I’m watching a covey of wild Chukar glide into my yard this morning—almost every morning. I try to replenish their seed and water since this summer seems more intense in heat and wind compared to many others.

My ranch retains the long years of animals passing through, so in their memories, The Rusty Bucket Ranch is a refuge, year after year, season by season. It’s at this time of year when I find my mind looking back. Some folks sit with a cup of steaming coffee and a good book just as Winter kicks in. I tend to look at the end of Summer as my recharge date; I see changes in the Chukar migration, the lack of other little critters in my yard vying for their food, and the coming of cooler temperatures in the morning.

It’s the break from the heat we all need. It’s not over by any sense of the word, not yet, but the heat is tolerable now and I’m not calling each day as “a hunnerd-n-hot” anymore. Desert dwellers, whether human or critter, are adaptable. I like to think I am in the ways that make me feel comfortable and settled in my desert home. After 40 years here, I do feel my time is historic.

A bit of melancholy settles in as well, so I must try to bolster my energy and creative mind with the things that feed my spirit. Writing and poetry, selecting fall foods, restoring my cabinets with favorite flavors: coffee, dark chocolates, and snack crackers. For writing I will make sure I have the favorite pens and paper at hand. I’m spending time on my websites to get their maintenance up-to-par, and ready for my thoughts … and visitors.

Even though the pandemic has curtailed my activities, I do go out and buy groceries, and yet, each time I go out I worry that I might be the next to bring home the virus. My husband is vaccinated and reminds me to do the same. I’m careful and masked but not ready to get vaccinated. We each have histories and health issues to consider. And I’m considering mine.

As a desert dweller, visits with friends and colleagues are also restricted by time, miles, reasons to be more careful, and well, the need to go and be with people. I’ve always been a loner, so seeing people is not that necessary until I realize that not seeing many for over 18 months has actually made me more aware that I have not seen many. Just a select few… just a few.

I was really tickled to visit live in-person members of the High Desert branch of the California Writers Club this past month. Many of them I’ve known for ten years, most of them are active in a variety of other associations. We are all stepping cautiously, furtively in the public places, careful to cover with masks and vigilant to wash our hands and keep that distance— much like the Chukar who come down off the mountain and move carefully into the open.

We are like nervous Chukar, aware of the changes and the things that make us vulnerable, but with the instincts to get out quickly if we feel threatened or by using our avoidance mechanisms to make it safely back home.

~~ Rusty LaGrange

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