enough and was held back from joining the others. She dashed back-and-forth next to the perimeter as two adult females, brown eyes wide and sparking, followed her movements on the other side of the fence. Finally she found a lower section and vaulted across.
The five graces disappeared into the desert landscape.
Madam squirrel arrived sitting on her haunches atop a nearby fence post, her tail a soft brown and white scarf dancing in the wind. She looked over at me rather unconcerned and scrambled down the post. Her nose quivered across the desert floor in my direction, until she paused two feet away checking me out with a sideways glance. Was she hoping for breakfast?
“Sorry squirrel dear, no croissants this morning!” I said.
“Okay then!” I imagined her thinking, “be that way!”
She scampered off, her neck scarf dragging on the desert floor, perhaps to join her compadres dumpster diving in the compost heap.
It seemed all the locals were coming to have a look at the two-legged newcomer.
A lizard, crawling down a wooden post on the verandah, paused in its movements and gave me its quiet regard.
I gazed over at its body – an intricate pattern of grey, white and brown colors with splashes of turquoise on its underside that flashed when another lizard came too close, or, perhaps it was meant to attract the females?
Holding its ground, the lizard warrior puffed up its six-inch form, did a few push-ups for effect ( I presumed to scare me off) and realizing I was harmless, relaxed and proceeded down the post to the weathered wooden floor. There it flattened down to a less warrior-like stance and basked in the morning sun by my feet.
Moments later my attention was grabbed by a loud whirring sound. I turned my head and discovered a hummingbird one foot away from my face suspended in mid-air scrutinizing me with her black beady eyes. White feathers covered her underside and on her head she wore a fashionable hat of black plumage. It didn’t take her long to figure out my body was not a huge exotic flower. She soon flew off, wings beating hundreds of times a second in a blur of stilled activity.
Looking out on the desert floor a few feet away, two rabbits nibbled on green stalks. Sniffing the air, they did not seem bothered by my human form but kept a cautious distance, just in case.
In silence, there is a particular intimacy with the natural world.
. . .
And this morning so many neighbors were out and about.
And what great neighbors indeed! The kind that greet you with a quiet hello, go about their own business and leave behind their delightful absence.