Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Summer from Hell

If you think of hell as a place of eternal flame, Arizona is turning into that.  The big Wallow fire is still burning, about 75% contained.  The Monument fire down near the Mexican border is still burning.  There are two new fires along the Mogollon Rim, the Willow fire and the Wash fire.  Lordy, where is the rain??

We are in the monsoon season now, here in the Southwest, although usually it doesn't start really raining until July.  Not a drop so far.  Up here in the White Mountains we have gone from cool and windy, too hot and windy.  It is eye drying, lip chapping, skin cracking weather, with humidity often less than 15%.  And, there is just enough smoke in the air to cause your eyes to burn, like a smoggy day in Los Angeles.

In the winter I was praying for warm weather.  This afternoon, I'd be delighted if it snowed, just for an hour.  It is hot.  I know I demand a paradise climate, but even in paradise the weather is changing.  Drought in the south, fires in Florida, flooding in the upper Midwest, and I don't know what in California.

I was listening to a Mayan scholar on the radio the other night, and he was saying that the Mayan calender will end on October 28, 2011, not December 21, 2012.  He said he did expect some "challenges" around that time.  Here we've all been gearing up slowing, thinking we had over a year to prepare.  Now he says October, only four months away.  Should we be scared?

I'm not going to be.  We are all born onto this planet, and we die to go back Home.  None of us knows the day or the hour that will happen, but we don't live in fear our whole lives either.  No point in starting now.  These days demand we be alert and creative, and both are states that make us feel alive.  Challenges are good for the soul and they strengthen the mind.  Like a roller coaster ride, it is exhilarating while it lasts, and scary too.  Yeehaw!

Like the old Chinese curse/proverb says, "May you live in interesting times."  Well, let's ride the wild ride, and if it is fated to be so, slide into The Other Side grinning and laughing, saying, "That was fun!  Let's go again!"  Let's pretend we're running the rapids on the Colorado River, getting wet and sunburned, and having the time of our lives.

Friday, June 10, 2011

More on the Wallow fire

The big Wallow fire is burning about 35 miles from my house, but fortunately it is headed north east instead of west.  It is now threatening the New Mexico towns of Luna and Reserve.  Springerville, Eager, Greer, Alpine, Nutrioso, and Round Valley in Arizona have been evacuated.  Last night's news said the fire had burned through Greer, destroying 22 homes, 24 outbuildings, and a truck. They also said it was about 5% contained.  There is a very long way to go.

Evacuees are staying in St. Johns and the Show Low area (Lakeside, Pinetop and Show Low.)  Many folks have probably gone back down to the Valley (Phoenix area) or other towns up here on the Mogollon Rim.  It was such beautiful country, tall ponderosa pines, and mixed pinyon and juniper forests with grasslands here and there.  However, years of drought have taken their toll and the forests are very dry.  We had a snowy winter, but the summer monsoons haven't started yet.  Please, do your rain dances, pray for the winds to die down and the humidity to increase.

There are other fires burning in Arizona, so I don't want to forget the people effected by those fires.  I hope they are well and safe, and that those fires are being contained.  But the fire that started in the Bear Wallow Wilderness is the big one this year.

When the Rodeo-Chedeski fire burned up here several years ago, I was still living in the Valley.  It was a huge fire, and it took a long time to put out.  The Wallow fire is going to be bigger, if it isn't already.  Fire is one of Mother Nature's cleansers.  When the forest gets old, or dry, or diseased, lightening starts a fire and it sweeps through and cleans out what isn't needed, then new life begins.  Ponderosa pines don't like to be crowded, and the mature trees have evolved to tolerate fast-moving fires that clear out the understory.  When the fires move more slowly, however, and crown in the trees, the trees die and the forest goes to grassland.  Then opportunistic plant species move in, different species of wildlife move in, and it can take centuries for the forest to regenerate. 

Nature moves in long cycles, and human habitation in the numbers currently living in this area is relatively recent.  We are caught in these cycles and we get very upset when the expectations of always having green forests in this area, or any forested area, are not met.  The west is not capable of supporting large numbers of people without modifying nature in huge ways.  We have to import water from far away.  We plow up the deserts for farms, destroying the natural plants and animals, and our garbage and our pets invite the native predators into our neighborhoods and cities.  We cut down trees for homes and businesses, and then wonder why the rainy season brings flooding.  We carve up the prairies, removing the natural sod, and then bemoan the dust storms. 

We humans are a part of nature, not above it, and not separated from it in any way.  We are the greatest force nature has unleashed on the planet in the last two million years.  Yet, we have set ourselves against nature, rebuilding the natural world with concrete and steel, designing it to fit our wants.  Now, the nature we are a part of seems to be warring with us.  Who is going to win??

Friday, June 3, 2011


There are fires burning in each corner of Arizona, one of them is not far - as the crow flies - from my house.  The winds have been strong over the northeastern part of the state for days and days, or is it weeks?  It seems like forever!  I think the winds that blow over us end up in the midwest and southeast as tornadoes.  Isn't it Chaos Theory that says the breeze from a butterfly's wings in Asia can end up as a hurricane in the Atlantic?  It feels like Chaos Theory is ruling the world.

I belong to a small email list that is local to my area.  We talk about farming, gardening and ranching.  However, the last day or two people (including myself) have been offering shelter for people and animals affected by this fire, the Wallow fire, which led to the evacuation of Alpine, Arizona.  Those of us who are not affected by the fire are all thankful for that, but those of us who have extra space are banding together in community to help those who are affected.  In times of trouble, that is what humans do.

Well, I do believe more trouble is a-coming!  Whether it is weather related, or economically related, we need to band together in small, like-minded communities to help each other out.  Back in the day when there were far fewer humans on the planet, we lived in tribal villages.  When the tribes got too big, they separated into clan villages, because the people knew that it was easier to mobilize smaller groups to act for the good of the whole community.  Too few, and defense was impossible... too many, and agreement was impossible.

Now, there are too many of us, and our weapons have gotten too sophisticated, so that tribal warfare is a very bad idea.  Nowadays, that is called terrorism.  However, banding together for the common good in times of trouble is still a strong human instinct. 

May we come together in an inclusive community, not an exclusive compound.  May we come together in a spirit of love and sharing, not with suspicion and distrust.  I think that what is coming is going to test humanity in the most basic of ways.  I hope we all pass the test, and come through whole and happy on the other side.  It may be a little like going through a black hole:  there are theories about what that process is like, and what is on the other side, but no one knows for sure. 

Let us cross our fingers, hope for the best, but take steps to ensure the continuation of our villages and communities.