Archive for September 1st, 2011



Two nights ago one of the cats was clawing its favorite chair, and I planted a solid swat with the fly swatter on its butt. The plastic swatter was old and cracked, and it came apart like a break-away highway light post or one of those fake beer bottles they use in movie bar-room brawls.

It was my only fly swatter, and I couldn’t spare the time to go into town to buy another. So yesterday, except for killing the snake, I went for almost a full day without snuffing out small lives. Albert Schweitzer might have been pleased, but I was not.

Deprived of a fly swatter, I was surprised by the degree to which the unthinking act of killing flies had insinuated itself into my days. I missed it like a chain smoker who has run out of cigarettes might miss the rituals of smoking.

Sometimes city people say things that make me realize they have no idea how I live here (i.e., “Do you have air conditioning?”). I basically live outdoors, albeit in a shade.

There are no screens on the windows (and never will be). I still have dirt floors. There is always a coat of dust on something or other. At any given moment I can visually scan the place and see a toad, lizard, centipede, or dung beetle making its way across the floor. Black widow spiders and scorpions lurk in dusty corners. Moths and other flying insects congregate around my single light bulb at night. Sometimes (though not lately) bats fly through the house. Periodically there are infestations of ants. Often a bird will blunder into the house and have trouble finding its way out while the cats chase it. A packrat has taken up residence in my defunct gas oven. I continually curse the cats for not rooting out the packrat, but it seems to make no difference to them. They are not as offended as I that this noisy intruder has invaded our territory.

Nature seems not to recognize the man-made boundaries which delineate inside from outside, and I too am gradually letting go of my conceit of the house as a tamed island surrounded by an untamed sea of life.

I do draw the line with poisonous snakes. Any that intrude on my space will be terminated. When I see rattlesnakes on the desert, I do not disturb or harm them. But if they come too close to the house where the animals and I live, that is a fatal error.

The Mojave’s body is hanging on the corner of a fence. I measured it, and the snake was three feet long. I cut off its head and discarded it (and its still poisonous fangs) in a safe place. I have mixed feelings about having killed that snake—he was beautiful. I even have mixed feelings about killing flies. They, too, are beautiful in their own way.

I am mindful that I am the real intruder here.


Groove of the Day 

Listen to Beth Orton performing “Wild World”