Friday, June 14, 2013

Ghost Ranch burning: Pedernal disappears in smoke

Pedernal is the mountain made famous by Georgia O'Keeffe because she painted it so often. She is even quoted as having a proprietary claim on it: "God told me I could have it if I painted it enough." Pedernal is one of a number of distinctive landmarks that make up the "Valley of Shining Stone" near Abiquiu, NM, where O'Keeffe lived for nearly 50 years.

I am staying at Ghost Ranch, which is where one of O'Keeffe's two houses is located. This is where she painted many of the canvases that include Pedernal as a motif and metaphor.

Sadly, Pedernal disappeared yesterday. The sky was clear enough in the morning that Pedernal stood out in the distance as usual (above.) But a plume of smoke rose ominously over the mountain and drifted off to the east, as it has ever since I arrived in NM ten days ago. The smoke is from the Thompson Ridge fire in the Jemez Mountains. It is some distance beyond Pedernal from this vantage and doesn't threaten the immediate vicinity. It is the same fire that I saw and posted about in Santa Fe last week.

By mid-morning yesterday the wind had shifted and the smoke came directly over Pedernal, obscuring it completely (below.) The fire was reported to have been 40% contained at that time.

Pedernal is in the center of this photo, just to the left of the dead tree, barely visible through the haze of smoke.

The good news, though, is that it rained for the first time in a long time yesterday afternoon and evening. There have been record droughts two years in a row here now. The rain was insufficient to break the drought, but a news report this morning says the Jemez fire is now 60% contained. I was relieved to see Pedernal again on my morning hike (below.) Today, for the first time, there is no obvious plume of smoke.

Keep your fingers crossed. Pray, if that's your inclination, for more rain.

I posted a related story, about the "O'Keeffe Landscape Tour," on Arts Without Borders.

To see additional photos from Ghost Ranch, go to my flickr set.

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