Posts Tagged ‘Linda Weissinger Lupowitz’

By Linda Weissinger Lupowitz

Our Preserve, a sign in the Corrales Bosque Preserve, photo © 2009 by Linda W. Lupowitz, all rights reserved

Our Preserve, a sign in the Corrales Bosque Preserve, which is part of the Rio Grande Bosque, photo © 2009 by Linda W. Lupowitz. All rights reserved.

The Rio Grande supports a ribbon of green oasis along its length, from its beginnings in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, to its junction with the Gulf of Mexico. In New Mexico much of this oasis is a native bosque (Spanish for woods) of Rio Grande cottonwood, together with a few other shrubs and trees, alongside a burr-reed and willow marsh. The marshland was once extensive along the river, sustained by the yearly floods which replenished the water table and fertilized the soil. Now this marshland is rare, found only in places where mudflats persist and drainage from diversion channels keeps the soil relatively moist.

~from Jim Swan’s Rio Grande Bosque

Footprints on North Beach, Corrales Bosque Preserve along the Rio Grande, photo © 2009 by Linda W. Lupowitz, all rights reservedWinter walking in the Corrales bosque is cool and quiet—I hear only the sound of my shoes on the forest floor, and my own breathing. Wind vibrates faded yellow leaves hanging high above—now and then a leaf twists off, clatters down, bumping through branches to land in the path. The trails are private and winding, at times damp with snow in the shade, or most often deep, soft chalky dust, pocked by paw prints, hoof prints, bicycle tracks.

Horse – Bicycle – Pedestrian – who yields to whom? The triangular sign shows the walker yields to both.

Towering above are the textured trunks of twisted cottonwood trees, adorned with mistletoe, sometimes raucous with hundreds of crows, chanting among rattling old leaves.

On gravel bars along the river, the geese sun themselves, all facing south; a laughing duck, or the shadow of an intruder disturbs the peace. At once, a hundred Canada geese flap up in procession, wheeling into the western sun, their white breasts reflecting gold, dark wings working. Circling over the bosque, formations gather, call and respond—flying shadows ripple across the sunlit canopy.

Geese gather on the Rio Grande, photo © 2009 by Linda W. Lupowitz, all rights reserved

Geese gather on the Rio Grande, photo ©
2009 by Linda W. Lupowitz. All rights reserved.


Seasons change: a reminder that I have been here, walking and watching, for what seems like a very long time. At about age 40, I found out I could stroll out the back door without anyone hanging on my leg. I walk dogless these days.

Once in a wet year a giant hollow tree fell across the path, roots rudely exposed, grubs and ants and toadstools, stacked like dinner plates. Little kids clambered the slippery trunk: a mossy bridge, a balance beam. Now decades later a part of the architecture of the forest, silvery and smooth, the worn log is carved with hearts and names and charred like an old bone.

New green leaves of foresteria unfold, the orange-blossom scent of Russian olive penetrates. Cotton flies on the air, puffs and piles on the understory like a summer snowfall. We watch for signs of rain, we wish for rain. Glorious yellow Pecos sunflowers, multi-headed black-eyed Susan, preside over summer meadows, as brilliant purple asters endure long after frost has bleached the tall grass.

Here in the shelter of the bosque, the howling wind on the mesa is tamed to a smart breeze, tamarisk petals spray a soft pink glow in early spring, or, in autumn, Hallowe’en-orange flames contrast with black trunks silhouetted against the tangled underbrush. It is an evolving landscape, weeds and waters never the same for long. One flush spring I wade through high runoff to reach the small patch of silky sand, watch the clouds change and shadows slip across the face of Sandia—but now that wash is dry, a thicket of red coyote willow. The beach yields to mud and cockle-burrs, the sand shifts south.

Bending Cottonwoods, photo © 2009 by Linda W. Lupowitz, all rights reserved

Bending Cottonwoods, photo © 2009
by Linda W. Lupowitz. All rights reserved.

Rio Grande: a big nombre, this shallow stream does not seem worthy of, but it’s all we’ve got. Mud-olive brown, rippling with mystery, source in the clean headwaters of the Colorado High Country, way above Taos, up in the meandering creeks and bogs of Creede. All the way down to Mexico, it rolls on by us.

