Spring Break

I’m grateful for the ultimate New Mexico April day. It looks nice out the window—warm and sunny, with new green figs on the fig tree. But the wind is blowing at thirty-six miles per hour, the pollen count is eleven point two on a twelve-point scale, and humidity is only nine percent. I think that means there’s more juniper pollen than moisture in the air, and it’s moving faster than a sneeze.  Ten minutes outdoors, and my head felt like it was being squeezed in a vise. Finally, on a day when I have no obligations or appointments, the April-ness of April is so bad I have to stay in.

Why am I grateful for that?

A new acquaintance, recently retired from the Coast Guard, mentioned that she sometimes wished she was working again so she could have vacation time. I understood. When I had an academic job, I had weekends and vacations. I even had snow days once in a great while. Those were intense writing times, and so were my evenings after work. I now live in the place where I used to take my summer and occasional spring and winter vacations. Supposedly, I’m writing full time, but I feel less productive. I used to teach yoga four times a week when I had a regular job. I teach yoga the same number of hours now, and I don’t even have to drive to the studio, but I’m busier than I was before I moved. So what’s taking up all my time?

I thought downsizing to a tiny apartment would save time, but it doesn’t. Everything I do, even cleaning and cooking, is like playing Tetris. I have to move something in order to do anything. There’s no dishwasher. Hand washing takes time. No curbside recycling. Driving it to the recycling center takes time. I don’t live right next to a park anymore, so I drive to one for running. Most medical appointments are in Las Cruces, an hour’s drive each away.

The big factor, though, is that life is so interesting here, far more than it was back east. I’m more engaged in the community, not only with meetings and volunteering, but with social and cultural activities. One thing I love about T or C is how friendly people are. When I was a summer visitor, I had two good friends here. Now I know so many people I feel guilty about not keeping up with them all, and I run into people I know wherever I go, meaning we stop and talk. It can take twenty minutes to get my mail if a neighbor is at his mailbox at the same time. The number of professional artists and musicians residing in such a small town, plus the ones who visit, means there are events I could attend several evenings a week. I’m trying to cut back, but how can I not go to a concert when I know the performers? How can I not support the arts in my community?

Except … I’m part of the arts in my community. A less visible part except in the local authors’ section of a couple of stores, but I’ll be even less visible if I don’t stay home. I know there are people wondering when the next book is coming out. So, blow, winds, blow. I’m in for the day and writing.

Advertisements

Cactus Flowers, Colander Hats and Other May Musings

This is my first May in Truth or Consequences. I may have complained about the wind a little (or a lot) but there’s much to love, and when the wind stops, this hot spring/summer month is beautiful. We don’t have green grass and tulips and daffodils here, but May does bring out some amazing flowers. Ocotillo! It’s not a cactus, though it can be mistaken for one when its leaves have fallen off. In the winter, it looks like a spray of long, thorny sticks. In the summer, it wears small green leaves. And in May, scarlet blossoms flare from its tips, stunning against the bare blue sky, attracting bees and hummingbirds. Tree cholla displays purple-pink blossoms on the ends of its long, spiky arms, prickly pear cacti are blooming with orange or yellow cups, and ice plants, low-growing succulents with daisy-like flowers in a rainbow of colors, cover swaths of ground all along the streets.

A year ago, I was teaching my last college classes, grading finals, preparing to move, and somehow keeping up with writing and yoga. This year, instead of marching in commencement in hot black academic regalia, I was walking with a float in T or C’s Fiesta Parade. Fiesta is a celebration of the town. Local businesses sponsor floats, political parties and candidates join the parade, and of course there are horses and a marching band. My favorite part of the parade was the Stationary Parade on the sidewalk, where residents in extraordinary costumes waved at the moving parade. Some of stationary parade “marchers” were “walking” in no-impact Gazelle workout equipment, legs swinging back and forth on airborne pedals. One man wore a suit of big silver sequins. And they wore, of course, colander hats.

This is not a mere kitchen item on one’s head. It’s millinery art. The Colander Krewe has been part of Fiesta for eleven years, and it’s catching on. The prize-winning float sponsored by Desert Archaic Gallery, Don’s Den, and Truth or Consequences Brewing Company—a float featuring a pink-wigged woman in a top hat beating a large drum, pulled by the iconic Whatever-mobile—was followed by people in costumes topped by astoundingly strange and original hats, including at least one colander.

