Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Stopping to Enjoy Our Rewards Despite Our Trails and Travails

I am three years, almost four years older than was Bilbo Baggins when he started out There And Back Again. My first 50 years on this earth were not as comfortable as were those of that little hobbit, then again my trials and travails, while nowhere as adventurous as outsmarting dragons and fighting orcs, have been as adventurous, full of hardship, and rewarded with goodness as are those of any mortal or magical being on this earth. I try to remember that last part from time to time, that out trials and travails are rewarded so I sometimes stop to smell the roses, listen to the birds, and sip the cool water of a mountain spring along the trail that I have blazed for myself. If I had not stopped for something just like that I would probably not have appreciated the pictured sunset as much as I did appreciate it. I drove along a road in southern Arizona a few nights ago marveling at the wondrous colors and tones that the sun and its setting had painted the western skies. Every now and again, when I had the chance I pulled over and took some pics of it as it progressed. As I took the one above, and several others like it, two Border Patrol Agents watched me curiously from their stance at a checkpoint. Before I was done I noticed they had shifted their glances toward the fiery gem shining through the blood red sky that I had been looking at in wide eyed wonder. Here I share that with you. While you can click on the picture to enlarge it, you probably will not have your breath stolen from within your soul as did I when first glanced up and saw this spectacle of mother nature. Mother Nature, God, the heavens and earth, or whatever force to which you want to attribute such wonders had humbled me with my reward that evening.

Then, a couple of nights later, when I thought I had seen a sunset beyond compare I was gifted with another spectacle from on high. This one a bit earlier in the evening, but close to sunset indeed. It was as if the heavens had opened before me and the glory that was there was shining on through down onto we mere mortals. I am not a religious guy, but I can be spiritual, and i certainly can be floored by wondrous events no matter how trifling they seem to others. Most people did not stop to notice, but when I saw light coming on through I was thankful I had my camera, and I was thankful I had noticed despite having been in a rush to be somewhere else at that moment. The road goes forever on...and I suppose if that is all we are concerned about - well then we miss sights like this one because let me tell you it did not last all that long before it was gone.

Click on either of the above to view a larger size - nowhere as good as the original but bigger makes it look better.

Before the sun had set that second night, it gave one final farewell performance that I think some of my readers will enjoy. This time, besides the sky, the winds and the clouds, it had another partner, Old Glory, to accompany it during its finale for the night. Long may she wave at Twilight's Last Gleaming and may we all wake to see her By The Dawn's Early Light. You know when you think about it, one of those rewards I spoke about was living free. By the way that is not free living. We should never forget that and our trials and travails should make it stay that way, that we live free. It's not easy but the rewards, heck they are well worth it - aren't they! If I do not get another chance to blog before Independence Day allow me to say now - have a safe and happy 4th.
If you are always in a hurry you are going to miss things in life that were there to enjoy; things that were well worth taking a moment, or even a lifetime, to appreciate. Think about that as we approach the celebration of the birth of our nation, and think about all that it has taken to keep that flag flying and to preserve our freedoms - even those as simple as being able to stop and watch a sunset. Then ready yourself for whatever it takes to preserve them.

All the best,
Glenn B

Kissing A Sexy Woman or Being Peed on By A Toad...

...which would you choose. Well last night let's just say I made the wiser choice and got wet. I went out toad hunting in the first real Monsoon Rains of the season for southern Arizona. It happened like this:

Sometime in the late afternoon yesterday I was sitting where I sit now in the hotel business center; I was minding my own business and was downloading some pics from my camera to my thumb drive when a hotel manager stopped by to chat. She told me about a concert this weekend (Independence day already!) here in Tucson. When she left, she left the business center door ajar. A short while later another woman, this one in a black business suit (a business suit indeed as you will soon see) came over to the center door and knocked (it requires key card entry). I went to let her in as many guests forget their key card or the cards just don't work but before I could open the door she had it open because it had been left ajar by the manager. She came in and sat at the other computer back over my right shoulder.

This lady was probably about 40 to 45. She was wearing a black business suit that was short in the skirt and had quite the set of attractive legs. Soon after she sat down, a man in business attire entered the business center and asked for her signature on a piece of paper he had on a clipboard. She signed it. I figured she was a business lady of some importance if men in business attire were tracking her down for her signature. Soon after, she started to talk to me and two things became quickly apparent - she was hitting up on me, and she was doing it big time. It was kind of flatterring at first and there was some temptation indeed - I mean those legs were killers (probably in more ways than just looks too). Well - it was awhile longer but I figured out that while she was probably in business she was not a business lady as I had first imagined. She was probably in business though, a very old business at that - not that it really mattered either way. After a bit I left for my room. Sometime later I returned to work on the computer but she was still there. She saw me and I decided to make it plain I was not interested - just in case she had thought I had been or in case I thought I had been.

