Blind Strike

{August 28, 2007}   Cobra’s Lesson, part I

After a long walk, Squirrel found the place where the desert floor rose in a mound. Jumping chollas hung irridescent in the sun, and saguaro reached their great arms to the sky. At the base of the hill, Squirrel spied a small opening in the ground.

She hesitated, sniffing around the entryway. Going in didn’t seem so smart. She smelled death. But, lifting her sore paw pads, and looking around at the tough plants made to withstand the sun, she saw that she had no choice. She was not built to be out in the desert. If she did not go in, she would surely die.

Squirrel stepped inside. Cool air wrapped around her and her lungs drank deeply. As Squirrel’s eyes adjusted, she saw that the tunnel dropped down a short way and then curved into the hillside. Squirrel took a few steps forward, until a distant hissing stopped her short. Around the bend came Cobra with his back up, tongue flicking forward in twin points.

Sure that she had reached the end of her days, Squirrel flattened herself against the floor and closed her eyes. She waited for the sharp pinch of Cobra’s teeth at her flesh, but the bite never came. Trembling, Squirrel opened her eyes.

Cobra looked thinner, deflated. “Shhhh.” His voice was soothing. “What pathetic sight is this? Rise, little one, and tell me, who sent you?”

Squirrel took a deep breath and stood on all fours, ready to back out of the tall, narrow hole should Cobra try anything. “S-scorpion told me you might be able to…to help me.”

“AAhhh.” Cobra’s voice took on a lilting tone. “In that case, come into my home, friend, and we will see just why it is you need helping.”

With that, Cobra wrested and rippled himself until his head was pointed back the way he came. He slithered farther into the den, casting Squirrel a backward glance and flicking his tongue before winding around the corner. Again, Squirrel hesitated, as if someone had whispered an admonition she couldn’t quite catch. But she thought again of the parched land above, the pain in her delicate feet, and Scorpion’s brusque manners.

Perhaps these creatures have different customs, she thought, and minced her way around the bend.


One day, after a long sojourn in the dark, cold depths, Squirrel found herself blinking in the bright sun of a teeming desert.

“Where am I?” she said to herself, “and where have I come from?”

 She looked at her feet, hoping she had become a rabbit, or a dragon, but no, she was still just a squirrel. As her eyes adjusted, Squirrel watched a thick patch of clouds hanging around the sun. She observed as they drifted towards it, and enveloped it, casting a red glow through the sky.

Squirrel hopped along the burning sand, into the bank of a wash, where the ground was softer. There, in the basin, Scorpion sat crouched on dagger limbs.

“Hello, there,” he said, and waved her over with the sharp point of his tail. “Sit.” Scorpion jabbed his stinger into the sand before him. Squirrel hesitated. “I won’t hurt you,” Scorpion said.

Squirrel lowered herself on shaking legs.

“You have questions,” Scorpion said in a lilting voice, “and I have lived here a very long time.”

His stinger hovered in the air, but Squirrel felt the urge to trust this creature.

“Scorpion,” she said. “I have just come up from a very dark place, and I would like to know, where am I?”

Scorpion rippled his legs and swayed in amusement. “You are here. Here is here, and what else matters?”

Squirrel nodded and rose to her hind legs. “I am not used to the heat. Do you know where I might find shelter?”

“Go to the near hill where the cholla and saguaro grow. Ask Cobra for help. He is old and wise, and has lived here even longer than I.”

Scorpion pointed his tail to the east, and when Squirrel stuttered–“But”–he lashed his stinger around as if to strike. Squirrel heard him chuckling as she scampered over the wash’s lip, on her way to the den of another desert sage.

Update from Anne Caston on the situation sending liquid to aid U.S. troops: 

“Hello everyone,

I want to thank all of you who responded directly, who offered to write letters, make phone calls, offered prayers; I appreciate you so much.  I also appreciate those of you who put the word out there on your blogs and got others involved.  It seems to be making a difference.  The local post office here in Southern Maryland has agreed to allow us to ship cases of water to specific units/soldiers stationed in Baghdad so long as the cases are wrapped and the seals on the bottles aren’t opened!  Hurrah!!!  So Ian & I are off to the local grocers to stock up on, and send out tomorrow, as many cases of H2O we can afford to buy and ship.  And word from the local US Post Office is that, while the decision to ship water rests squarely with the individual post offices, that most of them will be amenable to it if you follow the conditions about unbroken seals and non-carbonated water.

If you know soldiers in the region and have addresses for them, please send bottles of water (non-carbonated!) to their APO addresses.  If you want to send water but don’t know a soldier, you can send the troops drinking water in care of my son (address below) and he’ll be so happy to hand them out to his comrades and patients.  Again, thank you and bless you all.  This is one time when I fervently hope the old adage about “reaping what you sow” is more than a truism: if so, you all are gonna have an amazing harvest!

All good things to each of you,

Anne Caston

SFC Matthew D. Osborne

603rd ASD, HSC, CAB 43414

APO  AE  09322-3414″

{August 4, 2007}   Rainy Morning

A ragged mist clings to the Chugach mountains, today, the third morning left for me to wake up and call this place mine. But I know, if you ask hard, Alaska has owned me and not the other way around. I don’t count on the weather being good, anymore. A friend gets married today, safe inside the Hilton hotel. I will put on a bridesmaid dress and walk slowly up the aisle. Rain will pelt the roof twenty stories up and run off the sides of a brown-painted facade. Two mornings left, and when Sara slides the ring over Andrew’s knuckle, she will be his, he will be hers, but they will both be staying here, to be owned by this place, where the smallest yield is a great gift.

{August 2, 2007}   Troops Short on Drinking Water

The following is the text of an email from the chair of my former department. Since writing this letter, she has convinced the postmaster to allow the sending of water overseas. As a mother, she is focused on providing relief. For me, the larger implications of this situation are most frightening: If the military-industrial-political complex would allow this to happen, what will they allow next? We obviously can’t afford to be over there, and I wish this country would finally do what it should have done immediately after 9/11, namely get on our knees and ask the rest of the world for some help, on their terms. It seems to me like the only decent way out of Iraq.We both appreciate anything you can do to help, from water-sending to letter-writing: 

“Dear friends, colleagues, and acquaintances,

    I am writing to tell you that I have just learned from my son (a medic in Iraq, in Baghdad) that there is a shortage of potable water there now: the troops are having to ration water…and there are more troops arriving every day.  He works nights and has to sleep days – in a tent that often reaches into the low 100s during the day.  While there is probably nothing the current administration can do about the desert heat, I suspect that it does have some ability to get drinking water to the troops.  So please, if you are so moved – by your heart or by your conscience – send a letter to the President and ask that he acts immediately to insure that our soldiers have sufficient drinking water.

    I am currently begging the local Postmaster to allow us to send bottled water to our son’s unit, though the USPS has a policy which prohibits the mailing of liquids.  Perhaps if I can convince them that I will ship it in styrofoam coolers, well-taped to avoid leakage, they will allow it.  So, if you don’t feel comfortable sending a letter to President Bush, perhaps a letter to the Postmaster General would be more amenable for you?

    Thank you for your time and attention.  Let us pray that “staying the course” doesn’t mean our sons and daughters overseas go without drinking water for much longer.


Anne Caston”

et cetera