Feeling the Change, from Painful to Positive: My Small Part Matters

Generally, we humans don’t change our lifestyles unless staying the same is more painful. Change, after all, is uncomfortable and difficult. If nothing bad has happened yet as a result of what we do, we’re inclined to believe it never will. Delusional, yes, but that’s human nature.

I suspect that those of us who regularly do things others think of a disciplined actually have powerful imaginations, experiencing future consequences vividly in the present. If this, then that, and it will feel terrible. Or wonderful. Or conflicted.

I do some slightly disagreeable things because I’d feel worse if I didn’t do them. For example, every time I see plastic litter lying in the street or snagged on a thorny plant, I picture that piece of trash floating down the river, choking birds and fish and turtles, and I visualize the trash islands in the Atlantic and the Pacific. The problem is tangible and ugly. It’s also easy to act. All I have to do is pick the thing up and either recycle it or throw it in a trash can. A minor inconvenience.

It’s been different for me with climate change, though. I grasped it intellectually and as matter of principle, but I never felt personally responsible the way I do when it comes to keeping plastic out of the Rio Grande. I can’t see my CO2 output or instantly clean it up. Denial was easy. After all, I drive a fuel-efficient car, and live in a really small apartment. I’m not wasteful.

But I drive that little car a lot. Everyone in small towns in New Mexico does—if they have cars. We accept it as part of life that we have to drive one to three hours for specialty medical care and for a lot of our shopping. Truth or Consequences has plenty of music and art, but we don’t have sports medicine orthopedists or dermatologists. So we drive. And I never questioned it.

Until Australia started burning. People I knew were in the middle of a climate-related disaster. I saw pictures of the orange skies, heard news stories of people huddling on beaches, trapped between the fire and the ocean. And then there was the firefighter I heard on the radio describing how he had to take a break after six weeks on the fire line because he was so overwhelmed by hearing the screams of the koalas and finding their little dead bodies “curled up like babies.” I felt that. Deeply. I’m part of the problem. No excuses. Those are my koalas. It’s an emergency, and it’s today, not ten years down the road.

I can’t put out the fires. I can’t do a lot of things. Can’t make medical specialists move here, or alter our local retail offerings. But I can buy a modestly priced used electric car and cut my driving-related carbon footprint substantially, doing my small part.

I felt inspired, committed to participating in a positive future when I made that decision. New Mexico is headed for a clean energy transition. The process is complicated and flawed, but we’re making a start. We use enough clean energy now that an electric vehicle is the equivalent of a car that gets 60 miles per gallon. Even my 40 mpg Fiesta doesn’t match that. And as the energy mix gets cleaner and cleaner, EVs will contribute less and less to greenhouse gases. I’ve contacted people at all levels of state and local government about the need for better EV charging infrastructure. And I found my dream car online.

Working out the details of actually acquiring it and owning it is proving more challenging. Much more challenging. The car is long way off. More about that later, as I deal with RV parks, The Mexican Bus, all kinds of cords and plugs, and the possibility of having to cave in and get a smart phone. Yep. Change is uncomfortable. But so is staying the same. I have to do something. It may turn out to be an adventure.

A New Mexico Mystery Review: Murder at the Petroglyphs by Patricia Smith Wood

Once again, Patricia Smith Wood has crafted an intricate puzzle of a mystery. In short, tight chapters, she reveals the discovery of a death, and the process of solving how a body came to be where it was—but this is no simple question of who done it. The twists and surprises keep coming. Wood’s books always give my brain a good workout trying to follow the clues. The relationships among her cast of professional and amateur sleuths makes the involvement of amateurs more plausible than in the average amateur sleuth mystery. Another reason to get involved is this: Harrie McKinsey has prophetic dreams, and in one of them she sees the dead body at Petroglyphs National Monument.

There are so many facets to the mystery, so many contributing investigators—FBI, CIA, and Albuquerque Police Department, as well as Harrie and her friends and colleagues at her editing service—Wood did well not to have major subplots. It’s unusual in what is technically a cozy mystery, but it was the right choice. Most cozies have romantic subplots, but the central characters here are in established relationships. Most cozies are comic. Though many of the characters in this book display a natural and engaging sense of humor, it isn’t a comic mystery. It’s cozy in the sense of limiting onstage violence and having amateur participation, with much mystery-solving taking place over dinner or coffee.

I enjoyed the various Albuquerque settings, from restaurants to major parks like the Petroglyphs to local secrets like the Hidden Park, and even an airfield used by drone enthusiasts.

Many scenes take place at Southwest Editing Services, Harrie’s business. I was surprised at the importance of paper copies as well as electronic copies of manuscripts in a professional editing service. I’d thought paper was a thing of the past, but apparently not. I learned something.

I would have liked a stronger thread connecting the opening and the ending. The title, the cover, the first chapter, and park ranger Nick Ellis’s deep connection to the spirits of the ancient ones made me expect more continuity on this theme. In fact, I initially expected a different kind of story altogether. Harrie doesn’t come across as having a mystical connection to the land and its history, so the sudden transfer of what has been Nick’s spiritual experience to her felt as if an editor said to bring that theme back. Harrie is already psychic about her life and family, and having her new dream come from the spirits struck me as out of character. A couple of backstory chapters and a few chunks of expository dialogue also felt like afterthoughts or requests for additions, rather than integral parts of the otherwise tightly woven plot.

The wrap-up of the mystery plot was one-hundred-percent unexpected, even though I figured out the borders of the puzzle. The explanation scene is realistic and well-structured. (I’m always grateful when a book doesn’t have one of these clichéd confessions from a killer holding protagonist at gunpoint.) Wood has real skill with crowd scenes. She can juggle six or eight people in a scene and never let the reader forget any of them.

Complexity is what she does best. If you like a mystery that puts your mind to work, you’ll enjoy this one.