Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: desert life

Weird Science: A Kangaroo Rat’s Unhappy Flight

The life of a kangaroo rat. If you think your life is hard, that too many crazy things just happen to you and you have no control what-so-ever, just think of him. Not only does he contend with attacks from above and below, he is regularly swept up by strong winds AND humans on a weird science quest to determine windspeeds!

“The kangaroo rat has proved to be a useful unit of measurement for the upward speed of a dust devil. Or so concluded one researcher in 1947, according to the scientific literature: Having noted that dust devils sometimes snatch up these luckless creatures, the investigator measured the speed at which a kangaroo rat falls when dropped from a tower. From this observation he was able to calculate that the upward speed of dust devils must be at least twenty-five miles an hour. He further observed that the kangaroo rat was angered by this employment but unhurt. Since California’s Mojave Desert, as an example, can host thousands of dust devils a day, evolution may have furnished the oft-lofted kangaroo rat with a crashproof anatomy.”

The Secret Life of Dust by Hannah Holmes
Weird science experiment "lab rat"
A rescue from the cat.
Those fluffy bouncing tails
are just too tempting!

You come up from your burrow to the surface, squinting your big black eyes at the brightness. The sun is low on the horizon, casting long shadows of joshua trees and cholla across the ground, perfect hiding places from predators up above. You take some tentative hops out onto the hot desert floor, your little rat feet barely noticing the sandy 150-degree surface.

A warm breeze brushes past your short whiskers and you sniff…smells dry and dusty. You stop, lean back on your giant back legs (the better to jump with my dear) and take a long look around. That ridge there looks promising for delicious seeds. Dropping forward into a long fast hop to the next shady spot, the breeze gets stronger and your whiskers twitch in alarm.

You lean in and pick up speed, your big but stout ears can hear the roar of the wind coming on like a freight train (if you knew what one was). Suddenly, you’re airborne, tumbling through the sky, fluffy tufted tail over tiny nose and around again.

“Not again,” you grumble to yourself as you spin through the air along with pieces of paper, abandoned grocery bags, and loose sand. Bits of rocks and twigs bite your ears as you tumble and turn in the air with them. “Where will I land this time? And how long will it take me to find my burrow? My wife just won’t believe it happened again!”

As quickly as you were picked up, the dust devil drops you back onto the hot desert floor like a human toddler tired with its toy. You roll along the ground and land head down with your back smack against a large rock, a rock larger than you, anyway. Righting yourself, you shake your head in disgust, throwing the fine sand from your ears and take stock of your situation.

You have no idea where you are. Everything looks familiar, but the smells here are so different. “How many miles from home has that devil taken me this time?” A few tentative hops tell you that nothing is broken, just a bit battered and confused, when you’re suddenly pounced on by a cat and brought into the human house like a toy, or worse, scooped up by a lab coat wearing researcher to be dropped ON PURPOSE, your fall timed with precision, all in the name of science!

I wrote about this wonderful book back in January. Hop over the post, “The Secret Life of Dust” by Hannah Holmes to read my first thoughts on it.

Have you read this book? Want to read along with me? Go get The Secret Life of Dust and leave me a comment about your thoughts on it. I can’t wait to hear from you!


“Four Reasons a Newsletter is Better Than a Social Media Feed”
Bypass the social media algorithms and sign up for my weekly newsletter. Each week will give you a rundown of my favorites posts, podcasts, and few funnies. Read what you want, when you want, without getting sucked into the endless scroll mode!

Wary of Newcomers

“Encounters between strangers in the desert, while rare, were occasions of mutual suspicion, and marked by initial preparations on both sides for an incident that might prove either cordial or warlike.”

A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.

I giggled a bit when I read this and shared (read “bothered”) it with my sons. Set in the American Southwest 800 years after nuclear disaster, meetups in the desert haven’t changed much.

I exaggerate, of course, but people who voluntarily move out to the desert are generally looking for solitude. These days, because technology has made it more accessible, the desert is becoming more and more populated. To find real solitude, one must move farther out again.

Those who were among the first to set up small communities in the rural deserts are gone. Their succeeding generations that decided to stay and the next wave of peace seekers, are not wary of the newcomers and approach them carefully.

Why are you here? And can I tolerate your presence on the outskirts of my hermitage?

The stress is on the side of the newcomer as well. Will this stranger be one of those anti-social, “get of my property,” shotgun toting weirdos we hear of in old stories? Or will he be a friendly recluse, ready and willing to greet a stranger and talk about the weather for awhile over a cold beer on the porch?

It’s Friday, my Friends! Episode #9

Oh my goodness, people! We’re on week three of my new morning routine! Those that know me are in shock for sure. Sticking to anything for more than a week is pretty rare. For those that are just coming on board, or just plain don’t remember, I changed my focus three weeks ago and decided to treat reading and writing as my job.

