Friday, April 19, 2013

Welcome to the dust bowl

For April 28 
Las Cruces Style — S. Derrickson Moore

Welcome to the dust bowl

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — Are you new to  Southern New Mexico?
Maybe you’re feeling a little disoriented in your new homeland and wondering about a few basic issues.
Here are some frequently-asked questions I always seem to get this time of year.
Q.: I think I’m a little late when it comes to spring cleaning. When is the best time to start?
A: Don’t bother. At least, not until the winds die down.
Q.: And when will the spring dust storms end?
A.: Nobody knows.
I’ve asked around, and I don’t think it’s just curmudgeonly me. I’ve been here almost two decades and I can’t ever remember seeing this many ferocious dust storms before. Most of the old-timers I’ve talked to (some with memories dating back to the dust bowl days of the Great Depression) are inclined to agree with me.
It seems the extreme weather that characterizes this era of major climate change has not left us unscathed.
In recent years, dust-ups have become haboobs. 
When I first moved to southern New Mexico, I found it rather charming and amusing to watch dustcasts instead of traditional forecasts, especially as a survivor of (in order of their appearance in my life): snowstorms, tornados, endless drizzle, earthquakes, volcanos, floods, and mega-hurricanes.
I once held a little contest to name our local winds (the Doña  Anas) and told chronic complainers they haven’t seen anything.
I washed windows and my car at least once a month, no matter what the season.
I grumbled a bit when everybody else’s leaves, litter, twigs and grasses blew into my tiny evergreen-rock-and-flagstone xeriscaped yard. But I was out there with the leaf blower after every major windstorm, usually three or four times during the windy seasons. And I’d fill up to five giant trashbags with the debris, every time.
This year, after the first cleanup, I decided to wait until the windy season was over.
I’m still waiting.
The good news is that the next windstorm seems to blow a lot of the previous detritus away.
The bad news is that there seems to be an infinite supply of rubbish here in high desert country, and I never know what will sail in on the next Doña Anas tide.
So far, I seem to be slightly ahead, or at least breaking even, in the great airborne trash lottery of 2013. I would like to think karma will prevail, and all the litter and construction cast-offs and improperly-disposed of yard waste will eventually blow back to rest in the yards of the litterers, careless construction workers and lazy gardeners who cast their fates to the wind.
But I’m not counting on it.
Eventually, I’ll break down. I’ll wash my car even through the last time resulted in our only moisture of the season, a dismal drizzle followed by a dust storm that put me in ranks of our characteristic spring polka-dotted automotive fleets.
I’ll sneeze my way through a thorough dusting and wash my outside windows. I’ll spend a weekend trying to clean up the last of the desperado invading yard waste before it decomposes in my rockscapes and invites a legion of weeds. And I’ll enjoy the pristine environs for one shining moment ...  until a last gasp (we hope) spring haboob deposits more.
In the meantime, I try to remember that it still beats endless  snow and drizzle, volcanoes, earthquakes and hurricanes.
And this year, I’d like to invite you all to join in a prayerful dance to encourage peace and calm in our weather, ourselves and our world.

S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at 575-541-5450. Follow her on Twitter @DerricksonMoore

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