Fiesta also includes a car show at the Moose Lodge, music and vendors in Ralph Edwards Park by the river, and a junk boat race. By trying to squeeze in the car show and the boat race, I missed all but the final junk boat, a strange creation heading off down the Rio Grande with what appeared to be tiny wheels on long arms like spider legs poking out from its floating center.

The vendor who caught my attention for the longest time was selling crystals, some of them enormous, and he had tubs full of geodes, most of them not broken open, so one could purchase a surprise. I didn’t—crystal-bearing rocks cover a corner of my desk already, some plucked from local trails—but I liked the idea of buying that gray rough sphere, knowing it holds a crystal cave, and waiting until the time is right to open it and reveal the magic. It’s a metaphor waiting to be used. I hope I can find a reason to use it, and to write a scene that includes colander hats.

*****

Totally off topic, but if you haven’t read The Calling yet or want to recommend it  to someone, it’s on sale through May 21 for 99 cents all e-book retail sites.

 

Gnats

They only want light. Or at least I think that’s what they want. They cling to the ceiling and then die, in such astounding numbers I’m amazed they keep coming and that the world isn’t running out of gnats. They started slipping in through the tiny gaps around the air conditioner every night when the weather got warm. I keep a mop out so I won’t be constantly stepping on their poor little corpses. In the place I used to rent, the converted pea-soup-green trailer that plays the role of Mae’s house in my books, I had a few well-placed house spiders who lived under the lamps and took care of this problem. But I have none here.

When the bats came back to their nearby caves in mid-April, the gnats vanished for a while. But when the high winds kick up, the bats stay low over the Rio Grande, their delicate bodies protected by the banks, and they don’t come into town. They don’t like wind any more than I do. So, on windy nights, the gnats once again hover around my ceiling light, walk across my computer screen, and then pepper my floor.

Sometimes I resent them, but they only want light.

My thoughts intrude like gnats sometimes, and I catch them being negative or critical, or just self-pressuring-busy with all the things I tell myself I ought to do. Behind all this seeking-something energy, there’s an impulse toward light. I mop up the gnats. Thoughts. Gnats. With gratitude for bats and spiders, and for the space between my thoughts.

April Dryers

What? Not April showers? Not here. Statistically, it’s driest the month in my part of New Mexico, and one of the windiest. Here’s my recipe for an April day in Sierra County, if you’d like to experience one:

Ingredients:

Grit and sand, fine enough to blow around

Pollen from elm and juniper, enough to reach an 11 or so on the 12-point pollen count scale

Add creosote bush for aroma

Mix and toss into dryer, turn heat on high, and let it blow.

Decorate with cacti and various subtly flowering spiky shrubs

It’s not a bad month. In fact, if you run a wind farm or solar installation, it may well be the best month of the year, but it’s not most people’s idea of April. Some folks would call this summer. The temperatures have hit ninety a few times, well above our normal April average of 78. On the plus side, that’s hot enough that the creosote bush smells good. The smell comes from volatile oils, primarily terpene (also found in pines), limonene (found in citrus), camphor (found in pines and rosemary), methanol (wood alcohol), and 2-undecanone (don’t ask me what that is, but it’s found spices). Creosote only breathes in the morning so it won’t lose water, but the smell comes off it in the hot afternoon. It smells better after rain, but that’s not due any time soon.

Nonetheless, things are growing. Agave plants are sending up the bizarre stalks that will eventually flower. Right now, they look like gargantuan asparagus tips. Claret cup cactus is in bloom. Green fronds are waving from the tips of mesquite branches, and a type of bush that has looked like a mass of dead black thorns all winter is covered with tiny white blossoms.

For some reason, the lizards are leaping. I’ve never noticed them doing this before. Tiny gray lizards are not only running around at their usual astounding speeds, but jumping onto rocks four or five times as high as the wee reptiles are long. It’s an impressive feat. And they have impressive feet, featuring long golden toes like little strands of straw, apparently good for clinging when they land. They seem to stop and pose so I can admire them, but they may be recovering from the leap. Springing is hard work. Pun intended.

How is spring in your part of the world?