#12 CHRISTMAS MORNING
“Merry Christmas London!”
In the warmth of the rising sun and in the freshness of a morning breeze, London and I strolled down from the top of my butte toward the desert floor.
We came to an owl sitting atop a young saguaro. He ignored us and continued to stare intently at a cottontail quivering in terror under a rusted, decrepit old truck body. As the owl tensed to attack I shouted and waved my arms, London bounced and yapped, all to startle and distract the raptor.
With resignation the owl reluctantly abandoned his prey, lurched into the air and swept down the hillside. The cottontail took the opportunity, bolted and vanished into a nearby hole, thankful to be free of the owl, the dog and the wild woman.
“Merry Christmas Cottontail,” I called to the rabbit, and to the “hooty-owl”, “Owl . . . I’m sorry.” I had ruined his Christmas dinner.
At the quarry we approached the tiny, old quarry guard cabin, so wind-blown and weathered. I had saved the exploration of the old cabin as a Christmas treat. A few yards from the door I looked down and saw a stained crumpled paper wedged between two small rocks. I bent down and picked up a typewritten poem — La Patrona.
Inside the cabin stood a desk made of orange crates and a mattress ravaged by pack rats. The floor was littered with rodent-chewed pages of poetry, stained and almost buried in the huge pack rat nests of cholla and fluffed mattress packing. I gingerly picked out a few sheets and took them outside to read, each one so strange and appealing.
I would never have read a letter, but the poetry seemed like literature, written to be read by all who enjoy the arrangement of words. Spellbound I read on until one poem, tender and personal, flooded me with shame for having read any.
Quickly I replaced all but La Patrona. If I left it inside the cabin, touched with new odours, rats would be drawn to it and add it to their poetic nests. If I put it outside buried in the rocks, with time it would surely be destroyed by rain, an animal’s hoof or a rodent’s teeth. I could not and did not want to leave it.
That Christmas morning I had been enchanted by La Patrona and her Christmas gift to the shepherd, “. . . three oranges and the nice apple.”