there be dragons (and sharks and rattlesnakes and mice)…

Recently I visited a friend in the desert.

It was hot.  It was sandy.  But it was also full of growing things:

For a few hours I stayed at her home alone (while the others were out hiking), and while sitting on the porch I spied a robust amount of bird and insect life including some rabbits and a charming chirping family of quail.  There was nothing empty or deserted about that space, and small flowers were everywhere I looked.

Her property is adjacent to the Pacific Crest Trail (a place that’s been getting a lot of press lately due to Oprah’s recent Book Club pick of Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, which I do hope to read soon). Here’s an image from the trail:

One way or another, as we were planning this trip it became known that I’d never slept outside without a tent.  So we decided that it was probably time to remedy that, and that the desert might be a fine place to sleep under the stars.  But there weren’t many stars out that night, there was a three-quarter moon so bright that everything was quite visible even after the lights were out.

My host provided a cozy air mattress and sleeping bag (it was COLD despite having been into the 90s during the day).  Here’s the view from where we slept, just before sunset.  See that moon?:

Though we could hear coyotes yapping not too far away and that was a bit unsettling, the night passed without an incident and we had a relaxing breakfast on that spot the next morning as the temperatures began to rise (those biscuits were still warm from the oven–yum!):

So perhaps you can understand the cold chill that went up my spine when my friend sent me this photo later.  Yes, that’s a four-foot desert rattlesnake.  And it is crawling under the foundation of her house just a couple of feet from where my pillow was two nights before:


But it’s funny…I’m just starting on the 9-man season for outrigger canoeing and am spending a lot of time bobbing around in the ocean on the weekends.  So everyone’s been telling me their scariest shark stories.  And I was in the water a few weekends ago when there was a 15-ft Great White spotted nearby in La Jolla.

But you know what?  I’m never thinking about sharks when I’m in the ocean (jellyfishes occasionally, because getting stung is a drag, but not sharks).  The ocean is so big and so fun that I can’t help but jump in and swim.  There’s very little that will dissuade me from getting wet.

And you know what else?  My desert-living friend told me yesterday that her house had a few mice in the cupboards, and that scared me far more than did her rattlesnake photo.  My whole body shook for a few seconds as I realized that I’d spent two days there.  In her house.  With the mice.  I’m glad I didn’t know that beforehand.  And I’m glad there’s a snake to take care of those mice.  And I’m glad that I have some commitments on the ocean most weekends for the next few months.  Because I think it might be awhile before I head to the desert again.   🙂