And Then It Rained

Rain comes to the Galisteo Basin.

I know a lot of you out there have had WAY TOO MUCH rain, but we so have not. In fact, the first six months of 2011 made for the driest year on record for New Mexico. And for a place that’s already a desert, that’s saying something.

This has been a dry like I’ve never known. Now I know where all the buried soaker hoses run, because only the plants right next to them stayed green. Our skin has itched like crazy with the dry, which no amount of lotion seems to affect.

Then there are the fires. Blazing on the horizon, filling the sky with smoke. Filling our lungs with particulates from Los Alamos that are nevertheless, we are assured, perfectly safe. It’s difficult not to feel the press of the Apocalypse under these conditions.

But, ah, the rain.

This storm filled our rain barrels and soaked the ground. We’ve been hitting 95 every day and having to run the AC through the afternoon, but the rain dropped the temperature to 58. I put on a sweater because the windows had to stay open, to let that sweet, clean, moist air fill the house.

This morning we walked out of the house and David said he smelled smoke, still. I said no, you’re smelling petrichor.

He said, “what the hell is petrichor?”

I scoffed at him. “It’s the smell of rain on dry earth, duh.” (This is only one of the delightful features of living with a writer.)

But it’s a real thing and once you know what that smell is, you’ll always remember how it feels when the rain returns.

The Book of My Right Now

Sometimes our dramatic landscape shows itself in subtler shades. Sunday evening’s storm reduced the mountains to grayscale, with all of the interesting outlines that brings. This is a piece of the ridged horizon I usually show you, my blog-gobblers, just with different perspective.

(I’m also getting better at my telephoto lens.)

When I was a kid, my mom loved to come down to Santa Fe, Phoenix and Tucson for warm-weather breaks. They were within easy striking distance of Denver and she has always loved the desert. Even then I was struck by the way the light down here makes the mountains look two-dimensional. I wrote terrible poetry in my adolescence, as adolescents are wont to do, and I seem to recall that one line went “the mountains are a cardboard cut-out, propped against the western sky.” Good set-design makes you believe a flat is three-dimensional, but the real world doesn’t always have depth.

I find it interesting to think about, but maybe that’s just me.

Kelly Breaky likes to tease me about my interest in perspective, and I suppose she’s right that it’s one of my core “issues.” I often say I’m a grey-area kind of gal. Very rarely am I willing to commit to the absolute yes or no on a scale.

For this reason, I have trouble with writers who talk about their “Dream Agent” or the “Book of Their Heart.” Actually, I never heard the term “the Book of My Heart” until I started hanging with more of the romance community. Granted, we’re more about expressions of love and passion than some other genres, but it’s still an odd idea to me, that there’s one book we’ve written that we treasure above all others. I loved Obsidian, but now I think The Body Gift is a better book. I tend to be passionately in love with whichever book I’m currently writing, in fact.

The Dream Agent hits me the same way. I don’t believe there is such a person for me. I can think of quite a few agents that I think do great work, any of whom I’d be delighted to have represent me. But then, I don’t believe in a One True Love, either. I think each of us probably could have wonderful lifelong relationships with any number of people. Each person and relationship is different and brings something new. Sure, we can’t fall in love and treasure just any person off the street. But the pool is bigger than just one.

The romantic in us loves the idea of the Dream Agent, the Book of Our Hearts, the Happily Ever After. But the practical person in us, who lives in a three-dimensional world, knows that everything runs deeper than that. What is right now, may not be right later.

All we can do is make the best possible choices, given the information we have right now.

The best part about life and the way it always changes? Nothing is truly permanent. If other paths are meant to be, they’ll show up, too.

Just wait for the light to change and show you something different.


Isabel models her new collar for you.

As requested: this is the radio fence report.

