Wednesday, February 9, 2011

In Our Element(s)

or Staying Off Balance

The breeze this morning was a gift from our friends in Canada—fresh, brisk, invigorating.  And, not to sound critical or unappreciative or anything, it was also rather...cold.

The sun, on the other hand, was strong and warm—warm enough that despite the cool 23° temperature I could take advantage of a day off work to spend some time on the patio.  Dressed from head to toe in black to soak up the sun's heat, I was perfectly toasty.  Wistful, perhaps, to be all dressed up to be in a spy movie and then not to have one handy, but toasty.

The contrast between wind and sun was a delicious one, the line between cold and warm sharply drawn.  Each was experienced with the same intensity at the same time—they reminded me of a sink in an older house, where the hot and cold water run from separate taps.  It was the kind of day in any case where you're vividly aware of wind and sun, a giant blue-sky day free of clouds from horizon to horizon, the kind where you soak up freshness, space, the blue of the upper atmosphere, the white-hot ball of sun burning its arc across it.  I guess I don't normally experience wind and sun quite so independently of each other as I did today. Their separation had something bare-bones about it; they were reduced to their elements:  Air.  Fire.

Earth.  Once I started thinking about elements, earth wasn't really hard to find.  In the garden plenty of bare earth still shows, whether in the bed I haven't yet had the energy to mulch with gravel, or in places where the winds have stripped away the bark and leaf mulch.  At this time of year, it is a dusty place, and a microcosm of the New Mexico landscape in general, where plants always seem to get stuck playing second fiddle to the plain old ground.  Usually, every wind carries a comet's tail of dust along with it; today's didn't, and the earth stayed put.  It was kind of nice.

The only element missing from the picture this morning was water.  That's really no surprise in the high desert—if I had to come up with an elemental recipe for Albuquerque, it would be something like three parts each of air, fire, and earth to one part water.  (Mix until crumbly.)  The normal balance of the elements is one that's out of balance. 

Even for here, though, things are dry.  Last week's snow and ice didn't yield much moisture, since the wind evaporated them before they could melt.  We really haven't had much precipitation since a wonderful rain in December, and the ground is dry for a long way down.  I was trying to decide this morning whether to water when it warms up this weekend—whether to tip the balance a bit more in favor of moisture, in favor of the young plantings that probably don't have the roots to withstand prolonged drought just yet—or whether to leave the balance off-balance, and let the plants' need for water play second fiddle to earth, air, and sun for a while longer.  Normally when I try to fix things like that, I mess them up instead, so for now it's probably better to let the balance take care of itself without my interference.

After all, in the wild the plants don't seem to mind second fiddle.


  1. This made me smile: Stacy, International Spy Extraordinaire :0)

  2. because the plants are waiting their cue - then they will indeed fiddle ;~)

  3. Very interesting. I can so picture the scene as you described it. I can almost feel the sun soaking into my body.

    What a wonderful way to start my day!

    Thank you for you words.

  4. klbrowser - I was all dressed up with no place to go spy on. :)

    Diana - I suppose it comes from having learned gardening in the rainy East, but I do worry that the plants won't fiddle if I don't help them - even in winter!

    Elaine - thanks as always for your own kind words. It really was a lovely winter day - cold fingers, nose, and ears, and warm everywhere else.

  5. Hi Stacy! What an interesting blog! What a gift you have with words!


  6. I love your description, Stacy. It is relaxing just to sit back and read this post. I wish I was there soaking in the sun! We've had a frigid winter here, one snow storm after the other.
    Thanks so much for your kind words in my blog. I rarely have a moment there these days with going to school myself, but some of my pieces that I write for school I will share when I can. Nice to have you stop by.
    Blessings and Peace,

  7. Hi, Judy - thank you so much! And thank you for visiting - welcome!

    Jan Lyn, winter sunshine is one of my favorite things about NM - it really does soak the ache out of your bones. On the other hand, we don't get the lovely snows you wrote about in your last post that you and your girls enjoyed so much. Your writing, whenever you can manage it, is always a joy.