The Value of Unlearning

In many ways, I live on an alien world.

Last Thursday, our eighteen-day streak of temperatures over a hundred (usually with highs between 103F and 108F) finally broke.  Okay.  Our high was still 98F, and the next day we went back to 100F but, as many people in many locations unaccustomed to these highs are learning the hard way, there’s a lot of difference between 108F and 98F.

(We’ve had a high this year of 112F, and I’m really hoping not to top that.)

Our weekend actually was, for us, cool, with highs in the high eighties, and lows in the sixties and even, one astonishing night, the high fifties.  We’ve even had clouds, although, as of this writing, no rain that wasn’t in the form of individual, nameable drops.

People often think that my part of New Mexico is like the stereotype of Arizona: hot, no “real” winter, towering cactus, like that.  Leaving aside that the stereotype of Arizona doesn’t apply even to Arizona as a whole, it certainly doesn’t apply to my part of New Mexico.

We get cold temperatures well below freezing.  The only reason we don’t get more snow is because on the whole our climate is too dry.  And, as mentioned above, we get hot enough that we could probably (although I’ve wondered why anyone would want to try) fry eggs on the sidewalk.  Our rain comes in seasonal monsoons, the establishment of which watched for with a fervor that goes back long before the arrival of colonists from Europe.

The opening photo illustrates the extremes that our yard has to deal with.  On the left is our pomegranate shrub.  If you look carefully, you can see the dead limbs poking out of the green.  That’s cold damage, a result of our nighttime temperatures in October dropping without warning from the high forties to well below freezing for four nights.  It also hit our ash tree and apples, as well as killing a couple of established shrubs.

On the right you can see our squash plants.  The yellowing on the leaves is not a result of insect predation or disease; it’s from dealing with temperature extremes.  Even with only a few days of temperatures below a hundred, we are seeing indications of recovery.  If we’re lucky, the zukes will start setting fruit.  The plants only twenty feet or so further east, that get less sun, grew much more slowly, but seem to be setting.

When I first moved to New Mexico, back in mid-1994, I came from a very pleasant area in south central Virginia, where growing things was almost ridiculously easy.  Here I had to learn a bunch of new skills, new plants, and face new challenges.

Of course, there are bonuses, too.  One of Jim and my dreams was to create a habitat that would invite quail to come into our yard.  When we achieved that goal, we hoped that someday they’d actually bring their chicks to visit.  As the picture below shows, we have achieved that goal, too!

In a way, my move to New Mexico gave me a lot of insight into what it would be like to be a colonist on a planet ostensibly “hospitable” to humans.  The ability to adapt would be as important, maybe more important, than any suite of technological skills or access to a databank of knowledge.  Unlearning would be as crucial as learning.

On that note, I’m going to enjoy every breath of cooler air while I dive into the final push to address the editorial notes on the second of my forthcoming “Over Where” novels, Aurora Borealis Bridge.

12 Responses to “The Value of Unlearning”

  1. zim328 Says:

    A brisk 98 degrees. You ARE on another planet. As I’ve adjusted to the cooler temperatures of the mountains of western Maryland, I find it harder to tolerate even 90 degree days with high humidity. I don’t know how I held up at the construction sites on some of those hit days in The Baltimore/DC area.

  2. HelixRook Says:

    Ah yes, the dreaded AZ heat. Especially brutal this year, certainly. If I had the ability to transport my entire team to cooler weather (even a mere 50 miles north) I’d be happier. But sacrifices must be made. I just recently turned away an opportunity to work in Chicago, not out of fear of leaving (Lord knows I hate the heat most of all—only so many layers can be removed before you’re removing skin to cool off) but the cost of living was a nightmare compared to what I’m currently living with.

    Now, I can save money while paying off bills. If I went, I’d be lucky to pay all of my bills and would have to live off ramen. Not again. College was bad enough!

    Still, I long for cooler weather, real 4 seasons, and most of all, vibrant green trees. I don’t want to see any grubby brown-green trees everywhere. Or those dreaded yellow infestations that wreck my allergies. One day… though I must admit, New Mexico certainly sounds tempting.

    • janelindskold Says:

      NM does have the four seasons, but where I live is definitely tree challenged! Green background is mostly neighbor’s yards, where developers long ago put in allergy intensifying mulberries.

  3. King Ben's Grandma Says:

    The quail are beautiful!
    We haven’t topped 100 here yet. I remember one year with 117 in September. There’s a big difference between 98 and 108! I prefer 78 myself😂

  4. Dawn Barela Says:

    The quail are so cute!! Mama and babies both.
    I have been happy with the rain and temperatures we have had this week. In the low 70’s. Better than the low 100’s for sure!! I am so glad we don’t get the humidity! My floor fan died on Thursday June 17 and I bought a replacement on June 19. I haven’t put it together yet, I haven’t needed it. I will soon though. This isn’t going to last.

    • janelindskold Says:

      I am willing to dream we won’t top 100 again this year… Maybe even proper monsoons.

      • Dawn Barela Says:

        I hope so too! I love monsoon season when we have it. I have a memory of a first big rain after a dry spring. I had a family in the apartment next door that had a 3 year old autistic girl who loved me. Kids always did. I went outside to enjoy the rain and she wanted me to dance in the rain with her. I also sat on my front porch with her making wet handprints on the concrete from water puddles.

  5. James Mendur Says:

    “In a way, my move to New Mexico gave me a lot of insight into what it would be like to be a colonist on a planet ostensibly “hospitable” to humans. The ability to adapt would be as important, maybe more important, than any suite of technological skills or access to a databank of knowledge. Unlearning would be as crucial as learning.”

    I’ve read at least one or two stories like that. They’re not clear enough in my memory to remember title or author but I think both were basically about the tension between the original culture of the settlers and the changes they had to make to survive in the new home. Not so much “unlearning” as “choosing what to keep and what to embrace.”

    My company has an office in Albuquerque which I briefly thought about transferring to, but the relative lack of water there is a deal-breaker for me. Where I am now, in northern Texas, is almost too dry for me but there’s enough rain that I can be content here, at least until retirement.

    • janelindskold Says:

      I will admit, the relative lack of water here is hard to take at times. I did grow up in DC, playing in Rock Creek, and summers on the Chesapeake Bay. But one can adapt, and this is now home.

  6. Harried Harry Says:

    I started out in Colorado, then joined the Army where I had a chance to visit Kentucky, Tennessee, Maryland, and then Okinawa. I returned to the States and attended college in Colorado at an elevation of 8000 ft. where the winter temp was -45° on average. I lived in a few more places and ended up working at White Sands Missile Range. My wife refuses to live anywhere else so we’ve been here for about 40 years. Yes, time flies.

    The monsoons have arrived so the temps have been in the 80’s but the humidity is in the high 70% range. At least no flash floods near my place but El Paso, TX has had some as did Carlsbad.

    No matter where a person goes, they need to adapt to the local weather and climate. When I went to Okinawa, I flew out of Denver just after Thanksgiving with the snow on the ground and the temps near zero. Okinawa was 100 deg. F with 100% humidity.

    Enjoy the week and the 4th of July.

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