Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Santa Claus is Leaving Town

Only 72 more days till Christmas!

I know, I know, it’s too soon to be planning and shopping and making lists and checking them twice. The marketing engines start up earlier and earlier every year and we wring our hands and decry the commercialization of Christmas and then go to the malls and max out the charge cards spreading that Christmas cheer.

The frost is barely on the pumpkin, so why do I bring up Christmas? Because I saw Santa Claus today! He was in street clothes so I’m guessing he was still on vacation, but he didn’t need to be wearing his red suit and boots to know it was him. And he wasn’t coming to town; he was leaving town, heading north on I-25 on the south end of Denver.

I’m guessing he’s on his way from his summer vacation spot – Belize or Cozumel, judging by the snorkeling bumper stickers on his red VW Beetle. I did a double-take when he passed me on my way to the airport this morning. I was in a hurry myself (and not obeying the posted speed limit) and only moved out of the passing lane when he flashed me, which is probably why I even bothered to look over as he sped by. A white beard flowing down to his ample gut and a full head of white hair held in place with a red bandana didn’t seem out of place at all with the peace sign hanging from the rear view mirror or the red carnation gracing the built in VW dashboard vase.

Christmas was not on my mind this morning, so my first thought was that he was a Dead Head hippie. Then I saw the Save-a-Reindeer window decal in the side window and something clicked. I sped up a little to get another look at the bearded face, but he was in an obvious hurry and the only other clue I could see was the granny glasses that he pushed up his nose with a thick finger before pushing a button on his radio. And then he was pulling away and I was falling behind him. That’s when I saw the clinchers – proof that this was no ordinary purveyor of peace and love – vanity plates that read “Ho Ho 1” and a “North Pole or bust” bumper sticker.

You’re probably thinking that I’m living in a dream world and need to grow up, but excuse me if I prefer to keep some visions (think sugarplums) in my otherwise grown-up reality. I refuse to let my age and my acquired “wisdom” prevent me from believing in the magic that surrounds Christmas. What better way to fight off the commercialization of this special time of joy and peace than to absorb and surrender to the frivolous enchantment of the season? Magic only disappears from your life if you prefer it that way. I prefer to believe in some unbelievable things if you don't mind.

I’m not ready to start shopping yet and you better not play any carols for at least a month. By December 29th, I’ll probably be burnt out on Christmas and by January 3rd, I’ll be ready to take down the decorations and reclaim all the living spaces in our home from Marcia's Santa collection. But today, I am jazzed about Christmas because I saw Santa Claus, heading home to the North Pole. He was anxious to get the party started, and for now, so am I!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Road Kill Rant

There’s a dead, bloated raccoon on the shoulder of the road leading to our house on Coyote Ridge. It sticks in my mind as being strange because it’s been there for three days now. Animal Control officers usually clean up the pieces/parts before the magpies even get wind of the roadside buffet. I know because this particular kind of genocide is, unfortunately, not rare in this neck of the woods south and uphill of Denver. We moved here partly because of the abundance of wildlife, so it dismays me that there is also a profusion of wild death.

Deer, coyotes, foxes, porcupines, pocket gophers, raccoons and even once a mountain lion have all fallen prey to the 4-wheeled carnivores of the boulevard in these parts. I often wonder how it is that they so often get caught in the path of the onrushing steel. You’d think they’d be used to our machines of death by now – we’ve been here for several generations. Sure, some – like porcupines – are really slow, and some are, no doubt, pretty stupid. (Why did the prairie dog cross the road? Same reason as the chicken. But, regardless of which version of that old joke you end with, it doesn’t speak well of the intelligence of the chicken, or the prairie dog – or the joke teller for that matter.)

On the other hand, I'm not sure that animals don't have more intelligence than we give them credit for. (Right now, my cat Starbuck is staring at me with a look that says, “Why are you writing this stupid blog instead of finding a real job?”) Road-kill prairie dogs are often seen being mourned by another – a pathetic sight as the survivor tries to comprehend how the game of dare-you-to-cross-the-street went so wrong. Is a deer in the headlights really brainless for not moving out of the way, or does she just disbelieve the existence of metal monsters? And as far as deer road-kill goes, which species really is the stupid one? Most deer carcasses I see are within a few yards of the yellow sign that supposedly-intelligent humans have posted there to warn drivers that THIS IS WHERE DEER CROSS THE ROAD! So, who’s the dummy when we mow them down on the roads that cut through their own living rooms?

It’s the callousness of the road-killers that bothers me though. In such a hurry to get to their important places for their important events that critters on the road are barely footnotes in their travels. Who do we humans think we are? Having opposable thumbs does not make us gods. If having the ability to reason makes us the higher life form, wouldn’t that title also give us the mandate to respect ALL life and protect it when we can? If simply being mindless justified extermination, there would surely be fewer reality show contestants and the highways would be less crowded every rush hour.

I believe that life is life no matter how small, and while it ends for every living thing sooner or later, I think that our world is diminished by each senseless passing of one of its creatures. I have to wonder if Mother Gaia doesn’t feel that loss and somehow mourn it. One of these days, we're going to kill off one too many of her children without thinking, and then the feces will really hit the oscillating blades for us "higher life forms" (think Mother Nature in the old margarine commercials, “It’s not NICE to fool Mother Nature!”) I don’t belong to PETA and I don’t believe the “science is all in” regarding global warming (er, sorry, “climate change,”) but I have to believe that Karma does not look kindly on the indiscriminate killing of the beasts of the field that the Old Testament God gave man “dominion over.”

Because of this belief, I feel sad and more than a bit guilty for the meaningless deaths of the road-kill deer, or raccoon, or even the stupid-as-a-rock opossum. (I once saw ten - count 'em, 10 - dead 'possums on a 3-mile stretch of I-80 in Eastern Iowa.) I mean, really, where do we get off killing squirrels just so we can get to work on time? Who's to say that their nuts are less important than the ones we work with every day? Save the whales? Sure, but let’s save the chipmunks, too. Even rodents are not in infinite supply. If we keep squishing the cute little almost-rats, who will the tourists feed?

So, go ahead and call me an environmentalist, or better yet, just call me a Friend of the Earth. Real-life Bambis can’t speak for themselves, so I’ll say it for them. Slow down and save a porcupine. Get the point?