Friday, November 16, 2018






Monday, November 12, 2018

veteran's day, or at least part of the long holiday weekend that started friday and is still celebrating it, and i, sick in my chair, am scrolling through a facebook feed of hundreds of veterans who are personally being honored by their descendants several generations later, or by spouses or kids back home now. i always "like" these photos and always thank any veteran, as it's hard not to, given that they put their lives on the line for this country and for whatever they sent them over there to do.

they of course are the lucky ones, as they still had someone left behind to take their place, or were able to come back and start over. there are millions more you don't see: they went over, they died, nobody at home put their picture on facebook, then or ever. there is a huge movement to dredge up these old photos but mostly the ones we can find are the ones whose families still had trunks and still existed back home; that already narrows it down by about 80 or 90%. there are also people like me who could probably dredge up an ancestor's photo, but haven't yet; there are limits to how far i'm willing to go. my grandfather, for example, lost his eye to chemical warfare in world war one, and any picture of his patch would suffice as a token of his sacrifice.

there was a point at which fighting in american armies was actually fighting for our freedom; that point might have been 1775, or thereabouts. for 250 years since, it has been fighting for other things, but some of those were valid or at least arguable, like fighting hitler in world war two. there were times when i'm sure it seemed like fighting a war was our only option, or almost only one, and at that time our wars had the vast majority support of our people. the wars of my lifetime were not as clear. vietnam, iraq, desert storm, afghanistan - it seems like our leaders have stopped trying to even justify them. maybe they think if they say "fighting for our freedom" often enough, and loud enough, that will be enough.

what i'm saying is that there is a possibility somebody will go over there, get fully trained in the art of killing, get all dressed up in uniform every day in a hot desert for months, and then somehow get in touch with the cold hard facts - that it's not only not really about our freedom, but also that it's only vaguely and arguably good for anyone, except the arms manufacturers. and that means they come home a little angry. the public, who didn't really support the wars, who even elected both obama and trump in order to get us out of them, is not much help. they are left with their skills, easy access to guns, and a lack of meaningful jobs outside of security guard. the thousand oaks killer came home to this, and one day snapped, on his way to killing twelve people ruthlessly and methodically: "Fact is I had no reason to do it, and I just thought....(exploitive), life is boring so why not?"

what i want to thank the veterans for is keeping it together and keeping it in perspective. one statistic i read was that 22 former veterans commit suicide every day. i don't believe that statistic, but it doesn't matter, i'm sure there are plenty, and the number is far higher than for the rest of us. you go over there, you kill, maybe, and when you come back you have those skills and no real easy path to using other skills well, or dealing with what's inside of you. let's face it, you were part of a machine that demanded that you kill ruthlessly and without emotion, and that used killing as a means to other political objectives, whatever those were. on the one hand, our country relies on its efficient army in a grand sense to protect us and our freedoms from any possible attacker, and in that sense, being part of that military is at least defending our freedom, if not fighting for it. but on the other hand, if all our real combat is on the border of mexico, or in grenada, or mosul, or kabul, and basically, we're doing it because we can, then you, on your return home, if you are lucky enough to do so, represent the steep price we pay for abusing our power. i for one will not withhold the truth. if you tell me you served, i will thank you, because i know your intentions were good. if you tell me you question the reasons you were over there, or the reasons you became so good at killing, at the cost of many millions per day, i'll tell you, sorry, join the crowd. it's not pretty, and making veteran's day into a four-day weekend, with pomp on friday, and extra day off on monday, and every other thing closed, and flags everywhere, somehow doesn't seem to make it better.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

In welding shop, with sexy hoe

Friday, November 02, 2018

lately i've been subbing at a welding class where the teacher is "on leave," and we don't know when he's coming back. when i got there, big plugs were on the same floor as water from a leaking roof, and the principal said he wouldn't abide teaching welding in such conditions. the work order on the roof is supposed to be filled soon; in the meantime, i have a study hall. i try to keep kids' hands off the welding equipment.

