It was not a mistake. We intentionally moved to a desert. Granted, the Sonoran Desert flows right into a beautiful seashore which is an unequivocal bonus to the location of said desert.
Choosing to live in a semi barren area home to barbed plants and very little precipitation may seem extreme but I have learned there are definite benefits to desert life.
A lower population of people means less air pollution. Those cacti don’t have typical growth cycles thus reducing many seasonal allergies. No superhighways into town equals less traffic and a slower pace of life. Then there’s the sunshine. Limited rainfall equates to more cloudless days. To that I say, “Bring on the vitamin D and outdoor activities.” Relaxing views, the sound of waves, dips into salty water and the laughter of seagulls filling the air are all therapeutic. Additionally, there’s a chance of a dolphin or sea lion sighting during beach walks or boat rides. No chance of that in north Texas. So there are trade offs to harsh desert life.
After living in San Carlos for nearly ten months and experiencing the beauty of the natural surroundings there are days I’ve almost, almost, begun to overlook the lure of the area. But there is something I will never overlook and that is the undeniable fact that unexpected critters can and do accompany desert living. Chained to that certainty is the potential of having these unwanted critters as “roommates”. I figured we would have visits from family and friends, of course. But non-human roommates were not in my Mexico life plan.
The possibility of being on the lookout for these unforeseen boarders first slapped me across the face during our move to Mexico. Just north of the border and in need of gas we zipped into a station to stretch our legs and top off the tank. During the stop I took Lola on a quick jaunt around the area to remove extraneous liquids before taking off on the next leg of the trip. Once she was harnessed in we strolled over to a sandy area. Dazed by the long drive, I looked around and took in the cacti dotted field, a full moon already in the sky and the beginnings of a vibrant sunset. I was so mesmerized by this new world to which I was moving, or perhaps it was the exhaustion of the trip, that I almost stepped directly on a snake slithering across the ground. There is a possibility that at this point I actually levitated without relying on a wand or “Wingardium Leviosa”. All I remember is grabbing my four legged friend and somehow arriving safely back at the vehicle thinking, “Where in the hell have I moved!” I kept the thought to myself but an uneasiness of desert wildlife lodged itself into the back of my mind.
Once we arrived in San Carlos my mental state improved greatly. Within a few days we were unloaded, rested and starting our desert seaside life. Evenings were always complimented by beautiful sunsets coaxing me to remember why we chose the desert. A few weeks into the move I headed into the half bath to, well…rest. Upon being seated I looked around the bathroom. As I titled my head toward the ceiling I noticed a rather large gecko seemingly glued above me craning his neck to check me out with a haughty, “I was here first look on his face.” Being in a precarious position this was far from comforting. I expected that at any moment he could jettison down and begin doing whatever vicious things geckos do. I scurried from the bathroom to inform Mike of the invader. His response, “Oh good, it will catch bugs.” Hmmmmm? Not the response I expected from my knight in shining armor of almost 32 years.
The following day I entered the same bathroom to find said gecko sitting on the toilet. Yes, on the rim. I decided to close the door and give him privacy. For several days, I intentionally avoided the half bath for fear he had hatched his plan of attack. This lavatory circumstance taught me the first rule about dealing with unwanted roommates in desert life. Rule #1, always check the potty for lizards.
I can only assume the gecko became curious about my absence as he soon ventured out of the bathroom and became a fixture on the ceilings of the living room or kitchen. Over the next few days, I spent a great deal of time with my head tilted to the sky checking for geckos. Their chirping clicks taunted me during my ongoing hunt for their location. Eventually, my uneasiness of the presence of these little guys melted into a truth of living in Mexico. Instead I started worrying when the geckos were out of my sight for more than a day. After all, they really are good guys in the lizard family, eating tiny insects that might trespass inside my new home. I learned that adult geckos actually defend their feeding territory so no wonder they continued to hang around. So, I would now have geckos as house guests and that was that. Until one fateful night…
I was cleaning dishes after dinner with a sink full of soapy water. I washed plates, glasses and pans. Rinsed them carefully and dropped the utensils into the sink. Mike called me into the office for a moment but I soon returned to the task of the dishes. Just these last few pots and pans and my work here will be done, I thought. Dripping dishes crowded the counter. That should be it. Just one quick swirl of my hand through the bubbles to check. Wait, what’s this? My bubble covered hand emerged from the kitchen sink holding a large and now very dead gecko.
I released the reptile as my shriek brought Mike running into the room. I’d killed our roommate. Well, I hadn’t actually killed it, the soapy water had. I felt a bit guilty knowing the mere moments I had left the room the little suction toed critter had ventured into the sink for what he surely thought would be the time of his life. Mike fished the gecko out of the sink and buried him in the trash with little fanfare. The sink was drained, rinsed, cleaned and bleached before it was refilled with a second round of soapy water for take two of the dishwashing. Thus, Rule #2 of desert life. Do not leave standing water, anywhere, ever.
The longer we live in San Carlos the more unwanted roommates I notice. Most of the unwelcome animals require rules of their own. Scorpions for example require those living in Mexico to follow four additional guidelines. Rule #3, do not leave any pieces of clothing on the ground. Rule #4, always shake your tennis shoes. Rule #5, use a flashlight when reaching into dark spaces. And, Rule #6, flip-flops are to be left next to the bed in case a nighttime walk through the house is necessary.
Then there are the requirements that are in place for feathered friends. Life around birds is enhanced if one simply remembers to prescribe to Rule #7, wear a hat when outdoors and Rule #8, use caution when walking under wires. While birds here appear to have good aim, they aren’t the brightest bulbs in the box. On a regular basis I hear a sharp, “ting, ting, ting,” only to discover a redheaded Gila Woodpecker banging away on a metal utility pole along the street. Muy estúpido.
The next suggestion is one that should be followed all over the world if you find yourself living down the street from an 82-year old woman who runs her own cat sanctuary. She’s a sweet lady but has taken on the daily duty of feeding every stray cat in town. This kind woman drives around in her little red car with giant bags of cat food, a measuring scoop and bottles of water refilling plastic containers for any and all that might hunger. While her lifework is popular with felines it doesn’t have the same appeal with human folk. Rule #9, never make eye contact with a cat waiting for a meal.
The most interesting practice became necessary once we realized we shared our hillside neighborhood with raccoons, mapaches. While I Iack proof, I personally believe their choice of residence is directly related to the feeding of felines. One would immediately guess this rule would have to do with storage of trash cans. Not so fast. All houses here have enclosures for trash receptacles due to the many Mexican street dogs.
Instead, the “raccoon directive” comes from the fact that these masked bandits can and will go to great lengths to find what they believe to be a freshwater source in the desert. Mapaches will indeed scale a wall and scamper up a spiral staircase in order to slip into a swimming pool for an evening swim. As a homeowner I became acutely aware of these “party animals” when I heard splashing sounds coming from outside during the dark of night. So, Rule #10, always leave a beach towel near the pool because you never know when a raccoon will require a quick cool down in the warm Mexican desert.
May 5, 2020. Cinco de Mayo, which while celebrated in the USA with drink and taco specials is not toasted in Mexico as it is a date on which the Mexicans beat the French in one 1862 battle only to later fall to the French.
“Ever notice how spiders just sit there on the walls and act like they pay rent?”