Tuesday, May 10, 2005


The evidence of Spring has arrived. Sunday dawned with sun and warmth, so after dutiful calls to our mothers, we set off to spend part of the day in the hills, and drove up toward the Jemez mountains. We thought we'd celebrate that, being childless, we do not have to feign delight in mediocre Mother's Day brunch buffets but instead could indulge in a full-out cholesterol fest at Los Ojos tavern, a biker bar/artists hang-out in the funky town of Jemez Springs.

After lunch, we strolled along the Jemez River and then it hit. The wind, that harbinger of spring. Not a gentle breeze, but a blast of sand-laden air pelting our faces. Alas, springtime in New Mexico does not conjure up the images that much of the country has of regeneration and lovely budding flowers, green-ness and beauty. Sure, we have lots of new things growing. This past winter brought us out of a five year drought cycle, and the rivers are flowing with the spring run-off. The Rio Grande actually has a lot of water of in it, unlike last summer when it actually ran dry in spots. At the Jemez River there was evidence that it had run to the top of its banks.

The moisture has caused many things to bloom, sprout up and turn green, quite vibrant-appearing among the myriad shades of brown and beige that define our world here. These newly watered plants make this high desert environment look much more lush than we are accustomed to seeing. And they disgorge their venom-like allergens as well. It is the silent pollenators that are the worst, those desert plants which do not flower but are potent nonetheless. The junipers, the still-green tumbleweeds, the sagebrush which surrounds our home, and the ash are all sneeze-inducing, eye-reddening terrors. And don't even get me started on the cottonwood trees-once they start spewing their cottony crud which fills the air like snowflakes in the sunshine, my misery will be complete. La Primavera is, in New Mexico, more like La Miseria.

The allergies would be easier to cope with, however, were it not for the wretched winds. They begin in April and last until the heat and dryness of summer become welcome relief. These daily winds are normally about 20 to 30 miles per hour but can get very gusty, up to 60 miles per hour. Just a few days ago, the Sandia Peak Tramway had to close down, stranding dozens of passengers, including a group of school kids, at the top of the mountain, due to high winds. This springtime airy ritual seems to blow across the expanses, picking up the top inch or so of sand from Arizona and depositing it squarely into our faces, hammering us so that we find sand particles in our eyes and ears and hair. The mid-90s temperatures of late-June don't seem so bad after the anguish of the vernal season.

Not that spring is completely without its amusements. Last year's tumbleweeds have grown dry, and once they break off from the stems they roll and bounce -thanks to the winds - along the streets and byways. We can always distinguish the new-comers and tourists; they will bring their cars to a complete stop behind a tumbleweed, apparently fearful of it hitting or damaging their vehicles. We then take aim and plow over them, decimating their brittle shapes and leaving their crushed carcasses as tumbleweed roadkill.

But this diabolical diversion is not enough to induce me to enjoy spring. I marvel at those who "celebrate spring" and love this season above all others. They mock me when I state my indignance at the season. Go ahead; enjoy it. I will sniffle and sneeze my way through it, biding my time. Once the sun-scorching summer arrives, I'll get my relief and revenge. Those spring-lovers will lament the sizzling days and I will smile placidly and reply, "Yes, but it's a dry heat."

copyright 2005 Valerie Schneider

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