From the Editor: Humbled by the vast beauty of the world
My 4-year-old daughter and I took a walk next to my apartment in Window Rock.
Watching the ground ahead of her little feet, I saw them – two baby horned toads – twins – scrambling with their tiny legs next to their mom.
“Look,” I said to Doreen, “They’re baby horny toads.”
Such encounters fill my memories because I take walks and hikes whenever I get the chance. They are dramatic, like when my dad and I saw a pack of wolves trotting in a V formation in 1965 west of Continental Divide, or low key, like when a kit fox peered over a jumble of boulders 10 yards away on a hogback by Gallup, its large ears drawing my eyes.
But whatever the stage or surroundings, they leave me humbled by the vast beauty of the world.
On May 24, hiking a trail near Church Rock, New Mexico, I saw the head of something in a hole on the side of a gully 100 yards away.
Thinking it was a rabbit or prairie dog, I stopped to watch. Soon another head appeared in a hole next to it. Then a small body flowed down out of the burrow – a puppy! Not only that, a fox cub!
Then quickly four other foxes spilled out of the two holes. They looked identical, light brown with white tips on their tails.
They mingled and circled one another as kids do. I guessed mom was not around, otherwise they would not be out in broad daylight – or in front of me.
It was a blessing to see them and I hoped they survive and live many dog-years.
Beginning in March, there have been more opportunities to hike with the pandemic and the restrictions we must all live with. Taking hikes in the country is perfect.
On March 21, I saw three deer next to the trail to Pyramid Peak near Church Rock.
On April 4, near McGaffey in the forest south of Fort Wingate, New Mexico, I walked a new trail – and spotted a movement off to my right, about 150 yards away.
It was a wild turkey, quick-stepping away from me. More appeared with their bobbing heads. The flock quickly disappeared into the forest.
I encountered the flock again and tried to count them. They moved quickly and blended into the forest. But my best guess is 11 or 12.
On May 15, on the same trail, I scanned the forest as I walked, aware now of turkeys and who knows what else.
A light-colored body – a deer? Maybe, as I took a few steps forward. Then I saw its full form – an elk!
Not only that, other elk took shape around her. They seemed to be feeding off the ground. I decided to ease away. I rounded a small tree and looked toward them. One was staring right at me – too late.
They began running from right to left. Seeing an opening they would have to cross, I watched carefully to count – one, two, three, four, five, six, seven – seven elk!
Seven is a lucky number and I was humbled once again.
On June 9, walking the trail by Church Rock, I decided to check the fox burrow. At about 7:30 p.m., I was surprised to see one then two playing on the slope of the gully. They dashed up and down then stood still. Then I saw more – four cubs. One may have been lost.
They had grown since I last saw them. They were becoming foxes. Wishing them the best, I carefully stepped away.
I first saw deer in the hills and red rocks of Church Rock after my friend, Ben, had passed away in March of 2018. Walking down the trail, a group of mule deer bounded up a hill. I thought there were four at first. I saw them again and counted three.
Perhaps my first impression that there were four was mistaken. Perhaps it was a sign from Ben, who knew deer, saying goodbye.
The second time was last year. I spooked a doe out of a thicket starting the trail up to Pyramid Peak. It ran a ways then stopped to stare at me.
As I walked away southward, I looked back now and then. It still stood there, at attention, both ears flared forward. Finally after 400 yards, the land swallowed her slim figure.
It was 34 years ago when my daughter and I came across the little family of horned toads.
In 2018, my 4-year-old granddaughter, Nisha, and I had to wait at an office in Ganado. Sort of babysitting, I took her for a little walk. Along a fence, we saw a baby lizard. We saw a full-grown one digging in the sand and another that darted under a large box.
“Look, Nisha,” I said, “That’s the father lizard and momma lizard.”
“Dey helping baby?” she asked.
“Yes, that one digging is the daddy,” I said.
I remarked to myself how the years pass but life stays the same, with parallel moments.
Before and after these moments, I have been blessed to see animals of the earth.
They each have a name, a role and a place in the universe. The stories of our ancestors mention all of them.
Bless yourself – and them – when they appear before you.