“…For the Glory of the Skies…”

Note: I wrote this while I was still flying EMS, thus the odd tense changes and rough prose.

I haven’t flown with Steve on the med crew since I’d made captain. Like many of our nurses and EMTs, he works at a couple of other hospitals when he isn’t be-bopping about in our King Air, and our schedules missed each other. So when he flops into the right seat that early morning out of Denver, I don’t know what to expect. (Steve will say he didn’t “flop.” After being on the run since one in the morning, everyone flops, author included.)

Anyway, we depart Denver at five something, heading eastbound. The sturdy turboprop slides into the clouds at twelve thousand feet, and stays in them. And stays. Puzzled, I look for stars and try to figure out how the layer has gotten so thick in the ninety minutes since we’ve landed. Then I see the morning star and catch myself. The paling sky blends into the clouds so well that it masks the horizon we’d crossed fifteen hundred feet after entering the deck. As the plane chugs up to nineteen thousand feet, we can see dying thunderheads silhouetted purple against the northern skyline. “How high are they?” Steve asks. Continue reading

The Buzz-heard Round the World

So, Friday morning, the sun was rising, the grackles were gracking, other birds chirped, a few joggers thudded past, and four very large birds settled into the neighbor’s ornamental plum-tree. Very large birds. Dark, large birds. One of the four lumbered off before I could get a quick photo.

Probably not what the neighbor wanted to see as he opened the blinds and started on the first cup of coffee.

Continue reading

Smoke on the Horizon

What no one from the High or Great Plains ever wants to see…

This is starting to look dreadfully like 2006, when over a million acres (the state of Rhode Island is 700,000 acres) burned and over a dozen people died in the fires or in wrecks caused by smoke across the road. As of writing this, seven people have died in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, three of them on one ranch when they were trapped by flame as they tried to save some cattle. The flames move with the wind, and when the wind gusts over fifty miles an hour, you can’t outrun the flame front. Continue reading

Book Review: The Lost River

Danino, Michael, The Lost River: On the Trail of the Sarasvati (Haryana, India: Penguin Books India, 2010).

Where do you find a missing river? Not a buried river, like the Fleet in London or the one under 5th Avenue in New York City, but one that disappeared over two thousand years ago and that may or may not have ever existed? Especially when finding that river could trigger international crises? You start with the written clues, then the archaeological, then environmental. This is, more or less, what Michael Danino does in his book about the Sarasvati River and the Harappan Civilization. Along the way he introduces readers to archaeology, historiography, environmental change, and the long-lost Sarasvati River. Continue reading

After the Ice Retreats: What comes Next?

Short answer: It depends.

Longer answer: What sort of glacier was it, at what latitude and altitude, what is the regional windflow pattern, if such has been determined, and at what rate did the ice retreat?

Now that that’s settled . . .

What did happen at the end of the last Ice Age, and what were the results? I’m not going to worry about the whys of the end of the Wisconsonian (North American term) glaciation around 14,000 years ago, but will look at the effects and what we think happened as the ice melted. I say “think” because it is hard to tell in some cases, since 14,000 years of erosion and climate shifts have happened since, and because some of the results are . . . seriously odd and may be either hyper localized or the result of test sample contamination. Continue reading

Hunting in the Snow

The rain shifted to snow just after a grey dawn that never really embraced the change from twilight into day. Not simply a light fluttery dusting, but heavy, wet gloppy flakes driven by the north wind into a horizontal mass of white that devoured the world more than a quarter-mile away. As I drove to the school a few flakes danced down, mixed in with drizzle. The wind cut a little, but not badly enough for me to turn up my collar. I was glad I’d worn the heavy flannel petticoat, though. Nothing gets through that, no wind, rain, nada. Continue reading

First Dust of the Year

The forecast in and of itself wasn’t terrible, just “Oh joy. Well, we’re overdue,” inducing. Fifty-mile-an-hour winds out of the southwest, with low dewpoints (a related occurence) and temperatures in the 70s (also related) generally mean a good chance that someone’s real estate will relocate across county and even state lines. Especially since the spring crops have not been planted yet, leaving cotton and other fields bare.  The forecast predicted that any excitement would kick in, so to speak, around noon. Continue reading