The old year faded out in snow.
Not much snow, but enough to yield 3/100 of an inch of moisture, raising our grand total for 2012 to 5.46 inches. I find it hard to believe that even a native plant finds a dusting of snow worthwhile, but what do I know? Maybe having its toes tickled occasionally is icing on the cake to Mormon tea (Ephedra viridis)—an enrichment activity that makes its life in the desert all worthwhile.
Now, Colorado, that was another story. Flying to Denver for Christmas along the front range of the Rockies, looking out the scratched airplane window and away beyond the wing, you could really see snow. The fourteeners sparkled in the sun. Even their vertical crags were caked with powder not yet scoured away by arctic winds. Colorado doesn't have nearly as much snow as it should—snowpack is only about 60% of average—but some places have 30 or 40 inches so far. Even if that isn't really enough, it's still useful snow. Come spring, when it starts to melt, the streams and rivers will rise, and the reservoirs that give life to the west will fill with water. (At least, that's the idea.)
Half an inch of snow is not so useful. It doesn't replenish the aquifer, deep inside the earth; it doesn't even water the garden. It settles the dust; it enriches life a little, it offers a moment of refreshment, maybe even excitement, for those of us who are easily entertained—and then it goes away. I'm not complaining, mind you. I don't much like snow any more, and half an inch is plenty to give my soul all the cold, watery refreshment it needs.
We have the luxury to enjoy "snow as enrichment" in Albuquerque because the useful stuff happens elsewhere. For the most part, our water doesn't come from around here. It comes from the Colorado River basin, way up yonder. We cheer on the cold, deep, lingering, powdery, useful snows that happen in the high country. They keep that basin flowing with life-giving water. And we revel in the pleasant change of pace offered by our half-inch storm that goes away as soon as the sun comes out.
|From the patio. (With the zoom lens...)|
I've been thinking some about usefulness and enrichment lately—about the pipes and pumps and tunnels and other marvels of engineering that let clean water flow from a tap in the desert; and about those less tangible, less obviously necessary things that offer pleasure and refreshment, that tickle your mental toes and then melt away. The contrast between those ideas might be kind of a theme here off and on for a while.
If it isn't a useful exercise, it might (if we're lucky) at least be an interesting one...