Two Sandhill Cranes, photo © 2009 by Linda W. Lupowitz, all rights reservedIn winter, the mirrored surface gleams an ice-blue reflection of the sky. Sandia sparkles with new snow, while I soak up the white-hot light on a bright beach—safe, miles from anyone, minutes from home. “So might I, standing on this pleasant lea, / Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn.” (Wordsworth)

The bosque is home to roadrunners and snakes, lizards, cottontails, turtles and peeping quail. Sandhill cranes, like feathered dinosaurs, walking absurdly on stick legs, clumsy taking off, and stunning in unlikely flight, wings creaking just overhead.

Rope swings out over the shallows, promising cool breezes on a hot day, sun and shadow, shadow and sun. Boys whack sticks, dogs chase sticks into the currents, chug smiling with a slimey log, shake on the shore. Step around coyote scat and green horse piles. Sleek bicyclists in their brilliant bodysuits speed by the slow walker.

(The rope-swing cottonwood tree, snapped and graffiti’d, lays on the bank now, with only the fading notes of children’s voices—the home-schoolers and the unschoolers and kids just let out of school for summer—reminding us that this was once a grand tree, to swing up, out and over a grande river.)

Rope swing by the Rio Grande, photo © 2009 by Linda W. Lupowitz, all rights reserved

Rope swing by the Rio Grande, photo ©
2009 by Linda W. Lupowitz. All rights reserved.


Last winter I was surprised by a locked gate at Romero Road, so I hiked in along the lateral ditch. A huge truck loaded with trees and brush drove by me, while from the north came the whining machine sounds of saws and chippers. What could be going on? I was afraid to ask.

Months later, on a March afternoon, I headed south on foot from the North Beach and was shocked and saddened beyond words at the recent clear-cutting and scraping of all non-native species, dead wood and brush from the bosque, for “fuel load reduction.”

In the dry Southwest, fire danger is a legitimate concern. Sadly, in the name of safety and conservation, an aggressive attack has been sustained against the ecosystem of the undergrowth…so much is gone.

At what price do we protect property, but abandon the beauty and peace of nature that sustains this fragile life?

Where have the animals and birds who lived here gone now? You can drive a semi through the woods; nothing but chipped mulch, stumps, and silence.

Cleared out, photo © 2009 by Linda W. Lupowitz, all rights reservedBridled weasel, found in the bosque dead, photo © 2009 by Linda W. Lupowitz, all rights reserved

Cleared out (left) and Bridled weasel (right), a section of cleared bosque and recently dead wildlife, photos © 2009 by Linda W. Lupowitz. All rights reserved.


At the Corrales Bosque Advisory Commission meeting last year, February 14, the mayor and several Village Council members heard pleas from villagers distressed by the excessive clearing of brush, dead wood, and non-native vegetative species in the preserve.

A temporary stop-work order was given based on public outcry, but has not halted this ongoing effort by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, despite the severe loss of habitat in what is supposedly a “nature preserve.” It seems the title is negotiable.

The jetty-jacks—those triangulated metal spikes linked by cable, installed in the bosque decades ago to protect the levees from debris in case of flood, are now ecologically unwanted, prevent big trucks from moving around, and it takes a “Little Giant” to remove them—along with all the vegetation that has grown up around them. Flood control has caused disruption in the natural cycles, so they say.

They say this old deciduous cottonwood forest is dying, anyway. That it needs to be flooded and managed, control-burned and levee’d, systematically scraped and rid of noxious trees and wildflowers. New cottonwood trees need to replace the aging generation, but the seedlings are not surviving. Councils clamor about waste-water, septic, sewers and salinization, as the bosque becomes a battleground for groundwater.


Beware of tree, photo © 2009
by Linda W. Lupowitz. All rights reserved.

They say that tamarisk and Russian olive are illegally drinking, and ducks have no business roosting in the cattails. That the cottonwood giants, lightning-struck and mistletoe-bedecked, will fall into shattered hollow logs, in my lifetime, if I live to see the day. Maybe my kids, or my grandchildren, will see this happen. Maybe they are right, I admit, I don’t know. I hope not.

This Rio Grande—it’s just a narrow strip of life through the wide desert, source of irrigation for the valley: Without it, there would be no apple orchards, chile fields, cornfields or lush pasture with beautiful horses. From the air, the bosque is a green snake in a sere, windy brown world—we call with irony, upon landing at Albuquerque: Planet Dune.

Clear ditch afternoon, photo © 2009 by Linda W. Lupowitz, all rights reserved

Clear ditch afternoon, photo © 2009
by Linda W. Lupowitz. All rights reserved.


