Saturday, October 31, 2009

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Cloud Pictures for Skywatch Friday

Most days, it feels like Clovis, New Mexico doesn't have a lot of scenery down here on the ground. But the sky--now that's another story. One afternoon while driving home I saw so many cloud pictures that I wanted to stop the car right there in the road.

I must tell you that another thing Clovis, New Mexico doesn't have a lot of is traffic, so I probably could have stopped the car. However, I continued driving for the remaining two minutes of my "commute" and dashed into the house (do arthritic people dash? It's an interesting visual, I know) to grab the camera and capture these pictures before the clouds moved too much.

My retired life out here on the High Plains is just chock full of these stressful situations.

Here is what I saw. If you click on the photos for details, I am sure you will see the very same things as I did:

A big jet, coming in for a landing

A fat-cheeked baby chick and a mustachioed walrus

A boomerang approaching from the left

A Douglas Dolphin WWII transport plane, also known as a C-21 or C-26
(I needed a little help on this one)

and a fancy bulgy-eyed goldfish!

For cloud pictures from around the planet, be sure to visit Skywatch Friday.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bragging Time: Grandchildren!

My daughter-in-law, Aimée, put together this slide show. Click on "View All Images" to see the show and read her captions.

Monday, October 26, 2009

What We Do With Grief

I believe that whenever we are confronted by a sudden death and the grief that follows, we re-live all the other deaths we have encountered. It works that way for me--in the middle of the disbelief, I take out memories of all the other losses that have happened before.

And then, of course, we take a good hard look at our own mortality.

Hopefully, the next step is to find something constructive to do with our sadness; some way to turn great loss into something positive.


When my friends' house caught on fire, so many things went wrong:

First of all, there were no smoke detectors in the home. If there had been, the story might have had a different ending.

The fire may have started by a small kitchen appliance, left on or plugged in right below the bedrooms.

The bedrooms were upstairs, as is often the case in a two-story home. But Bill was elderly, ill with Alzheimer's, and easily confused. It would have been very hard to get him out quickly.

The emergency dispatcher received a 911 "hang up" call. Not knowing the nature of the emergency, the police went to the house, discovered the fire, and called for the fire department to respond.

The policeman tried to get inside to the occupants but, once inside the house, found his way blocked by too much furniture that was in the way.

Although the house was located less than 50 feet from the fire department, the town has an all volunteer department. Those volunteers were at the fire in an amazing seven minutes. Bear in mind, they had to get the call at home on a Sunday night, get dressed, get down to the station, get into their gear, and get the equipment across the street. A seven minute response time is even more amazing when you consider the logistics.


Ironically, October is Fire Safety Month.

Here are some things you can do right now to keep your family safe. Do them in memory of Jane and Bill and Copper:

Check your smoke detectors. Make sure they have fresh batteries and are fully functional. Buy a smoke detector for someone you know who doesn't have one, and install it for them if they are unable to do so themselves.

Have an evacuation plan and a place for family members to meet outside the home. Practice by having drills.

Make sure that you always have two ways out in case of an emergency, and make sure that those passage ways are clear of any clutter.

Consider moving elderly or frail family members to a bedroom on the ground floor.

Unplug kitchen appliances when they are not in use.


Of course, there is a lot more information available about fire safety in your home. Here are some resources that will get you started:

Please pass this message on to everyone you know.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Jane and Bill and Copper

The last red maple leaves on an almost bare branch

Are startling against the black and charred house wall

I want to take you with me and fly away above the flowering flames

I want you to tell me it was just a bad dream

I want you to tell me that it didn’t hurt at all

My friends and their dog died in this house fire a couple of days ago.

Time has frozen since then, jarred into stillness by disbelief and horror.

Words and pictures that I want to deny run through my head like a wailing musical score, playing behind the common events of everyday life.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

"That Orbed Maiden" for Skywatch Friday

Click on the photo for a better view

... That orbed maiden with white fire laden, whom mortals call the Moon...
~The Cloud by Percy Bysshe Shelley

For day skies and night skies from all over the world, be sure to visit Skywatch Friday.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Along Came a Spider

I have fought a grizzly bear,

Tracked a cobra to its lair,

Killed a crocodile who dared to cross my path;
But the thing I really dread

When I've just got out of bed

Is to find that there's a spider in the bath...

~Michael Flanders and Donald Swann: Driven to It - By the Spider in the Bath

I have always enjoyed my encounters with tarantulas in New Mexico. They're big, easy to see, furry, and they don't usually move too fast. Well, there was that one guy that chased me out onto a road, but that only happened once. Now that I think about it, that is probably the reason why all the shoes (and feet) you see in these photos belong to my brave sister, Auntie Bucksnort.

