Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"I startled a weasel who startled me, and we exchanged a long glance..."**

I had an Annie Dillard weasel moment with a sagebrush lizard in Arches National Park, outside Moab, Utah.

These lizards were everywhere, but you wouldn't know it unless you were looking (and how many of us really look at things?). These finger-length lizards blended neatly into the sandstone even as they darted to and fro within the blink of an eye. I came across one perched on a shelf of sloping red rock along the trail, and rather than fleeing, it turned and looked at me. Cocking its head, it regarded me with all the temerity it could muster, and we stared at each other.

And that was that. I stared at a lizard, and it stared right back at me. Such reciprocal acknowledgment was unnerving in a way: what was it thinking? Is that what living in the desert does to you--slough off your weak parts so all that's left is a sinewy boldness? While I enjoyed my time in the desert, the openness of the terrain and the ever-present fierce sun was overwhelming. I simultaneously felt as though I was pinned beneath a microscope and lost in a universe of sand and stars. Perhaps being bold is a way to combat this feeling of smallness that the desert imposes on you.

When I stood up, the lizard scampered a few feet away then looked back at me. It bobbed its head and did several push-ups in a display of dominance, in spite of the fact that I towered over it, a boulder to its pebble. I stepped back, respecting the boldness of its actions.

**from "Living Like Weasels," by Annie Dillard.

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