Monday, 27 August 2012


Like everyone and their sister, I hate flying.

I've flown more than usual this past month, which means I've become reacquainted with Texas, a vast state scientifically shown to have no actual beginning or end. To get beyond Texas, a pilot must engage the hyperdrive and jump to another dimension.
Chicken, couped.

Post-Texas-hyperdrive on an Albuquerque-bound flight, the landscape opens into a sunny upland of arroyos and red earth, leading to the majestic Sandias.

En route from London, I glimpsed sunbeams falling through rain clouds at just this point, and I thought of William Blake discovering angels in the treetops. I reckon the view on descent into Albuquerque is the most spiritual experience a plane-hater can have in a plane.

Most recently flying in from Florida, I missed my homecoming view because my flight had to circumvent a massive thunderboomer squatting angrily over the Sandias.

Over thunderboomer, roger.
Let me tell you, there is nothing like being tossed about in a tin can in a thundercloud to make you closely examine your views on life, the universe, and everything. 

Living in England made me miss the word "thunderboomer", and the consequent experiences with nature that are both pants-wettingly scary and awesomely beautiful.

Another thing I missed in England was American airplane-speak. Phrases like: "complimentary beverage", "where the local time is approximately 9:32 and three-quarters", and my favorite: "de-plane".  

After flying through a Texas time-warp and a gigantic pants-wetting thunderboomer, my plane finally touched down. There were sighs of relief, a hallelujah chorus, and some discussion of how pants-wettingly scary flying around that thunderboomer was. Then, the clatter of everyone de-seat-belting. 

General Armageddon. 
At which point a flight attendant scowled and reached for the intercom. "The captain has not turned off the fasten seat belts sign," she said tersely. "Please remain seated with your seat belt securely fastened-"


The flight attendant's eye began to twitch violently. "Ladies and gentlemen, it is not yet time to de-plane-"


"I SAID sit down! Before I jump over de emergency exit row and smack you with de complimentary beverage cart!!"

I'm paraphrasing. Seat belts were hastily replied. 

Finally de-planed, I drove out onto the llano, and straight into the storm. I kept an eye out for locusts, tornadoes, and general Armageddon.

I ordered and collected one very soggy pizza on my way home, returning home just shy of the hale. Chewing on soggy pizza, I thought about how strange it is that angels and airplanes so often share de same airspace. 

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Hummingbird feeder

Last week I wrote about the rare New Mexican boa constricter and backside-biting velociraptor-ants. Perhaps I overemphasized the peril of my situation.

Bright and beautiful. 
So regular readers (hello Mom!) may be relieved to know that not all local fauna is bent on my destruction. In fact, there is one creature round these parts with good intentions towards me: hummingbirds.

And it's hummingbird season, though not for long.

Merely walnut-sized, hummingbirds are decked out in more sequins than the Milky Way. They dance gracefully, dangerously, at a million miles an hour with the agility of of insects and the artistry of birds.

Best of all, they are generous. All you have to do to get them dancing in front of your window is to put a little sugar water out for them. Though not magpies, they are major suckers for bright, shiny red feeders.

Creatures great and small. 
Ana and I refill the feeders every few days. She and the hummers have something in common: a sweet tooth. We brew 'hummingbird tea' for the feeders together. She pours whatever is leftover into a porcelain cup for herself.

She drinks delicately from the porcelain cup until her patience for such niceties runs out. Then she lifts the entire saucepan to her lips to get every last drop of sugar water, licking the rim of the pot to be sure.

I suspect my Ana may have been an actual hummingbird in a past life. My evidence is this:
  1. A profound desire to eat sugar. 
  2. A talent for getting sugar out of her gullible mother. 
  3. A love of bright things.
  4. A generous spirit. 
  5. An ability to buzz around me at a gabillion miles per millisecond. 
I will miss the hummingbirds when they dance quietly away into autumn. And Ana will surely miss licking hummingbird tea from pots.

Monday, 13 August 2012

There's a snake in my boot

"Look Mama, my sister has a snake!"

This phrase pretty much tops the list of alarming things a mother can hear her four-year old say about her two-year old.