I recently read somewhere that you are always within three feet of a spider. Wow, that one kind of stayed with me (and had me looking over my shoulder, not to mention under my pillow), and I set out to see if I could find any support for the statement. Here are some of the facts about spiders that I found along the way:

The tarantula isn't poisonous. It's bite is usually no worse than a bee sting.

A spider's silk is made of protein. The spider will eat the used silk of an old web before spinning a new one.

A spider is printed on the American one-dollar bill. You'll have to read Seven Fun Facts About Spiders to find out exactly where.

It is estimated that up to one million spiders live in/on an acre of land, and in the tropics, this number might approach 3 million.

Hummingbirds use the silk from spider webs to weave together their nests.

According to Spiders of the Arid Southwest, the areas encompassed by New Mexico, West Texas, and Arizona have over 1000 species of spiders, the most dangerous to humans being the black widows, brown widows, and violin spiders. (Note: At least I think that's what they said--their writers need to undergo some sort of clarification training. I felt that I was going in circles trying to figure out which areas they were talking about and which spiders were where, etc. I'm pretty sure the authors were researchers first and writers second. No disrespect intended, but I was having a hard time wading through the paragraphs, and a little judicious editing would help make this a great resource for the rest of us).

About that statement that there is always a spider within a yard of where you are--according to Spider Myths author Rod Crawford of the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture at the University of Washington in Seattle, this myth probably came about because of arachnologist Norman Platnick's unguarded statement that "Wherever you sit as you read these lines, a spider is probably no more than a few yards away." You can read more of what Crawford has to say here.

About the photos:
The first two were taken by me, and the third was taken by Auntie Bucksnort. All have appeared on this blog before (as linked).
Top: Tarantula on the road to Tucumcari
Middle: The same spider, patting Bucksnort's brave shoe
Bottom: Bathroom door guard tarantula at Bottomless Lakes Campground


Friday, October 16, 2009

The Clouds Sail in Like Crystal Ships; Monsoon Weather for Skywatch Friday

According to the National Weather Service: A monsoon is generally defined as a seasonal variation of wind, cloud cover and precipitation that is controlled by the annual cycle of the sun. In climates that are strongly influenced by monsoons, most of the annual precipitation is received during the monsoon season. Portions of the southwest United States, including New Mexico, are influenced by the North American Monsoon System (NAMS), which is also referred to as the Southwest Monsoon. Many locations in New Mexico receive 40 to 50 percent of the annual precipitation during the period from July 1 through August 31 and much, but not all, of the summer rainfall can be attributed to the Southwest Monsoon.

I'm a little late with my monsoon cloud photos, but these are pretty much what we see in the afternoons in eastern New Mexico during the monsoon season (even though these photos were taken in September). Our mornings often bring us clear blue skies, but once we pass noon, the crystal ships come sailing in from the south and the west.

Umbrella man come

Quick, quick, quick,

The monsoon rain is here.

The rain is finally here.

~Lisa, Newcastle Community High School

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Dust Storms and Global Warming for Blog Action Day

We have recently seen some dramatic photos of the great dust storm that swept across Australia on September 23rd. Naturally, we wonder if such storms are related to climate change and global warming. I thought that I would look around the Internet to see what scientists were saying.

A Reuters news article shortly after the storm indicated: Weather scientists are reluctant to directly link climate change with extreme weather events such as storms and droughts, saying these fluctuate according to atmospheric conditions, but green groups link the two in their calls for action to fight climate change.

For a debate on whether the storm was a symptom of "anthropogenic global warming," see the New York Times article, Australia's Dust Bowl and Global Warming.

October winds in Clovis, New Mexico

Another New York Times article, Climate change, water shortages conspire to create 21st century Dust Bowl, hypothesizes that dust storms, which have doubled over the last six years, cause early snowmelt followed by water shortages.

On the other hand, an article in The Observer suggests that, although dust storms may spread deadly bacteria across the globe, the storms, in a yet little-understood fashion, may help mitigate the effects of global warming.

And an article in the Sydney Morning Herald, which contains video and photos of the storm, also asks the question if we can be sure that the dust storm they experienced can be blamed on global warning.

Dust Storm in the 1930s, Colorado: The Library of Congress Archives

For blog posts on Climate Change from all over the world, please check out the Blog Action Day site.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Spooky Tales from New Hampshire and New Mexico

Reading Judy's blog post the other morning--Do You Believe in Things That Go Bump in the Night?--I realized that quite a few spooky tales have appeared right here on The Zees. Since the October chill is in the air and we are all drawing a little closer to our fireplaces in the evening, what better time is there to remind you of these ghostly stories?

They start out with the strange happenings in our old Colonial home in New Hampshire, and continue out west with us to New Mexico, where the wide open expanses and lonely dark roads give rise to the spookiest tales of all--the skinwalker stories of the Navajos.

