Armadillos, Bobcats And Other Firsts

This week, whilst walking in a local park, an armadillo scuttled across the path in front of me. It was the first armadillo I have seen in Texas and I followed it for a while as it wandered through the grass and frogfruit (a Texas native groundcover that has suddenly sprung up in this warmer weather). Continuing on my walk, it occurred to me that I have experienced a series of especial wildlife ‘firsts’ lately. Only a couple of months ago I spotted a bobcat at Mitchell Lake, which is just a few miles south of San Antonio and noted for its migratory birds and ducks. The bobcat came out from behind a bush, strolled up to the lake and sat gazing out for a minute or so. I hardly dared to take a breath! Then he turned, spotted me and dashed back into the bush.

Around the same time, in the greenhouse of the Botanical Gardens where I volunteer once a week, I had my first sighting of a Monarch butterfly chrysalis which was suspended from one of the plants. Yesterday evening I was reminded of that chrysalis whilst watching a program about the annual migration of millions of Monarch butterflies from Mexico, via Texas, to Canada and back. Since only the fourth generation makes the journey from Canada to Mexico, I deduced that it must be that emergent butterfly’s great-grandchild which, hopefully, will arrive safely in Mexico this fall.

Mike, Mattie and I have just returned from our own trip to Mexico, albeit with the help of an airplane, a fine hotel and our guidebook. We stayed six blissful days in Huatulco, an as yet little developed beach resort on the Pacific coast of Oaxaca. As soon as we spotted the tall palapa roofs of the airport, we knew it would be lovely. Even the dawn chorus screech of chacalacas in the trees outside our hotel window was thrilling (though Mike took a different view) and I loved watching the orioles, Mexican jays and great kiskadees swoop from palm to palm. After lounging on the beach or by the pool until mid-afternoon we would often take a short taxi drive to the small and quite charming town of Crucecita where, from the second-floor open shutters of our favourite restaurant, we could look down onto the little square, or Zocalo: no matter where you are in Mexico there always seems to be a balloon or ice-cream vendor going by, children playing in a fountain and couples strolling along the pathways of the Zocalo.

At the end of our beach trip, prior to our return to San Antonio, we spent a couple of days in Mexico City of which I again had no preconceptions. Luckily, it had rained just before our arrival and the sky was blue and there was no sign of smog. After dumping our bags in a hotel we had booked in the historical zone, we headed for the Zocalo and as soon as I saw it I knew I would love the city! This square must be fifty times bigger than the one in Crucecita. It is bordered by a huge cathedral, the National Palace, a fine arcade of shops, the ancient Aztec ruins of the Templo Mayor and the Gran Hotel de Mexico with its wonderful Tiffany stained-glass ceiling. After two days in the historical zone looking at other colonial buildings, Diego Riviera murals and dining at handsomely tiled restaurants that reminded me of Spain, we still had only covered half the area. Mattie, who had spent much of the holiday thus far taking pictures with a new camera (bought with Christmas money from former Lewes neighbour, Jo), was particularly riveted by a Cartier Bresson exhibition in the gorgeous Palace of Fine Arts. Turning to me, she announced, ‘If you always took me to exhibitions like this, I’d always be willing to go!’ So I wondered whether this was not only a first for her, but a life-changing event?

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