Hooray! Halloween! I’m definitely one of those people who believes the entire month of October is intended to build up to Halloween. In fact, I made this one at the end of September, and I think I did an excellent job of creating something that suited the entire autumn and can stick around until after All Souls’. I love how the entire design came out (even though I made mistakes with my own font) and may try to preserve it when I swap it out for my holiday design. I was thinking about making it all summer! If only I had also been thinking about all my fancy, patterned scissors, I could have save myself a lot of time cutting it out.
Gila monsters are venomous lizards, one of two venomous lizards that live in the region. They are not super interested in biting humans. In fact, The Man and I once attended a lecture about venomous reptiles of the Sonoran Desert, and the herpetologist delivering it asserted that there is a profile of the sort of person who gets bit by a Gila monster, and that nobody who doesn’t fit this profile ever turns up at the ER looking for help for Gila monster bites. The profile is thus: a young man, between the ages of 20 and 40, heavily tattooed, under the influence of alcohol. This tells you a lot about how dangerous Gila monsters are: not at all, unless you are the kind of idiot who gets drunk and harasses native fauna.
They literally have “monster” in the name. Why would you pick it up?
At any rate, their bite is only mildly neurotoxic and there are no recorded cases of death by Gila monster, although I gather it’s not exactly a fun experience either. I’ve lived here 17 years and never seen one in the wild.
For some reason, some people don’t appreciate the beauty of a giant beetle flying into things and dying tragically in your swimming pool filter.
The ASDM webpage on which I found the reference photo of the larval beetle offers this statement of caution for desert motorcycle enthusiasts who don’t wear helmets: “Being hit in the face by a beetle this size can be quite painful.” That’s probably an understatement; one flew into my head earlier this month and I wasn’t even coming toward it at 60 miles an hour and it still felt like being hit by a rock.
Anyway, I think these creatures are fascinating, and, for whatever reason, they don’t feel like cockroaches to me. My response to cockroaches is visceral and immediate; if one crosses my path, I feel compelled to smash it as if it’s a vicious, carnivorous alien (even though cockroaches are harmless, vegetarian, and have been around longer than humans). My response to giant palo verde beetles is, “Cool! It’s a giant bug!” And then I take a picture and send it to my nephew or something. He’s at a prime age to appreciate giant bugs.
My first script had the final panel as some snarky remark about how maybe these insects had it all figured out and maybe we’d be better off if we spent our childhood and adolescence underground and then had thirty days to mate before dying, leaving the next generation to figure things out on its own. Then I thought I’d go for a straight biology story, with only a little snark. Then I finished the artwork and thought the panels looked kind of blank, so I put the snark back in, in word balloon form. That’s why the text doesn’t quite fit the space.
For ten years, I’ve lived in the Sonoran Desert, where we enjoy 330 days of sunshine every year. It may be hot, but it is also beautiful, full of sharp contrasts and luscious details.
This agave had reached the end of its life cycle. After sending up the shoot and flowering, the plant will die, but for a brief, breathtaking moment, it resembles a flaming torch.
If all else fails, you can always make tequila.
This drawing is based on a photograph I took over the summer; I had a 2-day window in which this plant exhibited these gorgeous colors. In fact, I wanted to paint a hibiscus today, but I couldn’t lay my hands on the right reference image.