Orion and the Fog

Sunday night Redquarters got just over an inch of rain. Most of that within ten minutes as a massive, oh-my-heavens-paddle-faster squall line slammed into the city. It had already flattened the airport at Dalhart, and the fear was the 80 mph winds would hit Amarillo. With waterlogged ground and big trees… We were lucky. First came the frog-strangler, then the wind. And then the skies cleared. Continue reading

August ’17 Playa Report

I was away in June, and July was a “wee bit” busy writing. Plus the construction season is upon us, making getting to the playa of record a little bit of a pain. However, the road is more open, and the playa has gotten over two inches of rain in the last four days.

For those readers new to the blog since the last playa report, I’ve been informally chronicling a rainwater lake, or playa, for a year or so now. Playa lakes are a vital feature of the Llano Estacado and High Plains. No one knows how they formed, and some are tiny, while others cover almost a square mile. Many are “dry” and only get water from rain and snow, while a few have springs in them, or had them before the water table dropped. They are refuges for wildlife, migratory birds, and native plants, and are considered an endangered land form of the Great Plains. Developers think they are a pain in the patoot, home owners who discover that the developer put their houses in the bottom of a playa think they are [censored, censored censored], ranchers like then, and farmers tried to level them out, or converted them into tail water pits for irrigation. Continue reading

Turning the Yellow River Yellow

One of the assumptions, or perhaps tropes is a better word, of certain parts of the environmental movement is that only Western countries, or only capitalist economic systems, cause environmental degradation. Or they might stretch it to argue that only countries that have experienced the Industrial Revolution destroy their physical and biological environments, because it takes steel and machines to really ruin the landscape. This idea comes in part from where the modern environmental movement originated, in part because of lingering fumes of the “noble savage” idea, and in part because English, French, German, and Spanish-language sources are a lot more common and easier to work with for most researchers. However, in the past 15 years or so, people have been looking outside the European sphere-of-influence, and digging into archaeological and geographic information to show that no, humans have been “degrading” their environment for a very long time. Continue reading

The August Norther Arrives

The High Plains of Texas woke to low grey skies and cool temperatures. At ten AM it was still only 68 in the Amarillo city limits, with a light, chilly breeze trickling through the trees. The birds slept in, as did your humble hostess. (I was recovering from playing extrovert at Ama-Con. I don’t vert well.) The Grey Norther has arrived, breaking summer’s back. Continue reading

“As the light of the morning, when the sun riseth…”

Monday night we got a good rain – steady, a little heavy at first then just long and steady, with very little wind. It overflowed the gutter and filled one cistern and boosted the other one, but didn’t flood much in my part of town. The clouds lingered almost until dawn.

And then the sun rose. A high layer of sheets of ice shifted from grey to soft pink, washing the sky. Lower clouds to the west blushed before darkening to near purple. Below the high pink, smaller, lower storm remnants glowed like gilded jewels, ruby in liquid gold settings, a scatter of gems against the rose-gold sky. The rose shifted again into soft gold but the rubies remained hanging above the fresh emerald world below.

The cool, sweet air smelled clean, looked clean, washed of dust and pollen. The world was alive with the morning, singing and pure, full of life and every good and glorious thing. Is it any wonder I broke out in song?

Samuel 23: 3-4 “The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, ‘He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. 4And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain.’ ” (KJV)

The second section at :50 – 2:20.

Baltic Blues

This summer I got to see two of the most important large bodies of water in the history of European trade: the North Sea and the Baltic. The North Sea lived up to her reputation for grey ferocity, as seem earlier. The Baltic? Was a bit different.

Recall what I said earlier about none of the major port cities being on the sea, but hiding in estuaries and up rivers for protection from the elements and from hostile neighbors (Vikings, Swedes, Danes, Swedes, Swedes, pirates, Swedish pirates)? The major Baltic Hanse cities were Lübeck, the Queen of the Baltic, Rostock, Stralsund, Wismar, Danzig, Greifswald, and Stettin. They were called the Wendisch Hanse as opposed to the German Hanse, because of the greater percentage of the population that were Slavs.  That didn’t matter to the people doing business. What mattered was business.

Looking “up the skirt” so to speak of the organ in the Cathedral in Rostock. The prince’s box is directly below the organ, making me wonder if he heard anything at all or just felt the vibrations.

Continue reading

The Old Grey Widow-Maker

Into the teeth of a rising storm on the North Sea, standing on a sea dike near Husum, Germany.

Kipling’s “Harp Song of the Dane Women” was right. The North Sea is not to be trusted. The day before had been sunny, light winds from the sea, and the seal-spotting boats had been going out, taking tourists to see “Seelöwe.” Not this morning. The wind pushed me so hard I almost lost my footing, and the wind was not kind. Continue reading