When I was young, I never had an appreciation for the desert given its desolate and barren characteristics. All it provided was a temporary home at mom’s until I endured the commute back to my dad’s house.
Later, during a meeting at the Mojave Desert Land Trust, my eyes drifted to a lively silhouette near an opening in the wall. The silhouette, a sandy, brown rat then scurried below me, nosing around my chair. What kind of long tailed, fast moving rodent was this? I quickly fell for its big brown eyes, as if a puppy was below my feet. My seatmate smiled, and I soon became quite fond of the curious kangaroo rat.
At that time, I knew little about kangaroo rats. However, my seatmate shared that these nocturnal creatures often do not drink water, searching instead for seeds at night to obtain their moisture. They dig burrows with twisting passageways as a temporary home, just as I did traveling to and from my separate homes. Large, fur-lined cheek pouches carry seeds and grasses, dispersing seeds along the way and promoting ample plant growth.
It amazes me how a simple rodent, seen only at nightfall, stays so busy doing its part in the desert. Even critters hidden from the human eye play a specific role, and have a duty to maintain the function of our intricate desert ecosystem. The kangaroo rat helps the great creosote and mesquite of the Mojave thrive in exchange for a place to store their nutritious seed dinner in burrows among the plants’ roots. I realize I took a hard-working paradise for granted, then found its uniqueness through the actions of a kangaroo rat. I felt comfort in the creature’s intense eyes gazing up at me, telling me maybe I would survive here after all.