Monday, June 20, 2011

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the Long Dry Summer

Smoke Column from the Pacheco Fire
Before I moved from Questa, New Mexico and divorced my husband, who died this last year, I spent 22 days on the front lines of the Hondo Fire. Never did the wind change in any way that I was not instantly awake and alert. I or Marc got up every two hours for weeks to look at the mountain across the valley. The fire and the potential of fire dominated our lives.

There is something about the smell of smoke in the air that dominates it to this day. Clouds of a certain color make my hyper alert. Yesterday the Pacheco Fire in the Santa Fe National Forest sent up a column of smoke 30,000 feet into the atmosphere. I was instantly tharned.
Post traumatic stress disorder (also known as post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD) is a severe anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to any event that results in psychological trauma. This event may involve the threat of death to oneself or to someone else, or to one's own or someone else's physical, sexual, or psychological integrity, overwhelming the individual's ability to cope. As an effect of psychological trauma, PTSD is less frequent and more enduring than the more commonly seen acute stress response.

 But I grabbed the camera. I had grabbed the camera 13 years ago too when I wanted the column of smoke get closer and closer and top the ridge on the other side of the valley. I know this column of smoke is more than just beyond the ridge. There are several mountain ridges between me and it. And it is going in a north eastern direction that takes it away from me. But I could not sleep soundly until the winds had died. And I woke several times through the night. Once when I heard rain on my metal roof.

I awoke this morning and checked the skies before I even fed the fur kids. And I made note that it had rained. Not much mind you but the humidity currently is up to 29%. It has been in the single digits for days. The wind at gale force levels. It is rising again this morning already.

It is that hyper alertness that is exhausting and puts me on edge. It is why mother wolves with cubs snarl at every approach to their dens.

Tomorrow is Summer Solstice and already I want this long dry summer to be over. Or let it rain. Lots of rain. Buckets of rain. Rain that ruins the 4th of July with its fireworks. Rain that clears the air of smoke and my mind of dread of yet another fire. I so feel the pain and anguish of everyone on the front line of a fire. I want rain for all of us.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Clouds Illusions I recall

Lenticular Cloud
Not my picture. In fact not my cloud or my mountain though I find myself longing for both. But I used to have tons of pictures of lenticular or wedding cake clouds. Another loss to the computer nerd. And clouds we seem to have lost to current weather (or lack thereof). But I thought I saw some beginning lenticular's yesterday.

Lenticular clouds (Altocumulus lenticularis) are stationary lens-shaped clouds that form at high altitudes, normally aligned perpendicular to the wind direction. Lenticular clouds can be separated into altocumulus standing lenticularis (ACSL), stratocumulus standing lenticular (SCSL), and cirrocumulus standing lenticular (CCSL). Due to their shape, they are often mistaken for Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs). Per Wiki


My pilot father was known to say that Lenticular's heralded a change in the weather. They often position themselves between wet and dry fronts. And here in the mountains of New Mexico we see them, this time of year, as a sign of the unset of the monsoon season. So yesterday when heading out to feed my friend's dogs I grabbed the camera. From her house you can see further south and I had hopes of possibly seeing the build up of a storm clouds.


I took several pictures of this cloud thinking it might herald a few drops of rain and then noticed the strange color. It was a cloud of smoke and not a cloud of rain. The news confirmed there is another fire south of us and just north of Santa Fe. This one worries me. It could head my direction and there is mostly just forest in between. But it is still a long way off.

But perhaps the dry forest right around me is of more concern. Dry winds continue. And the tourists are here with ATV's (blamed for beginning the Track Fire near Raton) and campfires (the source of the Wallow Fire). Thus far fire fighters (except for the Wallow fire) seem to be doing quite well. The Carlsbad fire is 90% contained, the Track Fire 50% contained, the Sipapu fire totally contained (they don't pronounce them out for a long time due to smoldering spars). But there are only 200 fire fighters in the entire state available currently. And I have to assume that some of those are being sent to the Pacheco fire believed at this time to be started by a hot exhaust from a vehicle off road.

Meanwhile I am looking for clouds. Wish I could remember exactly what they look like. I want to prove the weather forecasters wrong. Next ten days more of the same. I want my monsoons. The earth wants rain.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Butterfly Effect?

Lorenz Attractor
Thought I would talk a walk on the wild side this morning: Science's attempt to explain the unexplainable - Chaos Theory.

Chaos theory is a field of study in mathematics, with applications in several disciplines including physics, economics, biology, and philosophy. Chaos theory studies the behavior of dynamical systems that are highly sensitive to initial conditions; an effect which is popularly referred to as the butterfly effect. Small differences in initial conditions (such as those due to rounding errors in numerical computation) yield widely diverging outcomes for chaotic systems, rendering long-term prediction impossible in general. This happens even though these systems are deterministic, meaning that their future behavior is fully determined by their initial conditions, with no random elements involved. In other words, the deterministic nature of these systems does not make them predictable.This behavior is known as deterministic chaos, or simply chaos. Note: from Wikipedia.

 In short, per a total lay man's approach, shit happens. If it does not turn out as you predict then it can be blamed on the butterfly effect:. The butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions; where a small change at one place in a nonlinear system can result in large differences to a later state. For example, the presence or absence of a butterfly flapping its wings could lead to creation or absence of a hurricane.

Which if you read the previous blog leads us back to clouds and weather. There has been a lot of strange weather of late. It could be that our meteorological science needs a paradigm shift. Or it could be just too many - or not enough butterflies. But is the lack of butterflies due to changing weather patterns? See Mobius Strip. Hmmmm, imagining the butterfly effect on a mobius strip. But I digress.

My subject, I think, was strange weather.