It was difficult to get a good pose, since her luxuriant ruff blocks it pretty well. For a radio collar with little shocker-nodes on the inside, it’s reasonably small and lightweight.
This was taken right after a nap, when she first moved out to the patio, so when I tried to pose her, she simply collapsed into belly-rub mode.
As you can see, the collar itself poses no trauma. It’s bigger and heavier than her old, typically kitty-thin collar, but she took the change in stride. The radio fence instructions have all kinds of suggestions on habituation and training, most of which I skipped.
Isabel is a smart cat.
And I’m a lazy woman.
Anyway, the collar was fine off the bat, so I just went with it.
For those who’ve been off reading books instead of keeping up with inane blogs (we won’t discuss Sunday/NFL activities), yesterday we installed the radio fence around the house, to keep Isabel from running off into the desert. I had to mail-order it, to get the lower-power cat version. To keep Isabel, who loves to push her boundaries from being munched by a coyote, bobcat or mountain lion, we’re letting her out only in the bright light of day and only into this circumscribed area, so she can always be found at dusk. Or should some clock-shifter predator wander by.
So, yeah, it’s a PITA. It takes time. But there’s enough wire in the initial kit to make a nice big loop around the house, plugged into a receiver in the garage. You bury the wire 1-3 inches deep. Which isn’t that difficult, unless you’re digging around cholla. (Our neighbor told us about a guy who ran into a cholla without a shirt on and he had to be taken to the emergency room to be treated for shock, because of the pain.) We got part of it buried before the cocktail bell was rung and we were forced to stop for the day.
But I tested it. First on me. Now get this, there’s five levels: the first is sound only, then the next four play a sound as the cat gets near the wire, then administers a little shock of greater levels. So Level 2 is suggested for timid cats, 3 for timid to average, 4 for stubborn and 5 for insanely difficult. Okay, I forget how they described the type of cat requiring a 4 or 5 shock, because I debated between 2 and 3.
No setting for intelligent cats. (No remarks from the peanut gallery, Kev.) So I picked 3.
What you do is hold the collar in the bracket they provide and walk along with the collar at cat-neck height. (Yes, you look like Quasimodo.) As you approach the wire, you can hear the beep and determine that it’s working. No shock because the bracket they provide protects you. That’s right: they fully expect you’ll strap this onto your beloved kitty — of course beloved, because you’re not going to invest the time and money into this project if not — and never feel the shock yourself!
No no no no no.
So I took it off the handy bracket, held it in my hand at Level 3 and the damn shock nearly made my hand numb.
Level 2 it was.
So we try it on Isabel. I should add the caveat that I’ve now skipped the two weeks of training they explain in great detail. Where they think you’re going to put your cat into a harness, walk her up near the wire and then, when you hear the beeping, yell “run away run away!” and run with your cat back to the house.
I kid you not.
Since I couldn’t envision doing this without using Monty Python voices and making pointy killer bunny teeth with my index fingers while I ran, which would mean I’d drop Isabel’s leash, which, oh yeah, doesn’t exist, I skipped that whole section and went for the “tie-out option.” This is where you tie your cat out and let her find the wire herself. Except with us there’s no tie-part. Just Isabel and the desert.
We watched her on her evening constitutional. She walked up to the wire, where we’d left off with the onerous burying, wondering why we’d been messing with it, looked around for that beeping noise, stepped on the wire and wandered off.
Okay, the collar was too loose.
Hey, those prong-thingies looked uncomfortable!
But I tightened it up — after testing it on my hand again, ow — and went for trial 2.
{Overnight intermission for cat to stop being paranoid about why I’m following her around.}
Isabel walks up to the wire, intent on a distant juniper stand with enticing baby quail noises. What’s that sound? She looks around for the beeping. Sees the red wire. Hmm. She bends to sniff the wire and snaps back! Just like her nose was shocked. She sniffs again. Same thing! Isable shakes her head, sniffs again, shocked, and leaps over the wire to escape it.
Yeah. Not quite what we hoped for.
But it is working. She’s been staying closer to the house and not messing with the wire. The collar was bugging her some — hey, little prongs in your neck — so I might rotate it with the other.

In the meanwhile, there’s lizard-hunting, except when they run under the yucca, which poke you in the face most uncomfortably.
I’m going to call it a provisional success.
Any questions? Feedback? Bets on how long it will take us to finish burying the wire?
Winner gets a free stay in our guest room!