Day 4: Deserts and Desserts

I unzip my tent and shiver in the cool air.According to my phone it’s only 34 degrees.  For a moment I consider crawling back into my sleeping bag to wait for the sun to rewarm the earth. And then I glimpse the colors on the eastern horizon.   

 I’m ten miles away from I-10 and even  though the posted speed limit is 70 on this “back” road, I have it to myself so I take my time. I think the desert creatures have come out to see me on my way. Hawks perch in the branches of trees along the road.  

 They wait patiently for me to snap my shot before flying off. A beautiful buck grazes on the dry grass a little farther up.  

 And then a roadrunner dashes into the brush. Vultures line up like sentinels on the fence posts. On the ground before them is what looks to be a wild pig. Flowers add splashes of color along the roadside and mountains stretch toward the sky creating the perfect backdrop.  

 I discover a white chapel- a historical landmark.  

 An hour later I finally merge onto I-10. 

The needle of my gas gage is hovering at 1/2 a tank when I spot a lonely gas station at the top of the hill.  

 If there’s one thing I learned yesterday, it’s that gas stations are few and far between on this stretch of highway. 

Not long after I fill up, I spot a scenic overlook. Rocky and I run to the top of the hill. It feels good to stretch my legs and get my heart racing!  

   
My next stop is The Cattleman’s Ranch Steakhouse at Indian Cliffs. 

 The surrounding landscape has been used to film a few movies.  Not only is the food amazing, but Rocky is allowed to join me! This is the first sit-down-inside meal since I started this trip, so I treat myself to cheesecake! The only thing that would make it better is hubby by my side. He would love this place! 

 More and more vehicles crowd around me as I near El Paso, Texas. But thankfully not enough to slow my pace.  

Stretched across the road ahead of me is a yellow sign with red letters. I have entered New Mexico, The Land of Enchantment.  

    
 I made it! I’ve reached Rockhoud State Park and it is beautiful. Rocky and I take advantage of the sunlight and hike one of the trails. I love these desert plants: Prickly pear cactus, yellow, purple, orange, white desert flowers, mesquite, beargrass, yucca. Some of the cactus  look like they’ve been eaten and I keep my eyes peeled for wild boar or pigs (and I’m in the lookout for rattlers)!But all I see are quails, glimpses of squirrels and cottontails, and various desert  birds.  

    
   
The sunset does not disappoint. It’s been another full day! 

  

Midnight Berries under the Strawberry Moon

I missed the mooIMG_4737n! More specifically I missed the rising of June’s full moon. But that won’t stop me from writing about it, or from gazing up into the night sky every chance I get.

One of the best things about the June moon is that it welcomes the arrival of warm weather. It is the Rose Moon, the Lotus Moon, the Green Corn Moon and the Planting Moon. But those aren’t its only names. My favorite names are the two that make my mouthwater and bring back memories of my recent trip to the Great Smokey Mountains.

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It is the Moon when June Berries are Ripe and the Strawberry Moon. Yum!

The black bear looks up at the sky. The moon is full and it shines brightly through the trees and onto the entrance of her den. She nudges brown and rust leaves from the forest floor until the opening is hidden, then pauses to listen to the steady breathing of her two cubs. Confident in their safety, she turns away to begin her nightly foraging.

Leaves rustle and twigs snap under her paws as she lumbers through the woods to the rotten stump. This is her routine. She uses her claws to tear away the soft wood, then digs her nose into the moist pulp to slurp up the insects before they can scatter to safety. Satisfied she makes her way toward the edge of the forest, snacking on bits of vegetation as she travels. The wind blows, carrying a sweet scent to her nostrils.  Her mouth waters and she breaks from her usual foraging pattern, drawn to the aroma of berries.

But she is tense. This is farther than she usually ventures from her den. She listens for a cry from her cubs, as she allows the sweet, scent to draw her forward.

She steps into the field. Along the edge of the woods are prickly bushes IMG_5213covered with berries, but they haven’t ripened. She looks down. Wild, red strawberries surround her feet. She settles onto her haunches to nibble at the feast, her black fur glistening in the moonlight as the sweet juices run down the back of her throat.

As she stretches her nose to the ground to fill it with another mouthful of the sweet fruit, a whimpering cry reaches her ears. The berries forgotten, she crashes through the brush toward the cries of her cubs.

Outside her den, something moves in the shadows. With a roar, she rises to her hind legs. A raccoon dashes away, disappearing into the night. The bear drops back down on all fours and slips into her undisturbed den. She curls up around her cubs and they snuggle into her fur and begin to nurse. She closes her eyes, content to rest with her young. She will wait for the early morning light, when the sun once again takes over the sky to bring her cubs to the edge of the forest. Together they will enjoy the luscious berries.

I sometimes wonder why I’m drawIMG_5018n to the moon and the night sky. I think it’s because when I gaze into it, I see infinite space. A space not so different from the blank page on my laptop. As my imagination fills the emptiness, my fingers move across the keyboard and soon a story appears.

IMG_4376 IMG_4402Just like the pages of a book, every shining star is a far-away world waiting to be experienced.

What does your night sky represent?

Teri Lee is the author of Troubled Spirits, a YA paranormal novel.

Wolf moon

I love the night sky. Even on the coldest night, if the sky is clear, I slow down or even stop to gaze up at the stars.  Right now the sky is hidden behind the clouds of the first storm of 2015, but I’m hoping that those clouds will disappear at least long enough to provide a glimpse of the moon. Because tonight the first full moon of the year will rise—the Wolf Moon.

The Wolf Moon has other names. To the Celtics, it is the Quiet Moon, symbolizing a time to stay home. The colonial Americans referred to it as the Winter Moon. To the Neo Pagans it is the Ice Moon. The Native Americans have many names for it: the Cold Moon, the Cooking Moon, the Hunger Moon, or Moon of the Terrible. But the Wolf Moon is its most common name.

Winter wolf2

It’s winter and the ground is hidden beneath a blanket of snow. Burrowed beneath the blanket, many creatures are nestled in their dens for the winter’s slumber. But the wolf is not sleeping. He is hunting. His food is scarce and the darkness brings with it the end of another day of hunger.  He raises his voice and howls at the rising moon. And then he stops. The wind has carried a new scent to his nose. The scent of food…and man. He fears the man, but his hunger is greater than his fear. The Wolf Moon lights his path as he follows the scent to the village. Here the man-smell is stronger. Firelight flickers within their dwellings. But the savory smell of livestock draws him closer to the village. He slinks into the shadows and strikes in silence, then slips away with his prey. Once his hunger is satisfied, he looks up at the sky and howls his thanks to the Wolf Moon.

wolf moon

Tonight when I gaze into the night sky, I will join the wolves in their howls to the Wolf Moon. And maybe the wind will carry the scent of inspiration to me and satisfy my hunger to write.