Via Oreada

Walking out through the south entrance to the Corrales bosque on a Sunday afternoon, I pass by a Mexican family with a KFC picnic, fishing the clear ditch; giggling children chasing a chihuahua; two lovers arm in arm talking softly in Tewa, on a bridge over a culvert of rushing brown water.

A cartoonish Roadrunner cocks his yellow eye and scolds me for getting too close to his perch on the business end of Little Giant, a yellow machine with a toothy maw: what we used to call a “steam shovel.”

I stop to look at the posted signs. “Flora and Fauna of the Bosque Preserve” illustrates an idyllic scene of happy co-existence—Coyote and Beaver, wild Turkey, Muskrat, Toad and Frog, Weasel, Hawk and field Mouse, Skunk and Owl … There is no human in the picture, I recall, except my own reflection in the glass.

The sign says:

Our Preserve is home to a fragile plant and animal community which needs our consideration. Please remember that these living things depend on us to leave their habitat undisturbed and unimpaired for future generations.

This area of thirty acres, Via Oreada, is slated for extensive clearing by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to start this spring 2009.

Ready to rumble, photo © 2009 by Linda W. Lupowitz, all rights reserved

Ready to rumble, photo © 2009 by Linda W. Lupowitz. All rights reserved.

Linda Weissinger Lupowitz lives, works, and writes in Corrales, New Mexico. She has been walking in the bosque since 1982. You can see the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Fire Restoration map and plan for the Corrales Bosque Preserve here. And you can read more of Linda’s writing on her blog, C. Little, no less, or on the red Ravine post The Face You Wore Before You Were Born.

[NOTE: A shorter version of this essay will be published in an upcoming issue of the Corrales Comment, a local newspaper for the village of Corrales.]

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By Linda Weissinger Lupowitz

For Noah, breech at 37 weeks

Lifted Up, photo © 2002-2008 by Kim Donald. All rights reserved.
Lifted Up, photo © 2002-2008 by Kim Donald.
All rights reserved.

“This could feel a little cold,”
the ultrasound technician warns,
warming the electrodes—or something
more benign—to place upon my daughter’s
swelling belly, bringing life to the idea
of her yet unborn child, at twelve weeks
now revealed—

A nimble gymnast, flexing, leaping, kicking
in a dark internal sea…sound waves coursing
tides within the muscular gymnasium,
and There,

Upon the screen, a face appears—
the Face You Wore Before You Were Born.

Cold waves, heavier than light, unveil
the secret sac in which you float and dance:
a private glimpse through some impossible

Your face swims into view—an upturned nose
and certain gaze, before your Soul has met
its match in union with such princely flesh;
a clay-vessel bobbing briefly in a red river,
soon to be caught in the rushes and rescued
to our world, this side of deliverance.

“…I’m not saying what you see,” she says,
“but if it looks like a turtle, it’s a boy;
a girl looks like a hamburger…”

Tiny turtle, cozy in the confines of your high-
flying mama, here you find a steady balance
in the sky, pushing with your heels toward earth,

gripping toes and sturdy soles, locked knees and elbows,
navel-numbing with your bony head, competing for her
breath—riding the ups and downs face forward
with the gravity of your purpose.

At thirty-seven weeks, frankly Noah,
you are breech, stubbornly maintaining
your position, firmly planted in the face
of sheer adversity, despite threat of a cesarean
—scheduled now for Tuesday. Doctors
with their knives are sharpening
their plans to take you out.

Ana tells me of a birth-emergency, wherein
a paramedic reached within to check the cervix
of a laboring mother, when a tiny hand
reached down to grip his finger….

Turn, turn, little turtle, nudges your father,
his strong hands circling your home;
airplanes crash into buildings, cities fall,
people leap and bombs are dropping, dropping.

Leaves flee the trees in a Mississippi breeze,
you’ve borne tornado warnings, still you
hold this space.

Your distant grandfather penetrates his healing
message through the ethers, through the density
of matter, to meet you in that space we share,
born and unborn, on higher ground.
“He’ll turn,” he says with certainty.

Ana anticipates a simpler birth, more antiseptic,
less messy than this rush of unpredicted fury…
as suddenly, surprising her, on Saturday

You flip, breaking the womb-waters,
wedging head and shoulders in the pink canal,
diving your unheralded descent towards light,
or from it.

