Saturday, July 31, 2021

The Canyon's Edge by Dusti Bowling

I'm not the biggest fan of poetry.  When I see a novel written in verse, my first reaction is usually, "Just write it in paragraphs!"  But this book totally worked for me, and the shape poems added to the theme and setting.  I read late into the night, finishing it in two sittings, which is quite unusual for me.

It absorbed me completely. 

The writing was beautiful.  The story was heart-wrenching but beautiful.  The characters were vivid.

I did question how realistic the whole set-up was.  .SEMI-SPOILERS!!  The main character mentioned being in the Sonoran Desert, and though there are a lot of washes and canyons—some with narrow bits—in the parts of the Sonoran Desert I know, I don't think there are many real slot canyons.  That's more of a northern Arizona/southern Utah thing.  And I’m pretty sure that if there were a Sonoran Desert slot canyon so long that you could walk for entire days in it without finding a way out, people would know about it.  So that seemed very unrealistic.  

I also wasn't clear what season it was.  Most (but certainly not all) serious flash floods happen in monsoon season (roughly July-August), but it was so cold in the morning they could see their breath, which meant it couldn't possibly be monsoon season.  So it was probably February or so, when winter rains are most common, but I kept wanting to know.  Most of the way through, she mentioned that it wasn't summer—because otherwise they'd be dead already—but I really would have liked a bit more grounding earlier.  I'm kind of a stickler for things like these, but…the book was so good that I almost didn't care.  And it probably won't affect most people's enjoyment one iota.  END OF SPOILERS! 

I did love seeing my Arizona desert featured in a book, even if it was a bit exaggerated, and there were lots of great details about the landscape, wildlife, etc. 

I believe the theme of past trauma was very well handled.  

The poetry was not opaque or pretentious, which will help young people not

I absolutely recommend this, and now I want to read everything else by Dusti Bowling.

Rating if you care about how realistic it is  4.5 stars

If you don't care:  Absolutely 5 stars. 

Cover:  Beautiful

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Loggerhead Shrike in Phoenix

Loggerhead shrikes are songbirds that think they're raptors.  Their carnivorous tastes don't just run to insects and spiders.  They also eat lizards, other birds, and small mammals.  They apparently grab prey and slam it against cactus thorns until they die.  Lovely.  

He's sure got pretty markings, though.  

I see loggerhead shrikes mostly on high perches like this saguaro, where they keep watch for their next meal.

 Spotted in April, Estrella Mountain Regional Park.

Note how close the ribs of the saguaro are, like an accordion pushed all the way together.  It's a scary visual reminder of how dry it is.  A saguaro full of water expands and the ribs get farther apart.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

A Happy Bee

I've been posting a few cooler-weather photos here to combat the summer heat.

This was from April:  a happy bee with a fairy duster.   

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

April in Phoenix

It's really hot here, so I figured I'd post some cooler pictures, taken in mid April.  

This is one of the beauties of spring in the Sonoran Desert:  Palo Verde in bloom!

And a close-up:

Monday, July 5, 2021

A Snake Friend on the Trail

 A new friend on the trail:

He was big enough that my first thought was, of course, "rattlesnake!"  And his patterning looks rather diamondback-y, right?

But his face was all wrong: not big enough or triangular enough and no pits between his eye and nostril, like all rattlers:

When I carefully moved around to get a good look at his tail, no rattle:

So, my new friend was a gopher snake!  These big snakes mimic a lot of things about rattlers, not just their patterning and size.  They'll whip their tails around to imitated a rattle.  They'll even puff up their faces to look wider and more rattlesnake-like.  This guy didn't seem threatened by me, however, so I saw no acting.  

I was very happy.  I'd never had a long enough view of a gopher snake in the wild to be sure that's what I was seeing.  And this one was a beauty.  

Seen in April at Estrella Mountain Regional Park in the Phoenix area.