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Posts Tagged ‘Nature’

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.




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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.



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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.




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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.


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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.




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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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Halloween Tea Rose, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Halloween Tea Rose, out in the front garden, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


We worked on last minute details in the yard today. It was cool, cloudy, sunny. Bending over the 7 transplanted tea roses with the green water bucket, I noticed a distinct peripheral rush of red. A confused October tea rose was sporting a new summer bud.

We hauled wet, decaying bags of leaves to the city’s yard waste site, nabbed a geocache near an empty ball diamond, and drove home on winding country roads. An ordinary Fall Saturday. I didn’t notice the strings of cobweb until I took a closer look. It’s always good to take a closer look.

Traditionally, October is the month I feel the happiest. Something shifted this year. But tonight I count my blessings. It’s the little things. Maybe the budding Halloween tea rose with the silver thin cobwebs is not confused at all. Maybe it’s me.


-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, October 27th, 2007

-related to post, PRACTICE – Fish Out Of Water – 15min

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Holding My Breath - Water, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, from the Holding My Breath series, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved

Holding My Breath – Water, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, from the Holding My Breath series, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved


 – PRACTICE – Holding My Breath – 10min

Friday, May 4th, 2007

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Tagged, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, from the Holding My Breath series, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved

 –Holding My Breath – Wind, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, from the Holding My Breath series, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved


PRACTICE – Holding My Breath – 10min

Friday, May 4th, 2007

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Giant Oak, Theo Wirth Park, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2005, photo by Skywire, all rights reserved

Giant Oak, Theo Wirth Park, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2005, photo by Skywire, all rights reserved


from Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – GREENING

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Around 3000 people live in the city of Valentine. If you fired up your GPSr, programmed in 42 degrees, 52′, 25″N, and 100 degrees, 33′, 1″W, slid the homing gadget into the plastic grip Velcroed to the dashboard, and drove in the direction of the crosshair blips on your map of light, you’d arrive at the most northern border of Nebraska, smack dab in the center of the state line.

That’s Valentine.

Each year in the month of February, thousands of hopeless romantics send letters to Cupid’s mailbox in “Heart City”to be embossed with one of three different Valentine cachets. Valentine’s Cache, Valentine, Nebraska, from Heart City websiteThe red ink postal stamp from America’s heartland adds a little fuel to the fire of a juicy Valentine’s Day.

If you think Nebraska’s a dull state, reset the synaptic button. Fire again. It’s one of my favorite places on the planet.

Kool-Aid and CliffsNotes and the Vise-Grip were all invented in Nebraska. The largest Powerball payout, $365 million, was split 8 ways on February 6th, 2006 by ConAgra workers from Lincoln. Both Malcolm X and Brandon Teena were born in Nebraska. As were Henry Fonda, Hilary Swank, and Marg Helgenberger, blood spatter expert and forensic supervisor Catherine Willows from the original CSI.

Need I say more?

Okay, let me go on to the 450,000 other reasons I fell in love with Nebraska – the sandhill cranes . Each year in early spring, 90% of the population traverse the Central Flyway stopping to fatten up and rest along the Nebraska stretch of the 310 mile, 10,000 year old Platte River. And they’ve been doing this for 9 million years.

At sunrise, 10 feet from the river bed, in the dark underbelly of a blind near Kearney, I’ve watched as the cranes roost on one foot, sleeping in 6 inches of water. I’ve seen them probe the grasslands, meadows, and farmers’ fields near Grand Island foraging for leftover corn, insects, earthworms, and rodents. I’ve listened from 7 miles away to the ancient and throaty rolling trumpet sweeping toward Rowe Sanctuary, and peered through Nikon binoculars at kettles of cranes staging over Gibbon, their gangly voluminous shadows eclipsing the moon in a single sweep of midnight dusk.

Convinced?

