has written several books, teaches writing workshops and lives in Oro Valley

A.E. Araiza/ Arizona Daily Star

Now that I've experienced snakes, scorpions and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, I consider myself an old-time resident of Tucson.

First I encountered a large snake coiled up at my front door. I was dumbfounded because I was returning from walking outside to add water to the bird bath.

When I left the house carrying the water, I was looking straight ahead. Returning less than a minute later, I noticed the snake. Unperturbed, I walked past, looking down at it as I opened the door. The snake stuck out its tiny tongue at me. I called 911. Firefighters arrived shortly thereafter, and that's when I found out the snake was a rattler.

This incident has changed me forever. In my youth I was encouraged to stand erect and told, "While walking, keep your head up as if you are trying to peer over a wall that is a bit taller than you." Now I walk around with my nose to the ground, causing distress to my neck - although that is better than being bitten by a rattlesnake.

This year while sleeping I dreamed my hand hurt. For a few hours, I tossed and turned. When I awakened I saw a large, raised black-and-blue mark on my forearm. I wondered when I had hit my arm, rubbing the bruise. Working on my computer, the discomfort increased, with pain shooting up my arm. My hand looked swollen. Could I be having a stroke? I called my friend Claude, who rushed right over.

"You've been bitten by a scorpion," she said. Washing the mark, which I could see had a tiny puncture mark, she advised putting ice on it and keeping it raised. The next morning it felt better.

My recent trip to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, combined with the snake and scorpion experiences, has caused me to love this exciting desert community even more.

If you haven't been to the Desert Museum, I recommend a trip, unless you don't care to see exquisite wildflowers, remarkable cacti and amazing animals. To get there, we drove through Gates Pass, which was awesome. Seeing thousands of statuesque saguaros in military formation was mind-boggling. Camera in hand, we stopped at a turnout so I could take photos.

At the entrance to the museum there was a docent holding a hawk, which made eye contact with me. Enchanted, I wished we could soar over the horizon together.

Next we saw a docent holding an owl. Although I've seen photos of owls, I had never been this close to this sleepy-eyed bird. Adorable!

The most amazing sight was an otter. I've been to many zoos, seen wonderful animals - who could forget the hundreds of flamingos greeting visitors at the San Diego Zoo? - but if I ever saw an otter I didn't remember. This beautiful creature put on quite an aquatic show, swimming, turning and seemingly laughing at the folks gathered around.

Later a huge waddling porcupine made me giggle. Sheep gazed down at us with bored expressions. Mountain lions stretched out enjoying the morning sun. A bear looked at us, and I thought he smiled.

My favorite of all, the bobcats, were strolling around their enclosure ignoring the visitors. I'd never heard of or seen a bobcat before I moved here, and they have captivated my heart. Because I have two dogs, bobcats don't hang out in my backyard. My fantasy is to domesticate one. I don't mention that to anyone anymore because they look at me as if I have a screw loose.

My friend has promised to take me to Sabino Canyon for my next outing. I can hardly wait.

On StarNet: Read recent columns by Alexis Powers at azstarnet.com/alexispowers

Email Alexis Powers at northwest@azstarnet.com