I have been in a lot of places to see a lot of people the last couple weeks and it’s been a real haul. A joyful and emotional haul. Vancouver, Tacoma, Portland, and I’m now having a two-day layover in Albuquerque. I just needed to not think for a couple days. I walk around the neighborhood I’m staying in here in New Mexico and smell the oily, weeping wood of the trees on a 70 degree, windy, overcast day, and I exhale. My eyes are tired and hungry and I look hard at everything.
I lived in the Desert Southwest a good seven years and I never saw a lot of the creatures people associate with that place – snakes, vultures, and scorpions (though I did get stung by one, and there is still one square inch on top of my right thigh where I have no feeling.) The most glaring omission was the roadrunner. I watched Warner Brothers cartoons my whole life so I had it on good authority they are supposed to be here in numbers. They are the New Mexico state bird for cryin’ out loud! They have them on the “Welcome to Arizona” highway signs and in every tourist tchotchke shop from San Antonio to Los Angeles. They are the symbol of Route 66 and a million other things (including several cannabis dispensaries in New Mexico). So where are they? Well, today, at 52 years old, I had my first encounter with the Greater Roadrunner.
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There is a crazy, roller coaster bottom-out feeling the first time you see a creature you know but have never seen in real life. I remember that feeling seeing a rattlesnake, a wolf, a bear, a moose, a bobcat, a bison, a snowy owl and several other creatures for the first time. (An odd one being a Northern Harrier :) It’s like time freezes and the world stops. You are in a tiny eye of the storm and color becomes more intense. You silently beg the creature to not hate you and flee (or attack your face or sink its fangs into your calf). The beauty of recognition in the first sighting is a bitch-slap in the best possible way.
I was walking to the coffee shop a block away when I paused and froze, noticing a huge bird in the neighbor’s front yard. “HOLY SHIT!” I scream-whispered, frantically grabbing ManFriendJeff’s arm. I don’t know how I didn’t scare the bird away but there it was… all huge and roadrunner-y! What a creature! They look so feral and raptor-like in the most dinosaur sense. The bird eyed me and froze. I took a horrible picture of it which was beneath both of our dignity. As this was dawning on me I decided to leave the bird be, which was the least I could do. I keep this practice in mind for all celebrity sightings.
ManFriendJeff and I carried on and had lunch and coffee. I still had a sheen on me from the elation of seeing the superstar bird. I was thinking about the fact that a roadrunner can kill a large rattlesnake and if it’s too big to cram all the way down its gullet, the roadrunner just goes about its business with a big snake hanging out of its mouth until, inch-by-inch, the snake is digested by the prehistoric bird. That’s INSANE! That’s boa constrictor jungle shit! I am in awe as I eat my very digestible chicken salad. On the way back to our friend’s house we happened upon not one but TWO roadrunners casually hanging out in the same neighbors yard. (When it rains it pours…) We froze a second time and the birds actually came a little closer. I took this as a sign that we weren’t stressing them out and pulled out my phone. One of the pair flew up onto the crook of a twisting tree and - I swear to god - posed. I took this photo of the flattered subject below. I thanked them and we went on our way. “Land of Enchantment'' indeed.
The largest of the “ground cuckoos” :)
Man. From first times, to fast times, to Animal times. I’m hooked.
Perseverance. Good fortune. Protection.
Roadrunner teaches how to outrun, outperform, and outlast the outer circumstantial world. With courage, expediency, and effectiveness. Coyote ain’t got nothin’ on the ‘Meep Meep’ (... yes Mr. Deville,,, it IS time for your close up. ;) )