I loved it. The desert has a beauty all its own, and to me it was a majestic collection of mountains, cacti, sage brush, and lots of critters. One of my interests in life was herpetology. Snakes especially. And rattlesnakes in particular. Imagine my delight, to be sent to a place with rattlesnakes everywhere! So I bought me a snake stick, drove out in the desert, and started hunting for rattlesnakes. It was kinda like one of those TV shows you may have seen, except for no cameras, no commercials, and no possibility for emergency medical care.
The first time I went out, I didn’t see a single snake. I saw lots of tarantulas, scorpions, coyotes, and other creepy-crawlies, but no snakes. I probably walked at least five miles or so, and it soon became apparent that there weren’t any vending machines, either. I was getting pretty thirsty, too. So I went back to my apartment. Back then, you couldn’t google where to find snakes, but I knew from reading books that they came out at night to hunt. So that night me and my snake stick got in the car and drove down every road I could find.
SNAKES!! Crossing the road on their nightly quest for dinner. So I’d stop the car, got out and caught the snakes (I probably caught about a dozen; probably saw two dozen). I measured them, checked whether male or female, and let them go.
OK, maybe I took a couple back home and skinned and tanned them, but mostly I let them go. Back then, I was a hunter, and there were rabbits, quail, and doves all over the place. (I’m no longer of the hunter mindset. Even if I could, I wouldn’t).
I’ve still got several beautiful rattlesnake skins. I also have the memories of way too many close calls with very angry rattlesnakes. And memories of the desert sunsets, which were as pretty as any sunsets I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen sunsets all over the world during 26 years of moving around in the army). If I hadn’t met my wife before I retired out of Ft. Lewis, WA, I would have retired in Arizona!
If there’s a point to this post (and there may not be), it’s that beauty is everywhere. Every dry ravine, every valley, every abandoned farmhouse: They all have beauty. If you look at a flower in the desert, it’s just as amazing as any flower on earth.
I’m reminded of something I read about a Rabbi. He asked his disciples “where does God exist?” “Everywhere” said his surprised disciples. “No”, said the Rabbi, “God exists only where man lets him in”.