I’m self-employed and working on building a business, the business of author, so I need to keep regular hours. My hours are 5am to 11am and during those hours, I think of myself as “at work.” When I’m at work, I act accordingly. I stick to my schedule and focus on my job, limiting my socializing by keeping my phone set to silent and checking my social media feeds after I’m done working for the day. For the most part anyway! What can I say? I have to be honest!

It has worked wonders! Suddenly, reading and writing is not something I get to when I have time. Reading and writing are not “messing around” all morning until I get up enough energy to get my housework done. They are my work! And when I’m done working, I have some lunch, talk to my friends, and get some housework done.

It’s a huge change of focus from the last fifteen years of my life. The kids’ activities and education, keeping on top of the housework, and making sure there was enough healthy food in the house used to be my priority. My “kids” have one foot out the door now and really don’t need me to focus on them so much. I do need to be here when they need me, but I don’t need to be directing or hovering. And my sweet husband works all morning too. He’s here in the house, but he’s working. He doesn’t need me coming in and telling him about strange bird activity in the yard or what I saw on Facebook either. This shift was a long time coming but once I saw the need, BAM, here I am!

So what does the morning consist of? Simple. Coffee. Read my non-fiction. Read my fiction. Yoga. Meditation. Coffee. Write 1000 new words. Edit and re-write yesterday’s words. Post. Breakfast. Read more. Done! That’s when I begin the rest of my day, when I take care of my other responsibilities…like playing with friends online!

And as you can tell by the frequent posting, it’s working! Goals are being met! Now…if I could only make a living at this. The plotting and planning continues!

Thing I learned: I’ve learned this many times in the past, but this week I was reminded once again that I tend to think ahead just a little TOO much. Just like an amazing vacation, I don’t need to know exactly where I’m going all the time. I can just enjoy the journey and see where things go. I tend to worry and then I worry that worry too much! A friend reminded me last week that it’s not a bad thing to consider the consequences of my actions, to take into account how what I want to do will affect my family. I just need to find a healthy balance.

Thing I’m reading: The Economist magazine. Twenty-four hour immediate news and its commentary was starting to drive me mad, so I left it. I rarely watch TV news, unless I’m just in a funk and want to revel in being annoyed. And I’ve unfollowed any news sources on social media since that’s not news, that’s just a rumor mill. But I still need to know what’s going on in the world, so I decided to BUY a PRINTED weekly magazine subscription. I know! $120 a year is cheap for peace, let me tell you.

I love this magazine for two reasons. (I just realized I say “for two reasons” quite often.) First of all, at the front it has “The world this week: Politics and Business.” It’s a few pages of bulleted small paragraphs just summing up events. Great for reading over breakfast or lunch, much like a newspaper. Second are all the longer articles throughout the magazine. Those are the ones I read throughout the week during my coffee breaks.

I love having the magazine in print instead of online because I’m not tempted to scoot over and see if someone liked my picture of the dog or scroll down and read the comments. And the articles aren’t chosen by me or a social media algorithm, so I get a much greater variety of input. Some articles I strongly disagree with and some are about things I didn’t even know existed.

Honestly people, there isn’t much national or international news that you have to have at the moment it’s happening. It only causes stress. Yes, I should keep up on some politics and world news, but there nothing immediate that I need to do about North Korea or what President Trump just tweeted. A raw food diet may be better for you body, but a raw news diet is not. I say bring back the weekly printed news and leave social media for socializing and TV for entertainment!

Any suggestions of other magazines I could subscribe to would be greatly appreciated!

Thing I heard: The quail circus has been in town recently! “What in the world is the Quail Circus,” you ask? It’s what I hear outside my window when a family of quail are nearby. Their squeaks and chirps, their scratching, coos, and flutters. It always reminds me of the acrobats at a circus. I don’t always see them, but hearing them in the bushes or out by the low water dish I leave out for them, makes me smile. I could sit and listen for hours.

Thing I want to do: Get professional pictures done of me out here in the desert for this blog and for my book. Why does that freak me out?

Tequila! It may sound strange, but tequila is amazing. I just discovered the glories of it this past year and have started to become a bit of a connoisseur of it. It all started with a free margarita, a real one, not a blended strawberry one with a just a splash of the cheap stuff. A strong one with good tequila, a rim of salt, and on the rocks. Damn it was good. I never would have ordered one, but a friend bought me one after a long afternoon of work and it was glorious. I’ve ordered them ever since. Somehow it has morphed into straight tequila and now I’ve gotten into trying different brands. My latest love is Casamigos Reposado. This stuff…wow…so tasty. One shot, iced up, no salt. It’s the perfect end to a great week!

Cheers to you, my lovely readers! Enjoy your weekend!

It’s Friday, My Friends – Episode #7

Day five of the new morning routine. Can she keep it up? I think so, yes.

