Montana Wolf

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Vermilion Flycatcher
The desert has swallowed me whole. I am in the belly of blooms and birds, awash in chirps and the calls of spring. A few days ago I ventured to the San Pedro River riparian area, a vital western migratory route, and happened into a flycatcher exodus. Hammond's, Duskies and Grays dripped from large-canopied cottonwood trees and riverside willows. A newly-arrived Gray Hawk split the air with calls of mate near his established nest. A family of five javelina haughtily trotted across the tawny grass plain to a near-by watering hole.
Grasslands to Bosque

Migration hasn't been confined to the winged ones. I hadn't realized how many of the people I'd met last winter in Kino Bay, Mexico, lived in Southern Arizona; probably because I met them in snatches. It turns out Marcela lives outside of Nogales. She works on a 30,000 acre ranch with an adobe hacienda that is chock full of stunning 18th and 19th century antiques from around the world; George and Wendy are tucked away by their pool and gorgeous screen house near Hereford; Ken and Russ enjoy killer mountain views north of Douglas. We meet and greet again north of the border; play and share. New Kino-friend Dan even detoured from Yuma to spend four days on the Chihuahua desert before continuing home to Creston, BC. We spent one day washing the Bahia salt water off LaPerla; cleaning her to make way, it turned out, for desert dust. Hey, wash my rig and I'll follow you anywhere! A summer excursion to British Columbia  is in the cards to visit Dan and friends Carole and Chris, up the road in Kaslo. I'm putting the finishing touches on my 'low gas price' boogie.

A third migration is the Mexican one. I have parked in Naco with Em and Paul for seven years, two blocks from the infamous border wall. This year I notice fewer helicopters in the air and more horses and Border Patrol feet on the ground. Teak frequently barks in the night, alerting me to wall climbers who have dropped to the dirt and made it two blocks deeper into the US. I hear the short burst of sirens 24/7, about once an hour, signaling someone has been spotted. Meanwhile, the 4-gallon water jug outside of  La Perla needs a regular refill. The biggest change on the border, however, is travel into Mexico. The Mexican side is fervently checking vehicles for guns, resulting in huge delays. Em and I walk across to get our fresh tortillas and groceries. Easier, faster and no hassle from either border side. We've crossed this border on foot since the first time we met, over thirty years ago. We've gone in search of creamy Mexican ice cream, fresh fruit bars, pure vanilla, or more recently, to get a bug pulled out of Em's ear (2 Dr. visits: $26!).  I will make an appointment with a Mexican dentist before I depart next month and save a few hundred dollars.

San Pedro Riparian Area
This part of the world tantalizes and teases the senses. Cool, crystal crisp mornings give way to piercingly hot afternoons. Ocotillos cover dry, craggy mountainsides, their neon orange flowers exploding from the tips of dead-like, spindly arched sticks. Sonoita grasslands beckon visions of bison while the Huachuca mountain canyons shelter myriad songbirds, hummers and the rare ocelot. Perhaps the most poignant metaphor, however, is the diminutive, wildlife-rich San Pedro. It flows north from the Sierra Madre in Mexico, a mind-bending route that eventually joins the Gila River near Wickenburg and meets up with the Colorado near Yuma.

The smell of smoke fills the air today; a dry hot wind whips the contours of the earth. It is wise to be on edge. I re-work drafts of a workshop I plan to offer in Historic Bisbee and make mental notes for a freelance essay for "High Country News." I will hold off on my migratory schedule until Mercury passes out of retrograde on Saturday and the cosmic Mercury-murkiness clears. It's still snowing sporadically in Colorado and points north. I'll stay put and hang with the birds, who hang where there's water and the green buds of new life. I'll follow their lead of rest and replenish before continuing north. I'll make it a point to follow the signs --