the shop is large, with rooms for a desk and computer, and tables to pound out metal of various kinds. there are several closets, one with students' welding equipment, and some with various machinery. tools lay scattered about though people don't seem to be stealing them. they will, though, occasionally paint a wrench, or brandish a sledge on each other as if they are going to kill them. many have half-done welding projects. they have built the tables they use to weld on, and have actually drilled them into the floor.

so today this kid comes out with a gun. it's homemade from various parts of metal, to appear like a gun, and does, from a distance, but it's just a metal-welding project. it has a little metal shell, like a bullet, but it doesn't really shoot. so the kids are brandishing this around for a while, like they do with a stapler, a sledge, a yardstick, or even a metal shiv, and at one point they go outside but come back in immediately. in any case i go to tell the next class about it, and it's gone. maybe they have taken it. i go outside, and can't find it, though there's a veritable garden of metal sculpture out there.

i searched the whole shop, to no avail. either they took it, or hid it well. but one kid in the next hour claimed it was his. that kid wasn't too concerned that it was gone - if he'd wanted it, he probably would have hidden it better - but i continued my search. i couldn't believe that such a large, rifle-shaped object could disappear into thin air. into a truck, is more likely.

the heck of it is, they don't steal the tools, which were pretty much left sitting around on tables and everywhere. they are nervous, restless kids, with the tendency to get their hands on anything that sits around, but they don't generally steal tools. they do, though, steal each other's projects, according to one kid. projects are fair game. the tools, they need to keep on going.

what will happen to the welding program, i have no idea. i certainly can't teach it, nor would i try. i'm a temporary, sitting here, working on the computer, and breathing in metal fumes i suppose, at least for a few days. the kids enjoy their study hall, or at least their ability to move freely around an old shop, with high ceilings, old tools around, and lots of metal. there is, apparently, an issue of safety. i try my best to keep them from actually using the dangerous stuff on each other. they can do that without even thinking about it.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

saints' day, it is today, but really, tomorrow is the big one, souls' day, or day of the dead. i'll explain why in a minute. the pictures below are representative of the beauty of the world, this time of year - absolutely the most beautiful time in the year. i get a little introspective with the cold, and love the gusts of cold air bringing in the new winter.

yesterday, halloween, it snowed on the mountain. wet, windy, rainy snow, hovering at about freezing, making it difficult to drive or get around. we're worried about the fireplace, because it seems the other night something caught on fire at the top, and it blew ashes and sparks all over the neighborhood and caused me to be a little bit on guard for catching the neighborhood on fire. i didn't. but now, we're worried about starting another roaring one.

halloween is candy day. kids are on way too much sugar and can easily put down five to ten of them before you're onto them. the parade, luckily, was cancelled; the weather was too bad. down in the valley, high school kids are just as bad. they'll sneak out, get whole two-liters, put them down, and then be just totally berserk as long as they can.

today it's quieter. but saints' day is dedicated to the idea that some people just make it straight into heaven on account of being in with the powers that be. they are just so automatically good that there's no doubt. i don't really believe this. i think even the best of the best had doubt, and they didn't live out lives of perfection, though i'm sure they did better than i'm doing. but no, i don't believe in two tiers of people, the good and the rest of us.

tomorrow, however, we pray for the souls of those who are caught in between. that, in my book, is everyone. day of the dead means, pray for the souls of those who died, who you don't know made it. in my book, i don't know that anyone made it. to me, it's the holiday of holidays. pray for all the souls, dead or alive, children or grown.

the colors stuck around this year; they are still blazing especially about halfway down the mountain. some elk live down there, in a field right off the highway, and if the highway's not too busy or icy, i'll crane my neck over and try to see them. fact is, though, i generally come down, and then go back up, at the busiest of times. for a few days i came down early; then, i saw them. now, i'm coming down on time, and they're long gone. they were beautiful, and the rust-colored leaves and fields, and the grasses behind them; they were beautiful too. it reminded me how good it is, to be in the mountains.

