Smoke-filled valley, Southern Oregon, August 2012
I took the photo above ten minutes ago. To the right of the panorama (out of the frame) the smoke is so thick the mountain ridges aren't even visible. The air is acrid in mouth and throat, and my eyes began to water within moments of being out on the back deck to take the shots. The temperature right now--up on my ridge--is 104.8 on the shady side of the house, and it's just past 3:00pm. It will get hotter as the afternoon heat builds.
As if it's not bad enough, standing at the Gates of Hell, apparently Satan's minions are coming to visit. Yesterday, I had a couple of gnarly experiences with--gulp and shudder--snakes and a family of lizards. Eeewwwww. Wait, wait. I have to lift my feet off the floor.
Last night, 8:00pm or so, I walked the dogs down to the mailbox. It was hot, humid, with a sirocco-type wind as we meandered along the road. A hawk was circling, his screech very piercing, and I looked up to watch him. The dogs suddenly began dancing around, nearly tripping me, and I lowered my head to snap at them when I noticed--just a second before my foot lowered--there were EEEWWEEEEWWW...snakes. Snakes having some kind of hideous, nightmare-inducing convention in the middle of the road. I jumped about a foot in the air, shrieked like a...well...like a girl, and nearly fell over backwards to get away. One of the neighbor women happened to be sitting outside on her porch; she jumped to her feet and shouted "What's wrong?" I leaped across the road to her yard and began hopping up and down, waving my hands and squirming until I could finally gasp out, "Snakes!"
And see? It wasn't just me. She screamed and jumped onto her chair and she hadn't even seen any snakes! I started laughing, but it was sort of a breathless, oh my god kind of laugh. I'm wearing thin leather sandals, my toes were within a hair's breadth of landing in the pile of slithering............. oh damndamndamn.
Okay, so I know the buggers like heat, and they were just green garter snakes, not deadly vipers or anything, but holy crap. I don't want to know there are that many snakes in all of Oregon, let alone on my frigging mountain road. And it's not like I'm truly afraid of them. It's more the surprise factor...and the writhing...and the alien-ness.
So. Everyone calms down, I get the mail, the snakes are gone when I pass the area where they were having their little clan gathering, and the boys and I make it home, safe and reasonably sound.
Now I have to water the back garden, though I'm hyper-alert and skittish. The smoke in the air seems worse, the hot wind not clearing anything, and I just want to get done, go inside and have a nice cold beer...with my feet well off the ground.
As I'm rolling up the hose, I catch a movement out of the corner of my eye. I spun around so fast, I made myself dizzy. A lizard family is headed straight for me across the grass, I think because of the dripping water from the hose. The Dad is either the biggest frigging lizard this side of Texas, or the smallest alligator. He was even walking in that ponderous, "I'm bad" Komodo Dragon sort of way, with Mom coming behind him, and god knows how many babies--I didn't stick around to count. I just dropped the hose and called it a day. And okay, yeah, yeah, I called it a day as I ran.
There's only so many slithery, crawly creatures I can take in one day. And though I know it's the heat--the unrelenting, brain-damaging, heat--that is bringing out these wee beasties, frankly that changes nothing because I'm standing at the Gates of Hell where they live.
They don't have snakes or lizards in Alaska, you know.
N.B. I forgot to mention that the dogs got extra treats when we got back to the house. While I had my head in the clouds watching a hawk, they stopped me from stepping ankle-deep into a Wes Craven horror film.