This morning we hit -20F. Our little adobe house isn’t meant for these temperatures, but we’ve gotten by just fine.

I find myself worrying about the birds and the wild animals.

It’s silly, I know. I should worry about the homeless people. About the poor living in poorly heated places and the kids going to school with too-thin jackets. But I have this thing where I fret about the animals. I wonder how the birds make it through the night and I’m relieved to see them in the morning, puffed up with indignation against the cold, clustering around the feeder. They know how to make it through the night.

It’s not like I can do anything to save them anyway.

Another feature of the Las Vegas strip are the rows of people handing out the little cards advertising the hookers. They have this technique where they pop the cards against each other, making loud clicks that draw your attention and they hand you the card. You have to get good at tuning out the sound – and the row of dour-faced men offering the cards – or you never get anywhere.

They mostly tried to hand them to David, though they’d give ’em to me, too, if I let them. As we walked down by the Mirage, enjoying the warm sunshine, I asked David what was on the cards. I’d so carefully not looked at them, that I then wondered. Pictures of girls, he told me.

We stopped by the fountains at the Mirage to admire the many kinds of palm trees in their landscaping. What? We like palm trees. Paddling around in the water was a duck and two very new ducklings. David was surprised they’d hatched in January. Some tourist guys tossed bread at the ducks, laughing as the little things tried to gobble the stuff down.

I confess I fretted about them. Did they hide when Mirage does its volcano effects? Would some idiot feed them something poisonous or try to play with them? I blew out my breath and let it go. The ducklings lived before I knew about them and I can’t sweep in and save them anyway.

As we got near our hotel, David started accepting the girlie cards. Like a wave, the grim-faces turned to smiles and the guys happily handed him cards. Within seconds he had a handful. I asked why he started taking them and he said “I thought you wanted to see them.”

So, we drank wine in our pretty hotel room, watched the sunset and flipped through the nearly 50 cards he’d acquired in the course of crossing the street. We talked about which girls were pretty and which poses looked sexy and which not. Then one card caught my eye. Kari, thin, red-head pale and with a glassy-eyed, lost look on her face.

“She looks way too young to me,” I commented.

David took the card from me. “She looks strung out on drugs, is what she looks like.”

She probably is. And she might be legal and she might not. I wondered where in all that tumult of noise and lights she might be. And I realized I fretted about her like I worried about the ducklings. There’s something about the small, the young and the weak dealing with a frequently harsh world that tears a little piece from my heart.

I meant to save Kari’s card. David threw them all away and I formed the idea that I should write about this and go dig the little card out of the trash. I could scan in her picture and tell this story. I fantasized that someone would recognize her, save her, perhaps. Then we checked out before dawn and I forgot in the flurry.

In the end, I suppose, as for all of us, it will be up to her to save herself. As it’s up to the birds to survive the cold snap and the ducklings to enjoy their bit of tropical paradise and avoid the dangers.

Still I remember Kari’s face and send hopeful thoughts her way.


The other day I walked past this cholla and a bird flew out with an indignant squawk.

I think it was a towhee, though I didn’t get a really good look at her, but the way she behaved made me think she had a nest. Sure enough, there it was.

I went back to the house to get the camera. It had been a little while by the time I walked back to her cholla, but she wasn’t back yet. Either that or she came back and took off again before I saw her – one spends a lot of time looking down for spiky stuff when walking in the desert.

Taking the picture wasn’t easy. Cholla would be a good substitute for lava in childhood games. the spines twist out in every direction, making it exceedingly difficult to get close. By the time I got a good angle, I could see that there was a baby bird in the nest along with egg. (It’s the pink, fuzzy bit on the seven o’clock side of the nest.)

After that I fretted about whether the mother ever came back, but I don’t want to check, just in case she did, but a third visit from me puts her off entirely.

There’s no reason to think she wouldn’t come back and every reason to think she would. I try not to worry about it.

A friend of mine from college is having a mastectomy. She’s having lumps removed, then breast reconstruction. So far as I know, she’s never used the C-word, though she refers to losing her hair and whether she’ll be a “wig-type” or a “scarf-type,” so I know she’s having chemotherapy.

It’s interesting what she’s chosen to focus on. She’s excited to get her “dream breasts” and has been taunting us with how perky she’ll be into our older years. The hair will grow back. This is a temporary illness for her.

She knows something about living with broken parts since her young son is diabetic. She’s sharing her journey with her children in the same way they’ve all shared the burden of diabetes. It’s remarkable to me. I’ve known people who never their adult children about their illnesses until it couldn’t be hidden. In this family, my friend has made it no shame, but a challenge for them all to share in.

My friend posted this poem that she wrote on Facebook.

My daughter writes the words she hears,
that confuse her
Single or paired…questions

Fake Boob
Lost Hair
Pink Ribbon

She hands me the drawing with the surgeon wearing a Joker-like smile,
a frowning me holding a handful of hair

Her eyes are concerned, but a smirk plays across her face
She and her brother start to giggle

“Fake boob”

My son asks “Will it be metal? Wood?”
“No, something squishy”



I laugh along with the children
While it still seems like a big joke

Nature is fundamentally unfair in who gets sick, who gets tumors, who gets diabetes. We try to parse the pattern, hedge our bets, but people develop chronic diseases anyway. All we can really control is how we deal with them.

I admire how well she’s choosing not to worry about it.