but now the snow has descended, up at the top, and i'm unprepared. left the house today with just enough time to get to work, and had to put five or ten minutes into scraping, and even that wasn't enough. down the tiny hill to the highway, i pulled over again to do some more minimal scraping. my knuckles froze. i was using an old tech id from my days in texas.

down closer to the valley, mine is the only car with snow and ice on it. i look around hoping to see the bighorn sheep they released a few days ago, into the dry mountains up against alamo. no sheep around. i saw an old coyote out there one day, and i've seen some other things, but no bighorn yet. if they're smart, they're staying away from the cars. sending a single scout to find good grazing grounds, and staying away from both the people and the lions. it's a delicate world out there, and now it freezes, rains, snows, freezes again. makes me wonder about their timing. the sheep will be ok, though. all they have to do is find a home, catch on, be a community.

early november, my favorite time. i don't care so much for the election stuff, though this year it's finally going our way. the tide will turn, though it may take a while, and eventually, if someone's a stark-raving mad lunatic idiot, it just won't be our problem.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

did a little weblog overview as i have a little time, overseeing welding classes that are basically not allowed to weld. hands off the welding irons, and the power, until the roof is fixed, they say. and i couldn't weld or teach them to weld, though i'd love to try. these poor students, six classes of high school welding students, will either be reassigned to other classes, or, have to wait until the roof is fixed.

the weblog overview shows that some people are in fact reading my weblogs. over a thousand read this one every month, and that's significant, though maybe not very significant. i'm not sure if i care that they aren't clicking on ordering my books, or impressed with my writing skill; after all, i keep lowercase in order to distinguish that i'm not even totally serious here. my professional weblog has better writing, but poorer presentation; in short, i haven't done much to keep them upgraded or current. the numbers I got, starting at about 1100 and going all the way down to 3/mo., 5/mo., etc., are probably low points caused by extreme neglect in the last few months.

time to revive them, i think. time to at least practice putting more writing on them; "refreshing" them makes them more desirable in Google's terms at least, and proves you're still alive. that's what my latest effort is all about.

in fact, i'm reviewing them as we speak, and, at the same time, working on various writing projects. i'm considering reviving the idea of a haiku novel, but also have two or three regular novels on the table, and two or three other writing projects: 1) autobiography; 2) historical story about the early Leveretts; 3) book on language as a self-organized system. i have to be in the mood to get fired up about any one of these, and as usual, in the lack of mood, drained state of running an idle welding class, i work on the weblogs.

old welding irons sit around, and kids fire them up if i'm not watching carefully. they also take hammers and brandish them around, etc., making it more, for me, like running an overactive daycare. big damage can be done to little people, so i'd better keep my eyes open, and hope they get out of here alive, and the welding equipment also survives. they are a little aggrieved to lose their welding teacher, not to mention some money put into welding equipment. some, however, already knew some welding, being from ranching families anyway, and already having the tools, just sitting around the barn. some, in other words, can weld a pretty mean fence without any supervision whatsoever. but i am sticking to my orders, which are, no welding allowed, as long as the roof is leaking.

meanwhile, will it rain? it's the rainiest october/november that anyone can remember. they let the bighorn sheep out into the sacramentos hoping they would survive and floursih, hoping they'd find a patch of wild mountain habitat where they'll get by ok. there are mountain lions out there and altogether it will be good, as it will keep the lions from coming down out of the mountain and pawing through the hospital's garbage.i drive by, every day, on my way to welding, and i'm thinking, this outdoor life is kind of beckioning to me. someday, i'll bump up against that lion, and ask him how's the food down yonder.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

we are restoring some land out in sixteen springs canyon (see picture below), about twenty miles from cloudcroft. it's a remote valley, and my father's inheritance gave us enough to buy about six acres and then put a little house on it; it already had a hunter's shack and some electricity. Now, it's virtually livable, except that the kids are involved in town, and basically unwilling to move unless a place had internet and a little more space. Both of those are possible, but still not to where they want to move out there. it's remote. it's beautiful. it makes my wife and i happy. but we are, to some degree, outnumbered by four kids, five pets and circumstances.