Later on, after I stopped by and enjoyed happy hour for a juice and a small snack (no frogs' legs available), I returned to my room and as doing so guess who I saw in the hallway. She was sort of lost from the looks of things. Something else now also became apparent - she was zonked on something. This should have been apparent earlier, I suppose I had thought she was high but never realized that she was soaring far, far, far out there beyond the clouds. As for me, this only meant that temptation was closer to home so to speak - so I went to my room, grabbed my gear, and went out. Where did I go, where else but to go for a drive in the rain and to look for some toads. I figured I would be better off catching some toads (and maybe getting pissed on in the doing) than I would be to catch some crabs or something worse Did I mention there had been legs involved? No not crab legs but there had been something to do with legs. No not frogs' legs either; yet, somehow and strangely enough, toad legs the uglier cousins of frogs' legs won out.

As it turned out, I went for a drive in the countryside south east and southwest of Tucson. I traveled the main highway south to the Madera Canyon area, and that is where I veered off onto some secondary roads. It was a bit different than previous rides out and about on this trip because the Monsoon rains had begun that same night. Earlier in the evening rains had fallen, but now it was a bit of drizzle here, none there, then more further on. There were small puddles and wet spots here and there and the desert air had an unusual dampness and fresh aroma to it. It was magnificent to me, and also apparently magnificent for my quarry as puddles meant breeding pools. In the span of just a mile or so I probably saw at least 25 live Sonora Desert Toads (aka: The Colorado River Toad - but there was no river nearby where I found them). While more rain probably would be needed to form suitable breeding puddles the toads were out nonetheless, and the ones in this area were mostly mature toads indeed. Bufo alvarius (their scientific name) is the largest toad in North America. Some of the ones I found had to easily be as large around as my hand and pretty fat at that, but remarkably they all had pretty scrawny legs - what a trade off but the better deal by far. I got some good pics and moved on.

The second area I hit was somewhat further south and was west of the Interstate. I was pretty amazed at the amount of toads I saw on the two roads I took after the one at the Madera Canyon area. In about 50 miles of driving (I drove a longer distance but actually only looked for toads in about the mentioned distance) I counted over 350 toads. Now you may not think that 350 was all that many for that far of a distance, but you need to realize that they are not everywhere along that route but rather in areas of suitable habitat such as where water pools after the summer rains. I will admit that on these last two roads the habitat was much more suitable than over near Madera Canyon and it seems the toads would agree with me on that judging by their numbers. of course it had also rained somewhat more in this area and the roads were still pretty wet in most areas when I got there, much wetter than the road near the aforementioned canyon.

So what did I see? Well mostly Sonora Desert Toads from the size of a half dollar around to ones as big as my hand around. Others that I spotted were possibly:

Western Spadefoot Toad (Scaphiopus hammondi), Southwestern Toad (Bufo woodhousei australis) [Note: this is not the Southwestern Toad with scientific name: Bufo microscaphus], Plains Spadefoot (Scaphiopus bombifrons) [I am not all to positive on my ID of one toad I saw as this species but think it was this one], Red Spotted Toad (Bufo punctatus)

I did not get good pics of all of them since the camera I was using does jot always focus so well at night on a rain slicked road in the beam of my flashlight or LED headlamp. I did get great pics of some of them though, and some of those pics appear here for your perusal. Please note, while it is obvious that I saw most of these toads on roadways it may not be so obvious that I take lots of precautions not to become a roadkill statistic or to make myself a hazard for other drivers while I am out and about looking for toads. I choose only very lightly traveled roads ( at least at the times I am there), I park my car well off on the shoulder or even beyond the shoulder of the road when I get out to take pics. I make sure to shut off the headlights on the car when I get out and place on the emergency flashers or appropriate side directional signal (I do not want other drivers who may come along to think that my car is on the road when it is actually parked on the shoulder so off go the headlights). I make sure to have a headlamp (the LED type that straps around your head) and a hand held flashlight, I want to be lit up and those lights go on before I leave the car and are shut off only after I climb back inside the car. I am alert for not only the sight of approaching cars, but also for the sound of approaching cars. i do not get out if I first see any cars approaching nearby (and by that I mean within a mile or more - better to wait and let them pass by). I do not pull over right where the toads are located in most instances because most of the time they are in low points such as washes, and I do not care to have my car washed away in a flash flood. If I walk through a low point such as a place where a wash crosses the road, I keep alert for the sound of approaching water and if I even think I hear it I run to high ground; along those lines I have been fooled a few times by the wind but better foolishly dry and alive than wet and just dead.

Another thing I do, not so much as a precaution, more as a legal thing is to make sure i have the proper license to do what I am doing. A fishing license is require din Arizona to collect hunt or amphibians. I have purchased an Arizona non-resident fishing license about 2 months or more ago. I got the one that is good for 4 months; it was a real bargain compared to the one good for only a few days. I like to keep it legal because I am an ethical hunter and fisherman. In addition I am pretty sure that the cost of a fine for poaching would be much higher than the cost of a license just as the cost of sexy legs as compared to that of scrawny toad legs (and toad pee - yes a few whizzed on me when I picked them up to check them out) would not have been worth the risk involved. Besides all that, my wife is kind of used to me playing with toads and other critters and she might even let me kiss a toad if I wanted to do so (which I do not) but when it comes to other women I do not think she would be as tolerant.

All the best,
Glenn B