The View From My Yard
by Alice Drogin
Jul 06, 2017 | 3799 views | 0 0 comments | 616 616 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A collared lizard basks in the sun on a rock. The lizards are currently out in abundance in the desert.     		   Photo by Linda Skogrand
A collared lizard basks in the sun on a rock. The lizards are currently out in abundance in the desert. Photo by Linda Skogrand
Like people everywhere, we mark the beginnings and the endings of each day. The early morning air holds magic. Venus climbs the eastern sky, just above Castleton Tower, chased by the sun. There is a cool, rich, diffuse light, and a hint of moisture that makes me savor each breath. Honeysuckle blooming by the irrigation ditch is a sensual delight. First light on the rim is a joyful thing, color so pure you want to hold it in your heart for hard times ahead. The middle part of the day, bright with sun and heat, seems far away, another world that will arrive soon enough. Right now anything is possible. Right now is love.

Bees are early risers and are out foraging by 6 a.m. Wandering the perimeter with a morning cuppa, I visit the stands of mullein in the pollinator garden. The air vibrates with the comings and goings of wild bees, several different species, who do their best to ignore me as I peer into the bright yellow blossoms to watch them. Catnip comes to mind. Frantically pushing pollen into “saddlebags” on their hind legs, they fly off, heavy with their load, delirious with nectar. These bees are solitary, some nesting in holes in the ground. Mystery bees.

Our daily rhythms are a moving part of our seasonal rhythms, and both swirl into yearly patterns.

Each day treading the same path, with its familiar hills and curves, seeing it afresh when some tiny detail — porcupine tracks! — catches our attention. A shift in perspective is a valuable tool in our bag of survival skills. We sense when (and when not) to change our behavior. I often wonder if other animals, say porcupines, have the awareness to choose self-destructive behavior, or if humans are the only ones capable of this.

Any day I see a lizard is a good day; today I saw four collared lizards — admittedly, I went looking for them — but wheeee! You’ve gotta love the sprinkles the desert offers us. I can’t remember a spring when these lizards were more abundant. Every now and then you meet an individual who seems to court the ruckus caused by his technicolor mating costume, posing on rocks, muscles flexing against the sky, waiting for that movie contract. Why so many Crotaphytus this year? More food? Fewer predators? Fortuitous combination of factors? Always, we search for patterns. Last year’s bumper crop of stone fruit? I hold it responsible for this year’s explosion in the squirrel population. And I cannot wait for whoever will show up to start eating these evil rodents.

Alkali crust — water in the West. Minerals in the water leave stalactites on the faucets, cloud our glassware, clog our pipes, and texturize our hair. I once visited White Flower Farm, a fancy-pants nursery in Connecticut whose catalog makes me salivate. I bought a terra cotta flowerpot for my parents and at the register the clerk asked if I’d like to have the pot “antiqued.” For $15 I could have them spray an alkali crust on the pot — the very stuff I spend all my time trying to remove! One person’s trash...

Cheatgrass — what’s worse: a pebble in your shoe, no-see-ums in your ears, or cheat grass in your panties? My vote goes to cheat grass. Those irritating awns somehow manage, despite my stringent zero-tolerance policy, to get into the washing machine. From there it’s a free ride to any article of clothing. (Could this be Trump’s problem —panties bristling with cheat grass? No tweets on this yet.)

June is the month of transition into summer. The exigency of outdoor chores having subsided, it’s now time to reschedule the life. Crepuscular as a lizard, I relegate outside work to early morning and late afternoon. Under shelter is the place to be when midday heat and blasting light hammer the earth. An excellent time for catching up on computer tasks, connecting with friends, cleaning the house I’ve ignored after months of nursery focus, making pesto! Or maybe for grabbing some iced tea and stretching out next to that pile of books.

The last bit of sunlight is mellow, tempting me back outside to sniff the clouds and get in another hour or two of whatever work needs doing. Sundown holds its own savor — relief from the heat, everything saturated with the colors of the day. A gentling. Often, west is not the best direction to look for the evening light show. Some nights the eastern cliffs of Parriott Mesa flame with a color that defies description. Magic Mesa. We’ve all been stopped in our tracks by that color. Rock on fire; liquid light. And then, like people everywhere, we rejoice in a beautiful evening, and the coming of night.

Alice and Ken Drogin own and operate Canyon Nursery in Castle Valley, where the flowers are brighter, the lizards are faster and the magpies speak in tongues. More information about Canyon Nursery is available online at:

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