Oct 2, 2011

Dried out

Kudos to you Texas writers who write about place and continue to do so inspite of the dire nature of our environmental catastrophes this summer. The long, hot summer wore on me to an extent that I just did not care to describe. My reptilian brain took over and my metabolism slowed to a standstill in the heat.
I did take the time to lie on a rock or two to soak in vitamin D to boost my depression.
But that is about all the energy I could muster.
If I walk around the land that is so dear to me, now void of most vegetation, my instinct is fear and flight. Thirsty plants droop in need of water that I can't give them. Brown leaves cling to trees young and old, though it is not because of Jack Frost. Leaves underfoot crunch and disintegrate to dust.
The To Do list piles up in my neo-mammalian brain as I note dozens of trees that will have to be removed because they are dead.
I wonder if any trees can survive the uncertain future.
Around July we gave up on the ornamentals and even the vegetable garden.
Our precious water we save for the trees and to provide for wildlife.
All summer our bat friends visited, along with the usual hummingbirds and birds.
Unusually, we had a painted bunting frequent our feeder and bird baths.
I never quite managed a photo of him.
The summer began with the Osha Wildfire sweeping across the Sangre de Christo range south of Taos. With a sinking feeling as I read the first reports from Texas, I recognized the location as being very close to our place. In less than a week, we had planned to go and spend some time there.
Tues-Weds-Thurs passed with little information available. Some initial reports that were out there proved to be inaccurate later on. When I heard via Internet news, that the ski area of Sipapu was under "mandatory evacuation", I called neighbors to find out the facts. I heard the electricity was out at our place, which isn't that unusual! But a mandatory evacuation was not what I wanted to hear.
By Thursday afternoon, our man on the ground reported that the fire had changed directions about 10 miles from us, removing us from the path of danger. The fire spread to the north through wilderness lands.
Electricity had been restored in our neighborhood.
Though the road was closed and would remain so until Monday, residents would be allowed access to their property. All other traffic would be turned away. So, we left according to our original plan and arrived in the mountains Friday afternoon.
Regardless of the smoky air, not just from the Osha fire but from a huge Arizona fire in the Chiricahua Mountains, there was an awesome beauty to the area. The characteristic blood-red sunsets were even more intense filtered through a thick hazy atmosphere.
The silence from the absence of traffic and people was primordial. I heard an owl, I had never heard there before. I saw elusive elk that normally only left hoof prints and droppings along the trails.
It took a day or two until we headed to see what the fire had damaged.
Predictable in as much as its path will follow wind currents and terrain.
Seemingly random areas were skipped and not charred.
Totally burned patches hugged the roadway.
Firemen remained on duty watching for hot spots flaring.
I have learned more about wildfires this summer than I care to.
We could not escape drought nor wildfire in New Mexico. Because it was mostly National Forest, experts were on the scene right away. The cause was attributed to a tree falling on a power line and sparking.
July- August in Texas- praying for rain, happy to get .04 inches twice.
Not even going to try to remember the record number days of temperature above 100 degrees.
Mind-numbing statistic.
Then the Labor Day fires hit Central Texas. At least three fires at once were uncontrolled and spreading fast.
Two to our north about 30 miles and moving towards us to the south. Another to the east by about 30 miles and heading south east.
The news kept our attention as we sighed in relief that again we were spared. Sadly our friends lost everything in the Bastrop blaze. They were among thousands of others.
Cause of the fire attributed to dead trees falling on power lines.
The distress to human, wildlife and environment is not over and is likely to continue.
"Spirit"- belief that a better day will come - while recognizing the gifts of today- gives me something to hang onto.
The elephant in the room is a natural world struggling to cope with burgeoning population, environment damage caused by ignoring natural laws.  Desertification is occurring in the Southwest.
Populations are growing beyond the carrying capacity of the land. I mean land and water.
In the name of progress, with NAFTA opening up the borders and letting in Pandora~
in the name of economic growth, the area is blossoming flyover highways.
Concrete, cement and glass sprout in the downtown area where once I could see the Capitol Dome.
Uncontrolled growth is unsustainable in the region.
The wildlife urban interface needs to be considered as a priority.

I want to end on a note of gratitude and hope.
One of the ornamentals that has lasted, the Texas Sage, is a harbinger of hope.
Hard to see is the monarch butterfly clinging to a upper right branch.
I look at this photo and don't see the extent of the drought damage.
With my heart I am humble to bear witness to these times.
If it were not for these moments of beauty that show survivors in nature and her resilience ~ 
All that dries up is not dead.
I can feel my blood running easier as the cooler temperatures prevail.
I am grateful for the lessons of the summer and most appreciative of the return of Fall this year.

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