Early Spring 2016
The desert Southwest is often what it does not appear to be. This barren, seemingly lifeless landscape harbors wondrous pockets of survival. Scattered ponds and marshlands provide habitat for migratory birds in spring and fall and home for songbirds in the summer. Bobcats and mountain lions range from the sandy sage flats of the Caja del Rio to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. A hike along the sharp crest of Red Mesa can offer piles of fresh elk droppings, glistening brown marbles among the prickly pear and juniper. But only rarely do these majestic ruminants show themselves, their nearness revealed perhaps by a distant twig snapping. High above, the ravens circle, sometimes play tag in the currents caressing the cliffs, sometimes offer a sarcastic, croak as if to say, “You think you will ever know this land.” Only the raven has complete understanding, from its vantage in the deep blue sky, where it can follow all comings and goings -- elk, human and aeolian — while perfecting its own ironic philosophy.
In the distance, the volcanic plug of Cabezon rises, said by the Dine´ to be the neck of the monster slain by the twin son of Water Woman, the monster whose blood flowed south of Tzoodzit, the turquoise mountain renamed Mount Taylor by latecomers. The blood became the lava fields of El Malpais National Monument, where packrats, bats, rattlers, insects and plants draw nourishment from rainwater cupped in tiny pockets of the pahoehoe lave. Here, too, the mountain lion carries out its nocturnal walks, soundlessly vaulting deep crevices, listening for the faint scurry of a rabbit or kangaroo rat.
Life is everywhere, even on these margins, reminding us that our moment here on the planet is tenuous, reminding us that awe must be extended, enlarged, deepened to make that moment one of enrichment, patience and humility.
"History is the preferred excuse of those who have neither the courage nor the foresight to change it." -dr/
There is catharsis in simplicity; there is reward in complexity. But keeping these in balance remains one of life's most difficult challenges. -dr/