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Posts Tagged ‘American Southwest’

lifeline – the rio grande , C-41 print film, close up of the Rio
Grande River from the Gorge Bridge, outside Taos, New
Mexico, January 2003, photo © 2003-2009 by QuoinMonkey.
All rights reserved.



rivers pour like words–
geological fault line
the length of my heart


gully, gulch, or wash?
the mighty Rio Grande
started as a rift


who can heal the gap?
lost key dangles from the bridge
steady leap of faith











flying – the rio grande (with lens flare), C-41 print film, longshot of the Rio Grande River from the Gorge Bridge, outside Taos, New Mexico, January 2003, photo © 2003-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.





-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, September 19th, 2009

-haiku inspired by a Flickr comment on the approach

-related to posts: haiku 2 (one-a-day), Are You River, Desert, Mountains, Ocean, Lake, City, Or None Of The Above?

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I’m at Arches National Park near the town of Moab, Utah. I don’t know if I’m looking at an arroyo or a wash. Is it both? We set up camp in a low-lying area surrounded by high boulders and pointy crops of red rock. The elevation reaches over 5500 feet.

I’m camping in the desert with photographers from RIT. They are strangers to me until this trip. I’m an MCAD student and see a flyer on the bulletin board for a summer exchange program. I make a plan for one man to swing by Minneapolis on his way to Albuquerque and pick me up. I meet him in a small town in Wisconsin, ride with him along the southern route through Iowa and Texas. We stop to chat with a friendly woman at an east Texas gas station that I would love to interview.

No time. We have to keep driving.

We visit and photograph a hot springs north of Jemez Springs, New Mexico — Spence Hot Springs. It’s a short hike across a foot log over the Jemez River, and up a wooded hill. Before that, I walked around Albuquerque and bought a pair of binoculars in a camera store. We stayed the first night in an old travel motel with a single squat room. Green linoleum floors, a refrigerator, a small stove. It smelled musty like decades of old sweat.

I don’t know what possessed me to sign up for the month trip. It was a time when I took more risks. I didn’t end up being friends with any of the RIT photographers. But the photographs – I’ll never forget pitching my borrowed Eureka! tent right on a ledge over Lake Powell. It wasn’t a smart move. I woke up in the middle of the night to tent stakes being ripped out of the ground by gale force canyon winds. Frightened, I quickly stirred, circled the green flaps and tried to pound the stakes back into the hard earth.

It was no use. I dragged my tent, with everything inside, further back into the grassy area. I couldn’t get back to sleep. So I went out to the edge of what used to be Glen Canyon (until they flooded her to make the lake) and took black and white photographs of the full moon. It was a lonely feeling. Yet the stars were so bright. The way they can only shine in New Mexico or Montana.

Arches Park. The wash. The arroyo. I’m back in Arches. Not long after we pitched our tents in the campsite, a thunderstorm approached. I was starting to get used to the afternoon rains, 108 degree daytime temperatures that dipped to freezing at dark, fierce lightening that cracked across the late night skies. But this storm was different.

The torrential rain hit suddenly and fast, pelting our sun burnt faces and skin. There were about 12 of us in various camping positions around the site. A flash flood rushed headlong down the cracks and gullies between outcropped rocks, sweeping into our campsite.

No time to think. I was taking a nap when my tent floor started filling with water. Unzipppppped the fly and poked my head out to chaos. Everyone was scrambling to get their camera equipment, clothes, and sleeping bags up off the ground and into the cars. Ankle deep water, rising to the knees. Then it was over.

The fire burned all night, flames licking sleeping bags, shirts, and cargo shorts perched on sticks in a circle around the heat. Eventually, we dried out. But I’ll never forget how quickly the arroyo filled with hot-blooded summer rains, scaring the living daylights out of me. A valuable lesson learned about the arroyo seco and the wash – dry to wet in the blink of an eye. If you are living on the land, beware.


-posted on red Ravine, Friday, September 18th, 2009

-Note: lost track of time when doing this practice. It ended somewhere between 15 -20 minutes, probably closer to 20.

-related to Writing Topic post: Standing Your Ground — Arroyo, Gulch, Gully & Wash

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the desert is no lady, C-41 print film, driving across
New Mexico, January 2003, photo © 2003-2009 by
QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 

Yesterday our blog friend from Seeded Earth was reading her journal from last October and posting snippets on Twitter. One journal entry caught Liz’s eye:

 

Is a wash different from an arroyo, or a gully, or a gulch? We drove over a wash (looks like a dry creek bed) called Car Wash. Really. True.