This week began my least favorite part of living in the desert, Monsoon Season. We may not get much rain out here, but when we do, it’s all at once in the form of large and sudden thunderstorms. It’s actually quite beautiful. Watching the clouds gather and billow up in the southeast, seeing them darken and lower and push further into the desert is a sight to behold. The wind starts to blow, bringing with it the cooler temperatures and the smell of wet creosote. Thunder rolls across the desert in a way you can’t hear anywhere else. A few pattering drops of rain begin to fall and then, CRASH, it all falls at once, dashing across the rocks in the higher hills and racing to lower washes taking everything with it. If you’re curious what it really looks like, check out this video from a couple years ago. Notice the blue sky above? What’s amazing to me is how localized these storms are. One can pass us right by and not leave a drop on my street, but completely drown the next. Watching a storm let loose on the next neighborhood is wild.

Monsoons season is pretty, but the heat and humidity doesn’t agree with me and I can get quite grumpy. During this time of year I tend to be a little more touchy and intolerant, so I have learned to retreat as much as possible. This past week I’ve had to step back from social media just a bit, a spiritual maintenance period. I just need a little less public input. And my family is a little extra sweet to me because they know I’m not comfortable or at my best.

What’s funnier is that I get angry at myself for being such a baby about the heat! The audacity of having to adjust my activities due to weather. It’s just unreasonable. I have things to do. But then, I wonder, wouldn’t it be nice to allow myself to go with the flow of the seasons, since I can? Yard work can go to the way side during the hottest months. Housework can be done early in the day and afternoons could be better spent reading in front of a fan. And I do have a nice air conditioned truck to be in when I go to do the grocery shopping. What is my problem? Refocus and relax my death grip. I am not drowning in humidity after all. Take a deep breath. And watch the storm roll in and wash over us.

Thing I Learned: There are other writers out there struggling with what to write about, or what it is that they write about. A recurring theme in my life has been…what the hell am I doing? I go through a constant cycle of finding a purpose, running with it, finding a hurdle, and then questioning why I started in the first place. Guess what? I’m not alone there. Every thinking person does this. The trick is to not get stuck on the down side, to find the purpose again or a new one more quickly and get on with running with it. I’m notorious for keeping so busy that I can’t think, so some deliberate down time really helps my frame of mind. The past few months I’ve been trying to build time into my day for reflection and am working on doing that more and more. It’s ok not to be busy. Sitting in the yard, doing the dishes quietly, walking around the neighborhood alone or with friends are great ways to jump start my philosophical motor in a positive direction. I need more of that. I’m not healthy when I’m overly busy.

Thing I’m Reading: “Following Muhammad: Rethinking Islam in the Contemporary World” by Carl W. Ernst was recommended as a good start to getting a basic understanding of Islam from the book “Religious Literacy” by Stephan Prothero. I’m devouring this book. Some books on religion are hard to read. They are either over-complicated or over-simplified and condescending and they don’t help me understand the religion or culture in a positive way. This book is very good and I highly recommend it.

“My assumption throughout this book is that every claim about religion needs to be examined critically for its political implications.”

“…governments that wish to eradicate dissent find it convenient to label their opponents as religious fanatics; this relieves governments of the responsibility to deal with legitimate grievances, because their opponents may be dismissed as irrational and incapable of reason.”

These two quotes from the first chapter of the book made me sit up and listen closely to what he has to say. I’m already two-thirds of the way through the book and can’t wait to read the next one on my list about Islam.

Thing I Heard: In my driving adventures this week (something I really need to limit, but then…podcast time) I heard two amazing interviews. The first was Tim Ferriss’ interview with Seth Godin from 2016. Seth Godin had some wonderful and encouraging words that seemed to be just what I needed to hear this week. I listened to it on my way to San Diego and it was so good that I listened to it again on the way home. I obviously can’t take notes while I’m driving, so my hope was that if I listened to it again maybe more of it would sink in. I added one of his books to my Amazon Wish List when I got home and it’s already on its way to my house!

The second was on the Creative Non-Fiction Podcast. Jenny Odell, an author I’d never heard of before now and who’s book is at this minute also on its way to my house, was interviewed on the podcast and I loved every minute. Her creative process resonated with me and boosted my confidence. I love finding that I’m not alone in the universe, that I do fit in just fine here on earth.

Thing I Want to Do: Go to a writer’s conference or workshop this year! I’ve been looking at these for a while now, but when I picture myself there my thoughts take on their usual insecure tone and talk back to me in their snarky way. “It’d be a waste of money. You’re not even a real writer. You don’t even have a college education. Who do you think you are?” Fuck that. I have a plan! I’ll find one or two people that want to go with me, a backup team, or at least a wingman, and go for it. I just need a little emotional support to show up to one of these things. They look fascinating and I can’t wait. In the mean time, I’ll keep up my new daily writing schedule so that when I do go I’ll have something to present as my work!

Picture of the week: The storm in Twentynine Palms, from my house thirty miles away!

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