Archive for the ‘nature’ Category

Tonight we’re on a once in a lifetime pass through the dust trail of comet Kiess, a known long period comet. Margie sent me a link on the Aurigid meteor shower from NASA’s Ames Research Center website.

The Aurigid shower should be visible from the far western United States, Alaska, Hawaii, and Mexico for about an hour and a half, peaking at around 4:30 a.m. PDT.

The Ames Research Center site has full details on viewing and photographing the shower and a neat java applet that lets you calculate the best viewing time based on your location, type of area, and conditions. It also give you an estimated rate per hour. Do be forewarned, however, that the page did crash my browser several times (Firefox, Mac). I could view it for awhile before the page would bite the dust.

Along with the detailed observation tips, Ames also has information on how your viewing and reporting can help them in their quest to learn more about the shower, and its patterns as observed from the ground. The more the merrier, and the better the data! While we’re on terra firma, looking up, scientists from Ames will be overhead doing an observational flight much like the one they did on the recent Perseid shower.

At a rate of close to 200 meteors per hour, the Aurigid shower should be a good one. I’m hoping that the night sky will be clear enough to see it here in the Arizona high country. The monsoons are back, so I’ll be up anyway, doing my computer work during the time of lightest thunderstorm activity.


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Fall is just around the corner in the Arizona high country. The nighttime low was 42 degrees Farenheit last night and this is the first morning since spring that I’ve had to go back in the house and get a jacket for my morning sojourn out on the deck.

There were blue jays hopping about in the yard and I saw a gold finch fly into the big pine tree out front. Somewhere, out in the forest, a raven croaked and grated his morning ablutions as I jotted down some notes in my journal and ate breakfast. The grasses in the yard are drying out; we haven’t had any monsoon activity for about five days.

That half-hour or so out on the deck, weather permitting, has been my time to reflect on the purpose of my day. I set my tasks the night before, so that I can actually start functioning right away in the morning. It can be awhile before my brain wakes up. If I had to wait for that, I might not get anything done before noon!

Today’s focus was on getting more specific with my fitness plan for the coming year.

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It’s funny but on reviewing my last post in light of a comment, I realized that it could easily be misunderstood. I decided to go ahead and post something by way of clarification that I’ve had on the back burner for awhile. It continues the sky and mountain imagery that seems to be such a theme here lately. Though not as polished as I’d like, I figure that it is a work in progress, much as I am, and I can always rewrite it later, somewhere down the trail…

End of the Trail

May I careen down that last few feet of trail
Pack discarded, boot soles worn thin,
Slipping sideways, a little dust and scree along for the slide
Carried forward by the momentum remaining from pure exuberance
Totally used up
Nothing held back in reserve for some other day,
Some other mountain.

May I not die with the best still left inside me,
Saved for some tomorrow that never comes.
No regrets, no recriminations, no dreams left unexplored,
Expired on some mountainside, spent
Ready for the next great adventure
Eyes upturned
And arms spread to embrace the sky,
The song of a raven in my ears.

[Gross Humor Warning: Read at your own risk.] Of course, my bonnie brown e’en (eyeballs) wouldn’t last long if that were the case…but, oh well. I can think of a lot worse things than being raven food. (Sorry, just had to say it. The memory of performing the old Scottish folk song “Twa’ Corbies” is still with me.)

And, more tools of the trade…

Wildland Firefighting Boots

With all the affection that wildland firefighters reserve for the boots that carry them through hell and back.

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0534 MST, Parks, Arizona – The rising sun illumines one area of virga, a weather phenomenon where rainfall evaporates before it can reach the ground:

Virga Illumined by Rising Sun

Within minutes a whole veil of virga, glowing orange in the early morning sky, forms to the west of the San Francisco Peaks. This photo gives only a rough idea of what the sky actually looked like. The veil of virga shifted and undulated slowly, like a gauze curtain in a very light breeze. The intense color lasted for just a few minutes, then swiftly faded away.

Veil of Virga in the Early Morning Sky

The above shot is about thirty degrees north of the first one. The pine that shows in the first photo is just outside of this one to the right. The mountain is Kendrick Peak. Note the two (very tiny) ravens flying to the immediate left of the pine tree. The light continued to shift and change, turning bright yellow as the sun neared the horizon.

Close to Sunrise

Man, I love living in the Arizona high country…

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There’s a lot of rumbling off in the distance, but I think I can get a post in before the next round of monsoon activity gets too close. That’s the story of my life lately –  trying to squeeze in online sessions between thunderstorms. It’s led to a lot of very late nights recently, but I’ve been having a lot of fun skywatching in between.

Here’s a lightning photo from two nights ago:

Arizona Summer Monsoon Lightning Over the Mogollon Rim

This doesn’t quite do justice to the light show that was going on to the south of my place, down over the Mogollon Rim, but I was happy to get even this much.  It was a spectacular display of electrical activity over Sycamore Canyon and the Verde Valley, with lots of cloud-to-cloud lightning. My digital camera is quite slow in shooting pictures, so I stood out on the deck and snapped, snapped, snapped away, hoping to catch a shot by chance. Out of about 90 shots, I got one!

Well, the thunder’s getting louder again. Time to disconnect and go do some practice.

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The late morning through afternoon thunderstorms, so characteristic of midsummer in the Arizona high country, have been playing havoc with my computer work. Sometimes I can sneak some work in early in the day, but most of it has to happen from late afternoon to the wee hours of the morning, in order to avoid power surges and outages.

Monsoon Clouds

Ah, well. I’m can’t really complain. I’m not out on a fireline somewhere watching clouds like these build and worrying about what the winds are going to do. Instead, I’m able to shut down the computer and take a front row seat out on my deck to watch one of nature’s most spectacular sky views. Plus, the rain has made the area’s forest a lot moister and less prone to wildfire.

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There’s smoke in the air, drifting in from somewhere in the area, but it’s been misty most of the day and I have no idea where the smoke is originating. As a result, I’ve been antsy all afternoon. I keep getting up and going outside and looking around; I feel like I should be doing something. It’s unsettling to be under the sway of such a strong, conditioned reflex that doesn’t have a place in my life anymore. You can take the firefighter out of service, but you can’t take the service out of the firefighter, I quess.

Actually, conditions are quite good in our immediate area right now. It’s cool and there’s a northwest wind of about 5 mph, the humidity is up, and it rained at least half an inch today. While a lot of the forest is still under extreme fire danger conditions, at the moment it’s pretty safe where I’m sitting.

The synchronicity of this is rather amusing, really. For one thing, I’m in the midst of re-reading Peter Leschak’s book, “Trials by Wildfire” as an antidote to feeling like I’ve gotten out of touch with much that was beneficial from working as a firefighter and EMT, particularly his notion of the emergency services as a “warrior calling” that serves as constant reminder of the fragility of life. Amen to that.

And, just two days ago I was going through the rest of the stuff from out of the van (I’ve put it up for sale) – two storage tubs that I continually carted around full of extra first aid supplies, fire investigation gear, several different kinds of gloves, various hats, glasses, goggles, binoculars, etcetera, ad infinitum – all kinds of equipment and supplies that will not be transferred to the PT Cruiser. Sorting through all of it has served as just one more reminder of what I’ve left behind.

There’s another storm cell moving in from the west. The temperature has dropped a few more degrees and the thunder is getting louder, so we may get even more rain by tonight. I can still smell smoke, but the agitation of feeling like I need to do something about it has passed. As soon as I’ve posted this, I’m headed over to the guitar corner for another round of practice.

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