Super Cell forming
I did not take the above picture but I have seen many like them.

They form over our mountains when the atmospheric conditions are just right plus or minus that butterfly. The head out to the plains of the United States after us photographers are done with them and become rather less recognizable but more deadly.

Tuscaloosa tornado
All of which brings up my question of if the super cells form here why don't we get any rain? I do not want the tornadoes. The plains can keep them. But our forests are so dry it seems fires spring up just out of nowhere. And if a butterfly can effect the weather what about ash and smoke.


So Iowa and large sections of Louisiana are under water due to floods on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers and we are burning up out here. Seems we went from winter to summer drought awfully darn fast. Does anyone think that either of those large smoke clouds looks like a butterfly? Maybe the bottom one? Top looks like a leaping rabbit to me.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Had my head in the clouds


I love clouds. I could photograph them forever with their ever changing forms and colors. There is a wonderful segment in the movie Girl with the Pearl Earring about Vermeer where he asks her what color the clouds are and she first says white then looks again.


Clouds if you are a painter or a photographer are seldom white. But I also like clouds on a more scientific level ever since I first studied weather for a pilot's license. Pilots have to know what certain clouds could mean as regards safe flying or not. The last few weeks of tornadoes, wild fires, and volcanic eruptions have created a plethora of pictures of fantastic clouds and I have been collecting them in my computer files.

This week's focus has been on pyrocumulus clouds. Per Wiki:

A pyrocumulus, or literally fire cloud, is a dense cumuliform cloud associated with fire or volcanic activity. A pyrocumulus is similar dynamically in some ways to a firestorm, and the two phenomena may occur in conjunction with each other. However, one may occur without the other.

Puyehue Eruption in Chile

Puyohoe Volcano blowing
 It is difficult to tell where the ash of the eruption ends and the clouds begin. The colors can be due to the ash in the clouds or as in the latter the glowing embers as well as the sun. the pyrocumulus clouds create their own weather complete with lightning as in the first photo. And with fires they create their own winds which don't help containment at all.

Pyrocumulus cloud created by fire
Wallow Fire pyrocumulus cloud
For more about clouds I recommend Phenomenon of Clouds. But no doubt I will also post more of my favorites here.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

What a week!


It is Wednesday and I have yet to do my weekly That Was The Week That Was Blog. Frankly it has taken me to now to begin to process the week. It definitely reminded me of roller coasters I have known and loved.

Friday, my birthday, was a high even though to get to Albuquerque I had to drive through the most awful layer of smoke from the Wallow Fire on the New Mexico/Arizona border. But I made it with my eyes burning and my throat raw. I set up my exhibition at High Desert Art and Frame and then went to my friend's house in the near by mountains to prepare for the reception that night. Fortunately the air there was a lot nicer. I was satisfied with my arrangement of paintings and photographs, liked the venue and the owner. My sister called to say she would not make it but other than that things went swimmingly in spite of the health alerts because of the smoke layer.

Albuquerque is known for its thermal inversions because of the shape of the valley it lies in so the smoke did not help. I spent the weekend living on allergy meds while doing a once over pass on the used car markets, attended a baby shower, and enjoyed time with my best friend. Coming home on Sunday the air was even worse. But my side of the mountain was clearer.

Monday morning, still in a fibro fog from exhaustion and battling the smoke, I got broadsided by my artists representative that had set up the show. She e-mailed at me demanding I pay her as agreed the $65 I owed her and upset I had not profusely thanked her on my fanpage. Number one I am never profuse and I had complimented the reception and she had commented glowingly. But number two was she had switched the amount, and the messaged agreement (shades of the contractor from hell). It was suppose to be $60 upon the first sale. Not $65 at the reception (btw she never mentioned it that night). I raised these points as what I remembered. And she said that she never said that.

I went back and found the thread in our Facebook messages and continued the thread pointing out the date she had said 60 upon first sale, but said if she needed the money I would just send her the $60 on Wednesday after I got my SS deposit. I just wanted to point out I had not renigged on our agreement as she accused. I rather thought that settled the matter. But she messaged me back in a very abusive manner and told me my paintings were too high priced for the market and would never sell, and that I was not sophisticated enough for the Albuquerque Market and should not try to sell my work in that city again. Then she got personal.

I had mentioned on my personal page in Facebook going to the spa with my friend, and buying a grapefruit knife and spoons. She went viral on her fan page about how unprofessional I was naming me specifically, (she was suppose to promote my work for the entire month of the exhibit but this was not what I thought that would look like) and on my personal page about how I had money for the spa and dinnerware but not to pay her. The spa was off a previously paid for punch card (before the tooth and the car repairs) and the "dinnerware" was less than $15 out of the twenty given to me by a friend as a birthday gift. She then e-mailed me and threatened to take me to court for the $65. Duh?

Thus far I thought my behavior was highly professional. I had not done anything on FB that anyone could see. I handled our dispute on messages and e-mails, and never refused to pay her just said I couldn't until Wednesday. But people began to mention what she had said about me on her fan page which I had not seen as yet. When I went there I was livid and reported the abuse to FB in my process of blocking her. FB asked for a specific example by clicking on it on her page but as I had blocked her I couldn't do that. What is FB thinking? They should ask for that information before they act on the block request!

Then Yahoo!Messenger decided to totally screw up my new computer. Even McAfee thinks their site for a new download of the program I have used for over two decades is dangerous. So I spent part of yesterday cleaning my hard drive up and deleting Yahoo Messenger. Maybe there is something in the air causing things and people to go viral.

The good news is that my squash seem to be doing quite well in their little jerry-rigged hot bed. And I am home where the air is relatively clean - certainly better than Houston on a good day. My fur kids still love me.