so the road out there is stunning, starting from town, where we turn left at the school and roll on down past big daddy's, a diner that sits on the edge of elk-saturated territory. the road goes around past ski cloudcroft, and various other bucoloc valleys, with the grass very green this year, and the aspens bright against the dark pine background; the colors have lasted unusually long this year, and are still at a kind of peak now, though it's a peak brownish-rust color (my wife says, i've grown a liking to this rust color, and i say, it's been my favorite color all along). we're coming into the high holy days - halloween, saints' day, souls' day - and to me, it's because this is the prettiest time of year. on this drive, you see a horse arena, an old church, horses down in the valley; you come down from cloudcroft's 8700 feet to about 7500, until you turn left and up into the national forest.

my career has taken a temporary detour into welding. a teacher set up a shop with welding equipment, but now has walked out, or left, for whatever reason, and i'm left with six classes of welding students, mostly boys with the need to use their hands all the time, and a bunch of equipment that nobody's allowed to touch. meanwhile i ask them a little bit about their experience. seems welding is a hobby that is common among ranchers, people who have to put together gates, and wagons, and horse bits, and various metal constructions. lots of these kids had as much experience as that teacher, or at least already had the equipment, and didn't have to put down the $250 that most students did just to get enrolled in the class. no telling what happened to the teacher, but there i am, surrounded by welding equipment, and the desire to learn, and no way to take care of either.

so the guy out in sixteen springs, who had a hunting cabin before he died and moved along, leaving us two little shacks, a wood stove, thousands of beautiful rocks and arrowheads - he was a welder too. he had welding equipment, spare metal, old metal pipes, that kind of stuff. moving the old drainage pipes one day we saw a rattler, who'd been living under all that metal, but he's gone now, as far as we know, and so are the bees. the place is downright habitable, and we're working on making it more so, getting our kids out there, becoming full time residents of sixteen springs. we think it's possible.

it's a gorgeous road out there, but quite tortuous. after you leave the highway you go up a couple of miles north, toward the forest, and then it becomes gravel and winds around a lot in the forest; at the top of the ridge, there's cell phone reception for a brief minute (this is called james ridge), and you can see across many valleys, back across the highway, off to the east over mayhill. after a stretch of steep windy gravel you get back down into sixteen springs canyon, and then head off to the east; you end up about ten miles north of mayhill, and definitely squeezed between miles of national forest and the reservation. there are about a dozen families that live out there permanently, maybe more; they have all been nice to us. they take note of whether we're moving out there permanently or not. they would like to see enough kids in the valley to run a school bus out there again.

not that we know them well enough to know that that's what they want; some probably want nothing more than to be left alone. the hunters run up and down the road during the season, which is now; also, there are a couple of rv parks where people apparently enjoy coming out for the summer or for hunting season. lots of deer, elk and bear all over the place. it's remote, and wild, and out there.

so this one day a fog was developing after i left cloudcroft, and in fact, it picked up a little before i got to the turnoff. i was aware, as i snaked up the mountain onto james ridge, that the fog was getting thicker. up at the top, it was thick as pea soup. and there, along the road, came an eleven-year-old boy (or thereabouts) carrying a rifle. i couldn't see at first, but a little behind him was his dad, on a cell phone; being on james ridge, he had to make his call, i'm sure. the boy was an odd sight, in that fog. i was glad he didn't think i was a deer.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

it's show your colors month - i've always called it that - and up here on the foggy mountain, the oranges come through the pines and have a nice deep background to glow on. the world is all about football - the baseball players play into the first frost, but by now people have lost their patience - and they want to see some serious pounding out there on the football field. in school lots of the boys hobble around on crutches.

