Field notes: Exposures

First thing I do in the morning is check the sky.

IMG_0129 In New Mexico, it is almost always sharply clear and strikingly blue.

Next, I go to the newspapers. The view is not so good here.

In the headlines, I quickly see New Mexico’s underbelly — so soon after taking in the sky.

Today, on the Albuquerque Journal’s website, ABQjournal.com, it was, “Woman strangled girlfriend’s dog to death, police say.”

And, all to often — my view jolted from broad, blue sky to East Central Avenue motel — it is something like this Journal story in March: “Baby rushed to hospital with bleeding brain; 3 adults charged.”

A sense of justice came with this February headline in the Journal: “Parents shot by 2-year-old charged with child abuse.” But it didn’t make the morning news any prettier.

I worked at the Albuquerque Journal for 33 years, and I’m still not sure whether Albuquerque is just a rough place or the Journal pays more attention to the roughness than papers in other cities do with their backyards.

These days, it also doesn’t take me long to start thinking about drought. And with drought, I again have to consider the range of my lens, as I did a couple of mornings ago with this story in the New York Times.

A Long History of Drought

Analysis of tree rings suggests that western states have had many droughts of two decades or longer, including two megadroughts lasting longer than 100 years.

  We tend to comprehend weather patterns with the lens of our own lifetime experience, an immediately silly notion once you look at something like the New York Times graphic, which examines wet and dry dry cycles in western states from 1 A.D. to present.
  You would need more than a fine point pen and a magnifying glass to fit my recollections of snowy winters in New Mexico in the 1970s — being able to cross-country ski in arroyos off the Old Las Vegas Highway outside of Santa Fe or the then-undeveloped slopes of low-lying Atalaya — on the New York Times chart.
  The Times story contained this wonderful data-based view of drought:
  “But scientists say that in the more ancient past, California and the Southwest occasionally had even worse droughts — so-called megadroughts — that lasted decades. At least in parts of California, in two cases in the last 1,200 years, these dry spells lingered for up to two centuries.

  “The new normal, scientists say, may in fact be an old one.”IMG_0122

IMG_0127

Meanwhile, our big Placitas rain storm on April 14, barreled through here in 30 minutes or so, headed in the direction of Tucumcari. It hurried out of the west about 5, but looked like this by sunset, leaving only what the weather pros would depressingly call “trace amounts” of rain.

Still, I continue to look skyward.

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