Upon hearing it, I went running to find my grinning, barefoot toddler casually twirling a snake on the doorstep. What initially looked to be a rare ten-foot New Mexican boa constrictor, turned out upon closer inspection to be a five-inch garden snake. Ali had him in a tight pincer grasp by the tail, and the unfortunate snake wore a rather bored expression as if to say: "oh boy, not this again."

Garden-variety gorgon. 
Since my brave other half wasn't there to do something sensible, I squawked about like an idiot for several minutes. Then I managed to de-snake my toddler, shove both barefoot kids inside, fetch a glass bowl, and chuck the snake over the fence.

My good friend, the wise OneArmGirl, witnessed this event, and remained calmer. Afterwards, she managed to nearly convince me that the snake didn't actually seem bent on my destruction.

I wish I could say this was an isolated episode. But just yesterday morning I reached for a plum and nearly grabbed scorpion instead. I flapped about like an idiot for several minutes, before noticing that the scorpion was trapped in my fruit bowl by steep ceramic sides. Thus he was incapable of escaping to the kitchen counter, where he would surely charge me like a furious ninja devoid of mercy and compassion.

While I envisioned the gory details of this certain outcome my brave other half - who was fortunately on hand for this incident - casually picked up the bowl and walked the scorpion to the door. Then he reassured me with moderate success that scorpions are not actually ninjas.

But I remain concerned. I have reason to believe they are all out to get me. You see, just the day before yesterday I stepped on a hornet lurking in the carpet of my kid's room, and he promptly stung the crap out of my right foot.
The scorpions are restless. 

Not long after, I was out walking around when I felt something truly vicious - at the time I assumed bear or velociraptor - bite me right in the backside.

There is simply no dignified or modest way to figure out what is biting you in the backside. Should you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, you will need to crack out the Jim Carey moves and - depending on the severity of the bite - risk an obscenity charge for de-pantsing in public.

It turns out that 'ants in the pants' is not just an expression. In the insult to injury department, being bitten by a velociraptor that turns out to be a mere de-pantsing ant doesn't exactly make you look tough.

Things have been quiet since the snake-twirling incident. But I remain on high alert. A decade in England - where the most dangerous local creature is a pub landlord - did little to prepare me for ninja-bugs.

I always tell my children to be gentle with things that are smaller than them: babies, animals, bugs, etc. However, now that the local bug population appears to be turning me into the butt of their jokes, I may reconsider my peaceful position.

I suspect attacks will continue apace. There is likely a gang of local rattlesnakes with my mugshot, just waiting for the right moment to strike. I stand ready to defend myself with a fruit bowl, and two barefoot children.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Back in the big country

One week on, and I've forgotten what it feels like to hate rain. Samuel Beckett once wrote a play about waiting for rain (spoiler alert: there is no rain). Some days it's pure blue for miles. Other days, cotton wool clouds congeal overhead, then vanish.

Bat country. 
Only a week on, and I've relearned that ancient truth that the devil lives in dust.

By day, roadrunners check garden hoses for snake-like qualities and wild turkeys scuttle about in the rainless dust, doing whatever it is that wild turkeys do to pass the time.

At night bats fly round the windmill - yes - there is a windmill. A bright pearl button moon rises over the cliffs surrounding the valley, illuminating cottonwood skeletons along the river and leaving naked the actions of jackrabbits and ghosts.

At night I listen for the familiar scream of coyotes from my youth, and the howl La Llorona from my childhood nightmares. But both been quiet this week.

In fact everything is very, very quiet. London feels as far away as the Milky Way. I'm finding it difficult to remember that I was born here.

It is absolutely wonderful to be around family again, and to be welcomed into a lovely home built of sturdy adobe walls, where wood burning stoves dream quietly of winter in the corners. I've always wanted a home with turquoise window frames to ward off the blues.

The girls have adapted to the new climate like desert fish to water. They still wear their wellies, though now it is to protect against the ills of tumbleweed stickers and rattlesnake bites.

I could sure use a nice pint of bitter. But the Foreign and Commonwealth Office did warn me that pubs would be a bit thin on the ground these parts. 

One week on. Much to come