The entry reminded Liz of last May when we went to see Patricia Hampl and purchased the book Home Ground – Language for an American Landscape. She tweeted back to Bo that she would look up the words arroyo, gully, gulch and wash.

This morning when I got up, Liz was placing Post-it notes on those sections of the book before driving off to work. Curious, I thumbed through the bookmarks and started reading. Our Word Of The Day multiplied to four. I was so fascinated by the subtle differences that I was inspired to post excerpts from the Home Ground definitions on red Ravine.

 
So is a wash different from an arroyo, or a gully, or a gulch? Before you read the answer, what are your definitions? They are powerful, visual words that might even make good Writing Practices. Write one of the words at the top of your page — 10 minutes, Go!

 
_________________________________________________________________

 

arroyo

The Spanish word arroyo means “large creek.” Often steep-walled, an arroyo may be flat-bottomed sand or laden with boulders and gravel. Arroyuelo and arroyito are the diminutive forms and mean “rill” or “brook.” Arroyos are ephemeral streams, carrying water only briefly during such events as spring runoff of the summer monsoons. In the American Southwest the words arroyo and wash are sometimes used interchangeably, as are arroyo seco (meaning “dry”) and dry wash — though the English terms often describe shorter or abbreviated water courses stretching less than a mile and not necessarily part of a specific arroyo.

 -Arturo Longoria from his home ground, The Texas brushlands, Zapata County, Starr County, Texas

 
 
gulch

In the western United States, gulch is a word for a small ravine. Deeper than a gully, generally narrow and steep sided, shallower than a canyon. Miners often found gold or other minerals concentrated in a gulch’s swash channel. The Blue Cloud Gulch and the Old Dominion Gulch in Montana each yielded gold, silver, and copper for many years. Artifacts of ancient civilizations are also sometimes exposed in a gulch. In Grand Gulch, Utah, for instance, the Anasazi left their mark in red sandstone. In the profusion of gifts offered by gulches, none was more spectacular than the one discovered by a miner in New Mexico in 1987. He saw the tip of tusk in a gulch; the remains were later identified as those of a Columbian mammoth. Public and scientific interest brought about a full excavation of this site, now known as the Dry Gulch Mammoth Site, exposing a grail of bones.

 -Elizabeth Cox from her home ground, Chattanooga, Tennessee

 
 
gully

A channel worn in the earth by a torrent of water carving out a deep ditch is called a gully. Gully erosion happens after a rill, a high-velocity rush of water, has moved large amounts of soil along a depression or drainage line. As water wears away the land, the rill — the geomorphic feature — becomes a gully; cutting farther down, the headlong water makes a gulch, until the cellar doors open into a canyon. Geographers distinguish between gullies, washes, and arroyos on the one hand, and cañadas on the other, according to the materials involved. Cañadas — like cañoncitos — slice through bedrock. Arroyos and washes cut through flat layers of valley deposits; and gullies and gulches erode hill-slope materials.

 -Elizabeth Cox from her home ground, Chattanooga, Tennessee 

 
 
wash

The word wash is used to describe areas where subtle contours allow water to flow, or “wash,” from elevated sites to lower zones, like the bottoms of canyons or along gullies or next to ponds. Carrizo Wash in Arizona and Hunters Wash in New Mexico are examples of washes that run for many miles. A dry streambed or creek is often called a dry wash. In some areas of the American Southwest the words arroyo and arroyo seco are used interchangeably with wash and dry wash. In Desert Solitaire, Edward Abbey writes: “Streambeds are usually dry. The dry wash, dry gulch, arroyo seco. Only after a storm do they carry water and then briefly–a few minutes, a couple of hours.”

 -Arturo Longoria from his home ground, The Texas brushlands, Zapata County, Starr County, Texas

 

-partial excerpts from Home Ground — Language for an American Landscape, published by Trinity University Press

 
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-For more information on the Home Ground Project or to purchase your copy of Home Ground — Language for an American Landscape, important links can be found in the post and Comment conversation at Home Ground — Back In The Saddle. 

Gratitude to the writers of Home Ground, to Bo from Seeded Earth for asking the question, and to Liz for responding. Together they became the inspiration for this Writing Topic.


-posted on red Ravine, Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

-related to post: Midwest Poets & Writers — When Can You Call A Place Home?

 

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