Just a couple of days after John F. Kennedy’s assassination, our local newspaper printed a story that rekindled my fascination with patterns. While I was moved by the life, ambition, and vision of Kennedy himself, the story was about the curious circumstances that surrounded his death. I read it and reread it.
The title of the article was “History Repeats Itself.” Its focus was on the eerie set of “coincidences” that connect the 1963 assassination of President Kennedy to another that had occurred nearly 100 years before—that of Abraham Lincoln. While I had always been interested in patterns and cycles, I had never really thought of them in terms of things like the deaths of Presidents.
At first I simply skimmed the statistics out of curiosity. While they were interesting, they seemed so generalized that I was unconvinced that there was any great mystery.
My first winter in northern New Mexico’s high desert happened to be one of the coldest ever entered in the record books. Even the elders of the nearby native pueblos said that no one remembered it having been so cold, for so long, as during the dry winters of the early 1990s.
While my scientific mind knew that cold air is heavier than warm air and tends to settle in the valleys at night, until that first winter I never really realized just how cold those nights could be. The first December evening that I walked outside my house to look at the stars and check the thermometer near the woodpile, I found out. I quickly learned that high-desert valleys could create dangerous conditions where bare skin can freeze in minutes. After I tapped the mercury a couple of times to make sure the reading wasn’t stuck, I dashed back inside for a warmer coat. The temperature was 50 degrees below zero!
When the sun came up the next morning and temperatures rose into the mid-40s above zero, I drove into town. Everywhere I went the conversation was the same. People were talking about the record cold and what it had done to their livestock, water pipes, and crops the night before. One man at the local hardware store, who’d had to be on the job before the sun warmed the world, found that morning as he rolled out of his driveway that the rubber on his tires had become so brittle from the cold that they had actually cracked and broken. Continue Reading