I saved the creme de la creme for last – I love Nebraska for her writers: Ted Kooser , the United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004 – 2006, Willa Cather , Terry Goodkind, DeBarra Mayo, John Neihardt, Weldon Kees, Ana Marie Cox , founder of the political blog, Wonkette, and Jonis Agee, Director of the Nebraska Summer Writers’ Conference. Maybe they weren’t all born Cornhuskers. But many lived most of their lives in the great Nebraskan plains.

How long do you have to live somewhere to call it home?

I’m a Minnesota transplant. I moved here in 1984. When people ask me where I’m from, I say, “I’m from Minnesota.” And sometimes, so as not to be pigeonholed, I add the caveat, “But I grew up Down South, lived in central Pennsylvania in my teens, and moved West to Montana in my 20’s. I’ve been around.” Creative license – I have to protect my image as a bohemian.

Willa Cather by Carl van Vechten, photo taken January 22, 1936, released to public domain, Library of Congress

Willa Cather by Carl van Vechten, photo taken January 22, 1936, released to public domain, Library of Congress

On my last road trip through Nebraska, my air conditioning died and I stopped to cool off at a rest stop just north of Red Cloud (the town is named for the great Oglala Lakota chief who was born near there) where Willa Cather grew up. Did I mention she won the Pulitzer in 1923 for One of Ours?

I struck up a conversation with Ella, a gray haired, bespectacled, 70-ish woman in a denim shirt and blue jeans (this is common in the Midwest) standing behind the map counter. I told her I was returning from a writing retreat in Taos and that on my first trip to the Mabel Dodge Luhan House in 2001, I stayed in the Cather room where Willa once slept on one of her pilgrimages to New Mexico.

I told her I read that Cather had met D. H. Lawrence in 1924. And wasn’t that the same year he and Frieda visited Mabel and Tony, bunked in the Pink House in Taos, and lived with Dorothy Brett at Kiowa Ranch near San Cristobal? Ella’s eyes sparkled. When she found out I was a writer, she talked to me for nearly 45 minutes, a reprieve from the dog day glare of August, about Nebraska writers and history. Her great, great grandparents homesteaded there. It is in her blood.

Willa Cather once said, “The history of every country begins in the heart of a man or a woman.” Maybe the history of every country can also be traced through the lineage of everyman who lives at the heart of its land.

Kearney, Nebraska marks the exact central point between Boston and San Francisco. Valentine, at the seat of Cherry County, sits dead center in the heart of America. Everything east and west is just an appendage.

Cupid knows. He shoots his letters off straight from Valentine.


-posted on red Ravine Wednesday, February 14th, 2007

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I woke up writing haiku in my mind. Chaco, the black Siamese, could not sleep. And kept rattling the door. So I couldn’t sleep. The wind howled. The chimes rang. It reminded me of writing retreats in the Zendo. I’ll be back again in February. Writing haiku.

I stared at the ceiling. I composed haiku in my dream. I have long forgotten the lines. And so I start over.

We are all starting over in some form. New beginnings. Thank god. New beginnings teach me to love change. I used to fear change. But now I understand.

Without it, I don’t get the chance to start again.

            ***

the black pond melts clear
snow drifts against the window
and floats into cracks

the rope swing dangles
under the leafless white oak
breathless in the cold

water pools, leaves blow
chimes stir, January winds
blast hard from the North

chimney smoke waffles
off the neighbor’s snowy roof
seamless resistance

gnarled knot in the oak
I turn my head from the wind
dead leaf clings to life

weathered bat house nailed
into bark near a hollow
filled with emptiness

I rest in a thought
spring hides around the corner
buds sigh in relief

ancient potted soil
holds gangly roots of bamboo
flecks of snow swirl by

tawny rabbit tufts
snatch hare tracks from crusted snow
my gaze blazes trail

chocolate red bells
in the tray on the table
January 7

green leaf, dirty pane
stares at the naked buckthorn
steamy dimpled cheeks

no one understands
the winter frosted writer
curled up on the bed

Sunday, January 7th, 2007

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