Mamababe, photo © 2002-2008 by Kim Donald.
Mamababe, photo © 2002-2008 by Kim Donald.
All rights reserved.

Birthing the Poem

Poetry is a birth process, conceived in love – a glimmer in the eye, a spark, a word that won’t let go lodges deep inside the mind, takes form, gathers strength.

The geometric nucleus, nurtured in silence, swells until it shows, until it is a little embarrassing. It can get out of control, morph into something you might be ashamed of.

Then you must labor to deliver pen to paper, and push the poem out. This transition is exquisite, private, no epidural needed. There may be tears. Waters have broken.

Look at it now, wrinkly and raw. Count the words and listen, arrange and rearrange. Deep breath, let it down, now swaddle and share a newborn with the world, perfect or not.

Like human progeny, rarely do live poems manifest intact from the Source. As I age, few will endure. I don’t know how many might still be left in me, from seeds long dormant.

Mom Asleep, photo © 2002-2008 by Linda Weissinger Lupowitz. All rights reserved.
Mom Asleep, photo © 2002-2008 by Linda
Weissinger Lupowitz. All rights reserved.

Noah Charles Strong was born soon after 9/11 – and he made us grandparents, a great blessing. Twenty-three years before, Ariana Faith made me a mother, and we had become a family.

Born in a tumble-down farmhouse on a back road in South Carolina, she emerged in full voice and power three days after Christmas 1977, caught by her father. We were caught by surprise at the impact such a small being had upon our world. The birthing kit was fifteen dollars, for two midwives attending a then-illegal home birth.

It cost many thousands of dollars for Noah’s arrival in Mississippi, and he pulled off a surprise as well. He was breech and supposed to be c-section, but changed his mind.

My view of technological intervention in birthing is dim, so I was relieved by the choice he made. Robert does distant healing work, and he was confident that Noah would turn, as he turned him across time and space.

The conceptual spark that started a fire in my soul was an ultrasound image, a little black- and-white glossy print of what was inside my pregnant daughter. I was privileged to see within the mystery, to witness the secret face of my unborn grandson.

This stunning vision persisted through post-partum gestation, until one day I sat on the pebbly beach of the Rio Grande, and wrote this poem on the back of a folded shopping list.

Like Noah, it came to light in one sudden rush. Then, as we got to know each other, the features became as familiar as the face of one you have known since before you were born.

Mom Asleep Gold, photo © 2002-2008 by Linda Weissinger Lupowitz. All rights reserved.  Mom Asleep Gold, photo © 2002-2008 by Linda Weissinger Lupowitz. All rights reserved.

The Zen Koan

The Monk Mayo asked this question of the Sixth Patriarch: “What is Zen?”

The Patriarch replied that, “when your mind is not dwelling on the dualism of good and evil, what is your original face before you were born?”

This question seems nonsensical, but this is only so when measured against the linear logical requirements of society. The question is intended to open the initiated mind to possibilities beyond the rational. It is also designed so as to waken the student to the possibility that spiritual answers require a different mode of thought.

Zen master Dogen had a saying that is appropriate in the present context. He said that in order to perceive reality we must “drop mind and body.” In other words, it is essential to drop all habits of thought and preconceptions in order to understand the truth.

The Koan forces the student to face this type of thinking. The answer to the question What is your original face before you were born? cannot be answered on the level of rational logic. It points towards the possibility of knowing or understanding without the constructs of reason and habitual response.

The question suggests we have to approach spiritual reality as if we had knowledge of things before we were taught the ways of thinking of this world; in other words, ” before we were born.”

In trying to answer the Koan, the student will come to a mental “precipice,” as it were, where all the methods and procedures of accepted thinking no longer function. The purpose of the Koan is to shove the student over this precipice into an area of experience that is completely new. This is the spiritual reality that the Zen master is attempting to guide the student towards.

Mom Asleep Gold, photo © 2002-2008 by Linda Weissinger Lupowitz. All rights reserved.  Mom Asleep Gold, photo © 2002-2008 by Linda Weissinger Lupowitz. All rights reserved.

Linda Weissinger Lupowitz was born in Philadelphia, moved way out west with Robert to New Mexico, home-birthed and homeschooled three children. She runs a chiropractic practice and a virtual staffing agency, Connect2Pro. A graduate of Smith College, she has been Associate Editor of Taos Magazine, Rio Grande, and Mothering Magazine. The online journal of poetry and photography, C. Little, No Less, was started in March 2003, as a plea for peace.

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