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How a dead desert mouse stopped me from complaining for almost a whole day.

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I met a lady today whose smile didn’t agree with the rest of her face.  She was taking admission fees at the entrance of a national park and maybe she had had just about as much as she could take from the endless parade of tourists and their questions so that the plastic smile was all she could authentically manage.  Or maybe it was just too darn hot.  Or maybe that was her real authentic smile.  Or maybe I was just crabby because the day before I had another one of those “professional warmth” encounters at the Apple store and I had had just about as much as I could take from the world and was projecting my BS (read ‘belief system’) onto her.  On the way to the park I heard the *ding* from my smartphone letting me know that I had an email and to my surprise my energy surged when I considered the possibilities of answering the invitation I had just received from the Apple Store to let them know what my experience of shopping there had been like.  I was pouring out words onto the reply email, in my mind, to the point where I stopped noticing the unique, spectacular and shimmering desert landscape I was driving through.  I was going to let them know,
in the most polite, yet pointed way, that I did not enjoy my experience and I was working out the exact phrases to disguise my criticism in reasonable, non-violent communication language so that I would come out right, and reasonable, and non-violent.

My travel companion parked the car where we were going to trek three miles into the 104 degree desert heat and back for an adventure and the engine stopping almost interrupted the composition of the email in my head.  Yet I was able to hold on, there was another point to make.  I opened the door and as I reached my foot to the desert dust I noticed right there a dead desert mouse that must have recently expired, either from the heat, or from natural causes, or from human causes.  And I stopped complaining in my head from that moment, almost for the whole day because there before me in the dust was a beautiful thing, with a bushy little tail at its final this-world destination.  And it occurred to me again how brief some encounters are and that I might be the only witness to this poignant moment, the witness who was composing a complaint email, because he didn’t like the way the clerk spoke to him.

In the desert as we walked, now with my mind retuned to the good fortune of being alive, and being able to walk, and being able to see and having more than day, or a week, or a month, to call my life-span, I started to see the desert. A spring not more than a few inches across creating a microbiological world of impossibly fast moving insects.  Bees, deep in the dry, waterless landscape buzzing around another minute damp spot where a spring must have run quickly in the spring, buzzing in what seemed a joyful way to me because I was imagining how happy I too would be to find water in that place on such a day as this.  A dry river bed, with a tree not from this place, probably carried by some flash flood and wedged in between desert rocks now it looked out of place in the landscape, also at its end like the mouse. An insect, we stop and spotted and marveled at its good-or-bad fortune for having a hind side that looked exactly like a raspberry, and was the only thing of that startling color in the entire desert that I could see, and which moved with enough erratic moves to surely attract whatever considered it to be food.  A snake—wrapped patiently around a dried, recently burned out bush, waiting for the sun to pass behind the mountain so that it would be less burning to navigate the ground.  And most amazingly, a hummingbird.  Several. In the desert.  With not a blossom or a sprinkler or a hanging nectar feeder for three miles.  No there was something equally amazing, if not more amazing. At a curve in the dry river bed there was a pond, the result of a slow trickle from some underground source, over time accumulating enough water to be about a foot deep.  And the desert packed so much life into that spot.  In it, at the bottom, holding quite still were two bugs about the size of scarabs.  Every now and then one would quickly shoot to the surface of the murky water and grab some oxygen and rush back to who I assume was the mate.  Even if they were just friends, I marveled about how it could be that deep in the thirsting desert in a here-today-gone-tomorrow pool these two could find each other and do what they need to do to express their life urgings. It seemed so fragile, and so beautiful and I wanted everyone to be able to have the opportunity to pause from dealing with needy tourists and impatient customers so that they could see how wonderfully made is our world.

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