I was perched on the edge of a large boulder, trying to take a picture of a pretty yellow flower tucked into a crack, when I heard a horrible grating noise that at first made me think of a burned out motor in a portable drill. Or an agitated wasp, if the wasp was as big as my shoe. At first I didn’t understand what it was, but when I looked down to maybe a foot-and-a-half below from where I was perched, I spotted an angry rattlesnake. Its coiled body was as thick as a beer can and its pink mouth was wide open revealing revealing fangs the size of large nails. Not only was it shaking its rattle, but it was hissing at me.
Just before dawn, I walked out into the still cool desert to look at the sky. Mornings and evenings are the most beautiful times in the Arizona desert, when the pinks and reds hang in the air like a thick glowing mist that stretches from one horizon to the other. On this morning, I was entertained with a remarkable celestial event I have never experienced before. I watched as the full moon, who had spent the entire night traversing the sky and bathing the desert in silver light, dropped beneath the western horizon at the exact same moment as the sun rose in the east. The evening before, their roles were reversed and, as the moon rose in the east, the sun set in the west. It was as if the sun and moon were sharing opposite ends of the same plate, and the plate was slowly turning on an invisible axis.
It was mid-afternoon when we arrived at the almost deserted campground in the middle of nowhere. The Mountain View RV Campground was mostly empty and we got a choice spot to hook up our camper. We took the dogs out behind the campground and walked on the dirt road beside the railroad track, taking in the infinite space in all directions. Melo and Pix were too busy exploring the strange new scents to notice the small cottontail scurry into a hole under some thorny bushes. The air was void of all sounds as the late January sun shone upon us, warming our souls. It felt like a good place to spend our first night in Arizona.
I stood on an exposed piece of solid bedrock and tried to calm my frenetic heart. It was night and all around me the moonlit landscape looked like it was tinged with an ethereal frost. I was miles away from the nearest person. If I were to cry out, there would be no one to hear me. Kat, Melo and Pix were far away, snug and secure in our camper and I was out in the middle of a desert in New Mexico. Except for the long shadows of the monolithic rocks before me, I was all alone. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a movement and I held my breath. I knew it would be foolish to run and I was here to confront my fears. So I stood on my small piece of rock and surrendered to the night.