Creepy back hall in the 1770 house
From The House on High Street; Living in an Antique Colonial:

Skinwalker Tales:

Skinwalker Tales: Introduction, definition, and the story of the newspaper delivery woman

Skinwalker Tales, Part 2: Anglo encounters with skinwalkers

Skinwalker Tales, Part 3: A shapeshifter dog, a dog snatched up by a skinwalker, and a shapeshifter in the bathtub

Skinwalker Tales, Part 4: The strange creature on the cliff

Skinwalker Tales, Part 5: Living with a Navajo witch

Skinwalker Tales, Part 6: Chased by a skinwalker on the way home from a party (ever notice how many skinwalker sightings happen on the way home from a party?)

Skinwalker Tales, Part 7: Tales from the City-Data New Mexico Forum

Monday, October 12, 2009

So Why DO We Live in New Mexico?

Last week, my post called What We Tell the Tourists brought this response from JC:

My question is .. why did you move to New Mexico ?
I've been there 3 times. Always while driving to see Carlsbad Caverns .. nice to visit but I wouldn't want to stay.
Do you live in a big city ? I've heard that some of them are nice.
Inquiring ... people who have driven thru .. minds .. want to know?

I promised to write a post about why we chose to live here, but I had to think about it for a bit. First of all, to clear up a couple of JC's specific points:

My favorite part of the state is the northern half, so I understand JC's thoughts about the southeastern part where Carlsbad Caverns are located. I wouldn't want to live there either.

I live in a small city of about 32,000 in eastern New Mexico ("Little Texas") on the High Plains. It is way too conservative here for us and we have plans to move closer to Santa Fe.

For the rest of the reasons why we chose New Mexico (or why it chose us), here are my answers.

We came for:

The scenery and open spaces

The incredible skies and weather

The different cultures--ancient and not-so-ancient

The adobe (and faux adobe) architecture

The folk art

The amazing wildlife

... and the food, starting with green chiles

Put all of these things together and add the indefinable "enchantment of New Mexico" with a bit of "mañana" attitude, lack of traffic, sunny days, and I think you'll start to get the picture. At least I hope so, but if you have more questions, please ask away.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Seasons as a Metaphor

gather up

those vivid colors

into your eye and heart


you know

the black and white season

is fast approaching

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Arrow to the Sky for Skywatch Friday

For skies from all seasons, be sure to visit Skywatch Friday.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Crazy Ladies

There is so much good in a garden, if you don't count what happened to Adam and Eve. ~Michael Lee West; Crazy Ladies

The air is full of strange light, like a photograph negative. ~Michael Lee West; Crazy Ladies

I'm not sure what I was expecting when I began reading Crazy Ladies--perhaps a comic romp through a Southern town? There was that quote on the cover, however, that indicated that the book was, among other things, "puzzling."


The characters were wonderfully drawn, all three generations of them. I wanted more, and was happy to discover that there is another book about these women (Mad Girls in Love), with all their "grace and outrageous flair." (Shelfari).

I love Southern literature--everyone is just a little (or a lot) off. From Bailey White to Fannie Flagg to James Lee Burke--I just can't get enough of those Southern authors.

A question to you: Do you have a favorite Southern author or a particular book that you can recommend?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Bertie Says: No!

If there were Terrible Twos around, he couldn’t see them. Later that night, wearing his pajamas with teddy bears, after his light was out, he peeked out from under the covers to see if the Terrible Twos were out there. They sounded scary. They weren’t anywhere around, and he was quite certain his mother had been wrong. But he put his pillow over his head, just in case.

~Lois Lowry: All About Sam

Lately, our little Bertie Pierre has been experiencing the Terrible Twos. Now, I know this must be confusing for you, as I was just recently telling you about Bertie's adolescent behavior, and now we're back to the Terrible Twos. What can I say? Life with a small chihuahua boy runs the gamut of emotions as we swing madly from one developmental stage to another, and then back again.

Bertie shows his emotional immaturity just as a two year old does--He says NO. Sometimes he says NO NO NO, in no uncertain terms. He does this by running as far from the authority figure as he can get, rolling over on his back, and covering his eyes. He figures if he can't see you, you will just go away. Let me show you what I mean...

Bertie, it's time to go outside for a little bathroom break!

Bertie says NO!

Bertie, do you know who might have unrolled the toilet paper and dragged it all over the living room?

Bertie says NO!

Bertie, have you and Gracie been playing Knitting Lessons again with my yarn?

Bertie says NO!

Bertie, would you know anything about this little wet spot on the carpet?

Bertie says NO NO NO!


Be sure to see the Complete Adventures of Bertie Pierre