told my friend about the high holy days - which, to me, are in early november - and she asked me why those are such important holidays. mostly because november is, to me, by far the most beautiful month. there is something about saints' day and souls' day that i build the holiday around - i don't care much for hallowe'en, or election day, or any of the rest, but i do like saints' day and souls' day. i don't even celebrate sadie hawkins or guy fawkes, except maybe in cursory way. but saints' day and souls' day, i kind of like. mostly because of the weather.

turns out, different cultures have all different takes on saints' day and souls' day. this is especially true in the southwest, where we have day of the dead, and all the skulls, and that kind of stuff. but other places do to - if they're catholic, something has evolved, and it could be different from place to place, and to me, it was nothing at all for many years, until i figured out that this was absolutely the most beautiful time of year. sometimes, in the north, with halloween came the blustery cold and wind and rain, that meant you had to have longjohns under your costume, but down here in the southwest, it's just simply beautiful, with november's burnt orange and none of the hardship. i love the return of the cold, and find that alone worth celebrating.

i do, ocaasionally, put some thought into all the souls in purgatory. i don't especially think that the catholic annointed ones made it, and some went the other way, or all that stuff. actually i think we're all kind of in suspension, returning to this earth, trying to get better, waiting for certain judgment about where we'll "end up." but most likely we don't end up, we just keep returning to an earth where nothing is really certain.

that's why, when the air clears up, and it gets nice and cold, with a clear blue sky and the promise of winter, and the leaves turn that burnt orange pretty color, after their splashy display, i hear the promise of spring again in the air, just as the world goes asleep. the trees settle in, the snow arrives, the last of the apples fall. i kind of feel the larger wild animals, the bears, the elk, the deer, try to pack it in for the winter, as they know it could be a long one. and they, too, are suspended, up here on the mountain, as the world goes bonkers down below, and hurricanes rage on various coasts, leaving the possibility that the whole darn coast might just go under.

that, then, would be purgatory, and somebody would have to decide what to do with all the souls.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

my parents were iowan - my dad grew up in council bluffs, where his parents and grandparents were, though he moved to des moines in high school. my mom was born in sibley, northwestern iowa, but then moved to marion and, after that, ames. they met in ames, and married as soon as my mom graduated from iowa state (my dad had graduated the year before), but they left iowa to honeymoon in saint louis and never came back to live. my dad was a chemical engineer, and there were no chemical engineering jobs in iowa. instead he brought us up in saint louis, cleveland, toledo, pittsburgh and buffalo.

he once said, i was in a generation where whole families all lived in one town. i could cross town to see my uncles, my grandparents, everyone; they all lived in the same town, even the same neighborhood. but that was hell for me, because my grandmother was domineering, and had a feud with my uncle, who i never got to hang around with, because she forbid it. she was always around, and she made my mother's life miserable, to the point that my mom died early. so i rejected that kind of extended-family way of life. i decided that when i had a family we would be off by ourselves where we could still visit extended family, but not have them around all the time. and that's what i did. when i got my own family, we made sure we had our own town, our own place.

when my parents got old, in spite of their insistence on being independent and not burdening us, they needed us, and we came around. by now they were in new mexico. my sister was in new york city, but moved to new mexico to be near them. i had settled in illinois, as near iowa as i could get, but illinois was broke and i took my chance to move out to texas to be closer to them, and from there, ended up in new mexico myself. my sister and i spent a few of their last years with them, and i would occasionally hear stories of iowa when they spoke about their earlier days. it occurred to me that there were lots of questions i should be asking but simply didn't know what the questions were, so, didn't ask. but i knew the outlines of their lives and knew their relationship to iowa itself, right alongside their late but newfound love of new mexico.

