Changing seasons, out and in

writing donkeyThis is the final blog that I will write on this faithful small MacBook, for which I traded in my last iMac two and a half years ago.  Another state, another life, a different, much smaller notebook to make the transition away from New Mexico with me.  It’s a peek at other goodbyes, as well.

And now that hardworking little machine is three years old, and thus ready to retire while still in good health.  There are no immediate plans to replace it and I’ll be writing on my iPad.  The first time I tried that was not quite the happy success envisioned — the whole production, several hours of work, vanished into digital nobody’s land when I copied it out of Pages and went to paste it into WordPress.  Disconcerting, that.

Behind our house, on commercial land, a “field of flags” — thirteen in all — waves hard, straight out in a stiff, cold westerly breeze while in front a great many men in hard hats and orange shirts walk, crawl and run heavy equipment all over the future site of 38 new homes.  On the east side of that site lie acres and acres of open land, transitioning now away from agricultural purposes in California’s drive to build for the incoming masses.

Such events tend to bring on whiffs of melancholy.  Country bred, I was just beginning to enjoy the open feeling in this section of Madera where we’ve been for a month an a half when suddenly one morning, poof!  Trucks and men all over.  However — we will have a bigger neighborhood soon, and that brings rewards of a different kind.

Among the many bright aspects of our new digs is the speed with which hummingbirds began to show up at the feeder we hung on a wrought iron post I banged into the ground in the absolutely flowerless, treeless back yard.  With nothing above but those waving flags the brave tiny birds began shooting in — from any direction but north, where the flags are.  Anna’s, I think.  It’s particularly lovely to have their company as I was missing the past tribes of hummers I’ve had to leave, in Fresno, Mountain View, at two homes in New Mexico.

So here am I with the dogs, Elf and Opus, feeling contemplative on a windy, overcast fall day near the geographic heart of California.  It a pretty good path now, what with living with my daughter and her husband rather than on my lone own, as I did for many years. 

What a world we are living in, I tell the dogs, who are snoozing gently.  Ten years ago would I have been able to predict that signs that countries were beginning to come together at various levels, perhaps shifting gently into a more cooperative era would again change rather swiftly?  Knowing about the pendulum-like history of social progress we share, yes, I should have foreseen it.  And then…  Here we are.  As I believe that fomenting hatred, discord, and the fear of one another is absolutely wrong, once again I commit my heart to doing all possible to upraise the positive, the growing edge of love and understanding.

Over the years I’ve enjoyed looking for “messages” from wildlife. Blue herons going over, for instance, give me a feeling of things being well with the world.  Hummingbirds are the busiest of birds, I think, so when one flew straight in our front door Sunday afternoon as guests were leaving it felt rather as though we were being awfully busy lately — though about really good things.  It took all three of us, however, to get the two inch male Anna’s out by the same means he came in by. Today has felt like a relief day, a good time to rest and get the computer ready for its next trip, just as the hummer must have been awfully relieved to find himself back out where there are no bizarre solid objects like ceilings to constrain his travels.

It is hard not to see the hummer as metaphor for some human migrants of the world.  Although I am very happy that his particular small story ended happily this time.

On such a transitional fall day a vein of thoughtfulness, tinged with sadness, flows through.  Along with the above, the Los Angeles Times brought me a story of the wild burros in Death Valley — which is pretty much just across the Sierra Nevadas from where I now live.  This brings roaring back memories of me and Jericha climbing into our truck back in New Mexico in early 1998 and rushing over to Death Valley to help Wild Burro Rescue with burros they had rounded up from the National Park.  Rangers were going to shoot any that weren’t removed.  WBR got a lot rounded up, other rescue outfits made fusses, tourists flooding in from Japan and many other places made kerfuffles because the burros were what they loved to see, the heart of warm memories they would carry home from a very rugged patch of Mother Earth.  

So wild burros munched on at Death Valley for twenty more years.  They truly do fit the

The tiny donkey charm from Death Valley 10-29-18
Tiny donkey charm I brought back from Death Valley.  The long hanging part is a flag with the place name.

place and there are those with scientific credentials who dispute the contention of the National Park Service that burros do not belong there because they “are not native to the area”.

Well, said this morning’s LA Times, park administrators are at it again.  Planning to shoot any of the 2500-4000 wild burros left in the park after Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue of San Angelo, Texas, completes their multi-year roundups of the shaggy little beasts whose forebears long ago were abandoned by the miners who’d brought them to the incredibly hot valley.

Now I live another incredibly hot valley not so far west from Death Valley, and have gained a whole new respect for the ability of a small donkey to endure, prosper and reproduce, even though at an unfortunate rate, in such a place.   Yet there is another layer to my small sadness in thinking about the Death Valley burros — and that is Mark Meyers, co founder (with Amy, his wife) of PVDR.  

Mark is also is the person who accepted our own beloved burros in 2009 when, newly an empty nester, I was forced to relinquish Jasper, Gigi and Ambrose — my dearly loved donkeys for fifteen years.

A long ago sketch of Gigi, Chipper the Mule, and Jasper

At the time there was much discussion of donkeys falling into the hands of ropers and being badly treated, even crippled, for the benefit of rodeo cowboy steer roping practice.  I used to sit and watch a nearby cowboy rope his donkey’s back legs, and never saw him cast the little beast, not even yank the rope tight.  Yet who knows what kinds of other people might have gotten ahold of my three aging donkeys had I sold them locally.  So I turned to Mark Meyers, who, I hoped, would give them a safe haven for life if he did not find good homes for them.

Jasper came to us when Jericha was about nine years old.  Bearing Navajo brands, he had been bought at a livestock auction by a New Mexican wilderness guide name of Gene.  For a few years Jasper had an adventurous life, lead pack animal on Gene’s photographic expeditions with tourists into the Gila wilderness down in southwestern New Mexico.  Such confidence had Gene in Jasper that he quit paying attention to where his groups wandered in that vast territory, as he knew Jasper would get them safely out again when the time came.  Jasper was also entrusted with the expensive camera gear.

For us he and his later comrades, Gigi and Ambrose (along with Chipper the Mule for a few years) he was mainly a pet, an effective weed whacker, a sensitive, even spiritual

Jasper shortly after he arrived at our place. He was still an only donkey at the time.

companion, giver of rides to small children, the comedian who loved to be read to.  Should I wear a straw hat in that famous New Mexican sunshine, quiet donkey hooves might sneak up so he could take a big chomp on it while I was engaged with the book.  Another time he seemed to say, to heck with the hat, I’ll eat the book.  Which bore the marks forever after.

For the children at the Nazarene Indian Bible College across the road from us Jasper did a Christmas Nativity.  He enjoyed himself, behaved tolerably, was serene during his lengthy appearance beside the manger in front of the crowd — but did leave a bucket of memories just before we exited the building.  We had neglected his house training.

It was a sad day when my three long eared companions of fifteen years were loaded up, along with all their gear, into a PVDR truck heading for San Angelo…

Still there are times when I hear Jasper’s mighty bray, calling to me across the winds and the years.

Mark Meyers and PVDR have a long track record with large scale donkey rescues from as far from Texas as Hawaii.  He’s a good person to supervise the capture and transport of several thousand wild donkeys from a place where they are not wanted to others where they will be.  I also have confidence in science and think there ought to be a humane method in use for slowing down the breeding of wild horses and donkeys.  However you look at it, too many of a certain species is not good for the land, for other creatures and flora sharing it.

Wild Burro Rescue has now settled in Olancha, not far from Death Valley.  Or from me, for that matter, although to go visit them I’d face a fairly long trip down one side of the Sierra Nevadas and then up the other.  Some day!


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