Christmas in La Paz: Grasshoppers

On the Banks of Plum Creek cover “Is the wheat okay?” I asked my mother earlier tonight. I was joking, of course. Her house sits on desert soil, and is surrounded by saguaro cactus, not stalks of golden wheat, but in context my jesting query made sense.

You see, we’re being attacked by grasshoppers.

I’m not sure when the grasshoppers began to arrive in such great numbers, but they form rafts across the pool, the living ones stepping gingerly across the weakened corpses of the dead and dying. They also buzz the windows, and cling to the screens, as if they’re peering inside the house and trying to discern whether or not there’s anything edible to be had.

Sadie, the larger of my mother’s two dogs – roughly 35 pounds of Mexican mutt – likes to eat the grasshoppers. She waits for their bodies to dry in the sun, then brings them inside, and crunches on them at her leisure. Sometimes she holds them in her mouth, biding her time until they’ve reached whatever special state means ‘just right’ to her. Sometimes they’re still alive, and the little legs sticking out past her muzzle are kicking and twitching in their insectoid death throes.

I’m sure there are worse fates than being eaten by a small dog.

I cannot think what those worse fates might be.

In the fourth of her “Little House…” books, On the Banks of Plum Creek, Laura Ingalls Wilder described the arrival of grasshoppers (locusts, really) like this:

“A cloud was over the sun. It was not like any cloud they had ever seen before. It was a cloud of something like snowflakes, but they were larger than snowflakes, and thin and glittering. Light shone through each flickering particle….”

“Plunk! Something hit Laura’s head and fell to the ground. She looked down and saw the largest grasshopper she had ever seen. Then huge brown grasshoppers were hitting the ground all around her, hitting her head and her face and her arms. They came thudding down like hail.”

“The cloud was hailing grasshoppers. The cloud was grasshoppers.”

The grasshoppers here sound like popcorn as they plummet onto the marble patio or plink into the screens or splash into the pool. If enough of them worked together, I’m fairly certain they could open the sliding doors and hop or fly right into the house.

It’s a good thing we have Sadie to crunch them to bits for us.

I hope the wheat survives.

Christmas in La Paz: Desert Notes

Christmas Brunch

Table set for Christmas brunch. Click to embiggen.

Every morning since I’ve been here, I’ve been awake before the dawn, lying in bed next to my snoring husband and listening to the desert waking up outside my window. This morning, I chose to return to bed instead of padding out to the living room and kitchen in search of coffee, and when I woke again, the sky had brightened.

“This morning is drawn in pencil-strokes: the sketch of a cloud, the faintest blush of pinkening sky, the spiny cactus saluting the sun.” That’s what I posted on Twitter, my attempt at a word-painting, since grabbing the phone to snap a shot through the window would have ruined the stillness of the moment.

Yesterday morning, too, I missed a great photographic moment: a caracara bird, a type of local falcon, had been strutting around my parents’ front yard. I’d stepped out back to try and capture the image of this great bird of prey wandering around like a chicken, and as soon as I approached the edge of the patio, it took off from the ground and flew by me, mere inches from my face.

Caracara birds may walk like chickens, but they have the wild piercing gazes of true predators. I made sure to tell my mother to keep her smaller dog inside that morning.

I don’t mind the missed shots. Why? Because I firmly believe being IN the moment is more important than taking a picture OF the moment. For me, a memory is indelible, and a photograph is the mere echo of an event, with no flavor or context.