my dad's dad had been a builder - built solid homes all over des moines, and collected mortgage money sometimes for years from people who sometimes could pay and sometimes couldn't. my mom's dad was an ag extension agent. he would go around the state, encouraging farmers to try the innovations developed at iowa state, including such things as automatic pig feeders, hybrids, and new kinds of tractors. unfortunately some of these things didn't work out, or turned out to be bad for the state. hybrids themselves were arguable; was it good that the whole state now planted a single variety of corn, that couldn't reproduce itself, and that required an entire seed industry to back it up and make sure people were ready to plant the following year? but the innovation that will do them in, i feel, was the pesticides. this was after my grandpa's time, i'm sure, but eventually they not only developed the chemicals to wipe out every bug that could possibly eat corn, but, they also developed the genetic modification to ensure that the corn itself wouldn't suffer, and so they could saturate the state with roundup, kill every bug in sight, and increase yields thus feeding the world that much more efficiently.

i lived in iowa for eleven years, 1975-1986, and finally went to college there, got a graduate degree, and left for my own career, but left a huge part of my heart there. i always thought that not only was the corn itself beautiful, changing incrementally every day, by the field-full, but the natural rolling of the hills of the eastern part of the state, the river valleys, were exceptionally beautiful all by themselves, especially when the wooded areas moved off of the riverbanks and took over the hillsides. it was a serene, gorgeous landscape, with naturally rich soil, in spite of what was being done with it or to it, and i felt personally responsible for it as one who it seemed could claim it as an ancestral home. ancestral, of course, only in the sense of a couple of generations, which hardly compared with those native tribes who had been there maybe forty generations, and were now pretty much gone, except for a small reservation up near tama. but there was also nothing to be done, as far as i could tell, about the saturation of the state's world-champion topsoil with roundup, or similar pesticides - this was controlled by forces much greater than i, and i had set myself up as a language person, a writer, and couldn't tell you any of the science behind nerve-gas being used to kill bugs, and causing damage to humans, to kids, in the process. but even in illinois there were signs of trouble, and we lived well outside of the strong pesticide region. rates of autism were skyrocketing. a neighbor who regularly put "poison" signs on his yard as he sprayed hard metals on the grass, had a grandkid with multiple heart problems, barely surviving his childhood. people were not healthy, and it was obvious. in my opinion, the roundup saturation was the beginning of big trouble for the whole midwest region. it's poison; it's nerve gas. it's in all the water; there's no getting away from it. one couldn't, for example, have an organic farm, out in the country, and hope that somehow your well would provide real water, untouched by the thousands of square miles of roundup-saturated lands all around it.

but, no matter, i was out here, in new mexico, anyway, and the last of my kids would drink mountaintop water, or, water that is purified and sold in a store, like most people in new mexico drink. now the desert southwest has its own problems, namely, that in the process of pulling 250 billion gallons of water out of the aquifers beneath us, in order to survive, and drink water, and have the water necessary for such things as fracking, or swimming, for example, we have taken water from a place where it can't be very easily replaced, and put it into the atmosphere where it will cause such things as hurricane florence, storms that dump unusually high amounts of water into random places. there's more water in the atmosphere than ever before. whereas iowa used to have floods every hundred years or so, now it's had four or five of them in the past eight years, as storm systems get stranded over the mississippi and just dump water by the field-full on every square inch. and big dead-zones full of pesticide and every other travesty end up down by new orleans, killing the seafood, making it impossible for normal bayou life to go on with living things enjoying real sea water.

