Monday, March 24, 2014

desert sunset

the girls are coming for good on friday, but they've been here weekends for the last two, and it's made life a little livelier around here now with four kids in the house, granddaughter born in peoria, another granddaughter visiting. took the boys for three days to new mexico, just to shoot over the mountain and see their grandparents, and the trip fortunately was uneventful, car made it both ways, and there was still snow on the mountain. we don't see mountains here in lubbock, so, to get up 8500 feet and see some was a real treat.

the girls are young, 5 and 8, and i think they're grateful to finally have a home to call their own. they remember a bit about their foster homes and their original home, but not much, and that will recede as time goes on, probably. fortunately they like swimming, and they get along pretty well with the two boys. one of the girls is eight and a little competitive with the eight-year-old boy, but that girl plays with the older boy, while the younger boy has taken on the five-year-old as an ally. you could call that taking sides, but i think there's a bit of that anyway, no matter what you do, and it's a way of easing into the new situation, i hope, rather than a permanent alignment.

the road southwest toward the mountain goes through texas cotton fields and some ranching territory before it comes to a large oilfield at a place called maljamar, new mexico. there you come around over this large hill and look out over thousands of oil derricks; on thursday the valley had a light-colored haze probably caused by dust. of course the smell of oil weighs heavily on the whole region. in two towns, maljamar and loco hills, new white trucks crowded the place as if it was some kind of auction of oil equipment. closer to artesia, the drillers' town, there was a traffic jam. right through there you see the pecos, one of the west's great rivers, but it's just a creek crawling through the plains, with oil drills in sight wherever you look.

the girls have never been out of the area, really. they've been living in a trailer that has a number of other foster children, a kind of way station for kids on their way to places like ours, more permanent. it's amazing, really, that they survived, can still be happy, have hope, go forward. their school is not as rigorous as ours; they may end up behind. we are not to put their names out there on facebook, or on the web, because they don't want people tracking them down. it's an odd kind of limbo.

out west of artesia, the road starts climbing up into the mountains around a place called penasco creek. this is the sign that the vast plain, which goes on infinitely it seems, has turned into dry rocky mountain foothills. a ways farther is the vulgar store where they have racial slur signs; then, you're in the mountains. for a brief five or ten minutes you're in an area that gets enough rain. i open my windows, take pictures of the snow on the mountains. the boys don't want to stop. for them, it's onward to grandma's where there's cookies and the driving will finally be over. that's two more hours, crashing down into the hot desert, across the white sands, and up over the organs to las cruces. my sister is there as well; she has started boiling down red chilis, playing mexican music, and shopping at the farmers' market but she is worried that the summer will be too hot, which it might be. it's too hot in texas too. that high mountain hideaway is possibly the only place where it's not too hot.

the girls will be #9 and #10 in our family, already full, five granddaughters now, and they will bring us summers of noise and things to do, force us to provide options besides the endless media circus where the boys either play videogames that have caught their fancy, or watch television. the boys are eager to show them the corners of the media that they've found. i'm eager to get the whole pack off the media, for a change, but here i am, typing as usual, it looks to them like i'm playing computer just like them. it seems like it's all just a game. inevitably they find stuff i don't really want them watching. i pull them into ping pong, or to the park; i'm already scrambling for alternatives. and i'm tired. i haven't set up the trains, or built a tree house. i haven't even bought enough bicycles. i'm just barely cleaning out the garage.

and that's only because my wife is out of town, visiting granddaughter #5 in peoria, and the place is unusually quiet. it could be, that when all is said and done, the dogs are settled, some sleep will settle in - our room is over flint avenue, a rather busy street, but the busy sounds are actually reassuring, the dogs don't mind, all they mind is the occasional cat, or maybe the people who walk by, with their dogs, right in front of the window. they feel that, as long as they're free, it must be time to do their job, which is to bark relentlessly to let anyone know who is occupying the house, and who is where.