but new mexico is, at least, an entirely different story. there's very little roundup here. people are used to fighting over water; they've sucked the rio grande dry for so many years, that most of us have never seen real water in it. one has to be high in the mountains, as i am, to see real water in a river bed, or to see water come down out of the highlands and into a place where people can grab it, whoever being upstream having the first chance (excuse that little turn of language please). the future of a landscape saturated with roundup does not seem to be an issue on the table, and, there are so few new people in the area, that generally those of us who move out here are welcomed, as the place needs a few more to keep its sustenance, and to keep it from falling in to intermarriage and bad habits (i had once felt the same way about iowa - that in order to keep the smaller towns from falling into intermarriage and despair, we needed ways to get new people to move to the area). there is the danger, here, of upsetting the tenuous balance between anglo, hispanic, and native, all traditionally about a third, at least for the last six or seven generations. the third and fourth generation new mexicans often have a healthy mix of the three - and comment on it to each other - one is darker than the other, or one has a hispanic name but anglo face, or the other way around. the kids are well familiar with racial mixing and it's a constant presence in everything from education to elections and government. the state is having a boom now, of oil production in the southeast and other parts of the state, and for the first time in a long time, has the chance to pull itself out of the dregs of national economic last-place bottomness. but the settled-in nature of corruption and entitlement (been here five generations? whatever resources anyone is selling, you can call them yours) - is similar to iowa's, in the sense that the future of our children is very rarely considered except in the light that some of the money spent in the sell-off of resources, might be spent on them. the state has needs, though: roads, waste disposal, education, etc., and if there's a way to pull that much more oil out of the underground caverns, i believe it's going to get done, regardless of whatever i or anyone else has to say about it. it's different from the corn situation. it's not good for our water. it's set us up for maybe a thousand or two years of pure desert emptiness, after it becomes clear that people simply cannot live in a place with bad water or no water, and nature will have to take its course, taking as long as it needs to restore some kind of balance.

and so it will probably happen with iowa, too. when it becomes clear that 1) roundup is bad for the water; 2) one cannot avoid the water that has roundup in it; 3) one has to move someplace for a few hundred years, until the water can heal itself and become drinkable again; in my view, iowa is not the kind of place that one can settle roots in, claim as an ancestral home, and plan to live there with one's descendants for many generations to come. and new mexico may also not be such a place. we americans may have to accept the fact that we've messed things up to such a degree that, once again, we have no land to call home, or no place that we can claim to have set up a sustainable system that will take care of our kids, grandkids, great-grands, etc. we blew it. and that doesn't mean we'll perish altogether, that just means we'll thrive best if we keep moving on, to some place we haven't already spoiled. like alaska, or africa, or maybe the moon, or mars.

it's a little depressing, to consider the fact that perhaps we've despoiled the place, made whole swaths of it uninhabitable. in that sense, it was a mistake for the native tribes to let us in in the first place. and it leaves open the question: are england and scotland despoiled as well? what other places are truly inhabitable, now that so much of our continent is not? has our production and transportation reached the level where one could live in iowa, for example, and not have to drink the well water, or any other local water, so that one could simply eat well and survive, raise kids, and haul in anything that won't grow in the area? we here in new mexico, for example, get used to chiles, and cherry tomatoes, such things that grow well in the intense sun and mediocre soil, but which will sustain us from year to year, and which will get by with sporadic water that is characteristic of the place. we had a rainy year this year, which meant that things like wildflowers sprung up all over the place, but the excessive growth of grasses and weeds makes everyone nervous about the upcoming fire season, as inevitably it is very dry from october until about june, when the fires come, and the greenery, long since having turned brown, threatens to engulf everyone in intense flames. i think of how, in the original prairies that covered the western parts of iowa, fire was a natural part of the cycle, in that it cleared out the grasses and allowed everything to start over again. it does the same for us in the mountains, but we fear it, and have legions of men with hoses and fire retardants, and helicopters, ready to pounce on anything that could swallow up our homes and beloved possessions. we are nervous, anxious, connected to the news about any particular fire breaking out, eager to jump in the truck and go dig a ditch. quick with the fire-extinguishers and flame-retardants, which, by the way, are a close relative to roundup in terms of their deadly ability to permeate the landscape.

another sunrise has lit up the white sands, and the puppy barks. something is going on out there.