the boys were in a hurry coming back; the girls and their nephew were waiting for them. they have an important role now, and they know it; it'll be time for all of us to get outside more, and get some of this spring air. it's supposed to rain on wednesday, first rain since maybe august. yet it rains too much, some places, most notably washington state, or california, or maybe the north where it's still coming down as snow, endlessly, on into april. we all have to walk a weather tightrope for a few scores, while the poles and glaciers melt, and everyone adjusts to the results. don't know what place will turn out to be habitable, or where you might find just the right amount of water. that one little mountain town seems like a good candidate, but that guy with his hateful signs keeps coming to mind. maybe it's time for some civilized people to just crowd him out of business, and set up some other kind of enterprise right nearby. it's like fred phelps' death: if the crown kind of vulgar free speech passes on, then the world can sigh in relief, as it will finally cool off just a little.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

so last night the temperature fell about twenty degrees in two hours, and by the time we went out for a walk with the dog, about nine at night, it was already down in the forties with a fine kind of drizzle. now it's more like the thirties and it's actually raining, which is a miracle; folks here are generally overjoyed to get any moisture at all even if it's snow or the coldest kind of rain. so i think people are overall happy, even though the driving is a little dicey.

i look at news reports from up north though, and they're having another one of those ice/snow storms, a foot of ice with a foot of snow on top, driving dangerous, everyone worried about loss of power, etc. and it's just one more in a long string of storms that has pretty much kept on coming all year, from about october. an unusually hard winter, with lots of hardship, snow days, bad travel, cars in ditches, and on and on. we feel guilty down here, having pretty much opted out of the whole mess. but we woke up this morning, with it like forty and feeling like it was going to rain, and we decided just to opt out entirely from church.

we have mixed feelings about church anyway, what with our household being a mixture of various feelings, ranging right down to the youngest who likes groups of young people and benevolent adults who don't watch the sugar plate very well, but when the other youngsters get to teasing him then he's a little less enthusiastic. i do it by habit, because religion has been a strong part of my life for years, but this particular religion (presbyterianism) is not a perfect fit for me, since i'm quaker, so i have mixed feelings about the entire experience too, though i love the people and do it mostly for the young guy. then there's my wife and son, who are just beginning to go, put their feet in the water so to speak, and they're doing it mostly because we might have young girls here soon, and so if it takes we'll all have a community and friends, and people to do stuff with. that's a good reason to go; we like the people; they're of similar minds to us, and we enjoy being with them. but my wife and son have different kinds of feelings about the religion part of it. you have to think hard about how you feel about religion, and each of them has a different way of approaching a presbyterian service, with its choir, choral readings, etc.

went to a basketball game the other night; tech was trying to fill its arena, the so-called usa, with ten thousand students so we threw our hat in and joined in on the noise. they got about six thousand, still set a record, both for tech and for the conference this year, and had a great game, though we lost. the crowd support was substantial, and we enjoyed hearing all the people in the arena whoop it up and support the team, which is actually just kind of middling. with the tournament coming up, such teams as iowa, iowa state, kansas, oklahoma and oklahoma state will all be in it, and will have a chance, but tech won't, so this was very likely our last chance to watch and enjoy. that was a cold night too; we've actually had some winter here. we walked the four blocks home with our collars up and were good and cold by the time we got here.

the thing is, lubbock does have a winter; the high plains wind hits us hard, and there's plenty of cold air to blow around. just now the tiny bit of rain that we got froze, on cars, on roads, and on lawns, so it caused a little trouble, but we've had some snow, some ice, some windstorms.

one thing about living here is that people know about the wind and consider it to be just as important if not more important than the temp. One day i asked my friend how bad the wind was, and she said, 37, and she turned out to be only one mph off; it was in fact 36. but she was walking around with that general awareness, much like i'd keep track of the temperature. so i asked her about the degree of inconvenience caused by increasingly higher winds, and she had a good bead on that too. 30 is already pretty inconvenient; you start feeling it in your teeth. a certain amount of dirt, most of it from new mexico, starts blowing around and collecting in the little corners by the fence line. your visibility, especially in the southwesterly direction, starts to get compromised.

on my walk at night i go west about two blocks, south two, east two, and then north two, and do that five times until i've done 5k, but the turnarounds are reminders of how much wind matters. if a cold hard one from the northeast is coming in, then i feel it the most going east, and going north, but then back around on the west and south ways, it's a little more peaceful and i can get some hard thinking done. these days i'm mostly thinking about finishing my novel and making my poetry more complete, but both of those are almost done, and i'll have some time, pretty soon, to devote to a new project.

more on that stuff later. now it's time to feed the kids, before friends come over and the day starts. little icy out there, i hope the drivers are getting by, my wife especially, who's doing a target run.