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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!

 
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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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Home Ground, Saint Paul, Minnesota, May 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Home Ground, Saint Paul, Minnesota, May 2009, photo © 2009
by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 

We’re back after a 2+ week blogcation. How time flies. On Sunday ybonesy sent me an email titled: Getting Back in the Saddle. We both agreed that the vacation from blogging was refreshing; we needed it. We also took a hiatus from electronics, with the exception of learning a bit about Twitter. It’s a whole other world that moves at lightning speed and (like blogging) has its own protocols, courtesies, and idiosyncrasies. But there are some good, smart people on Twitter including a whole slew of writers and artists.

We’ll keep using Twitter for updates, to stay in touch from the field, and to add links we find of interest or that relate to red Ravine. So keep watching our sidebar for the latest Tweets. If you see an RT, it means we picked the link up from another Twitter user and are giving them credit. Oh, and the bit.ly and tiny.url link shorteners we use are perfectly safe. We test them first and wouldn’t steer you in the wrong direction.

But what should I post today? ybonesy’s back from Vietnam and has a few posts in the works; I survived Art-A-Whirl and am excited to be in the studio. I’m leaning toward something simple for our first day back. While on vacation, I didn’t do much writing, but I did go hear Patricia Hampl at the Highland Park Library in St. Paul. I had already finished The Florist’s Daughter and made the commitment to read all of her work; she is my kind of writer.

Her talk in St. Paul did not disappoint. She was there to promote the new book, Home Ground – Language for an American Landscape from Trinity University Press. The book is edited by Barry Lopez and Debra Gwartney and contains an A to Z history of words about the land written by famous writers like Terry Tempest Williams, Barbara Kingsolver, Robert Hass, and Franklin Burroughs.  Lopez gave each writer a list of words for which they wrote a definition using a combination of research and wordsmithing; the result is over 850 terms—from `a`a to zigzag rocks—defined by 45 American writers. It’s beautifully written with pen and ink illustrations by Molly O’Halloran.

Hampl explained that Barry Lopez had asked her over a glass of wine if she would be interested in participating in the project; she agreed. And after being initially uncertain about the words she received, she ended up loving the project. In addition, each writer was asked to choose the place they considered to be their “home ground.” Patricia Hampl chose the North Shore of Lake Superior, womb of the earth, a Minnesota landscape completely different from the urban setting of her home in St. Paul.

What place do you consider your “home ground?”

  
 

Home Ground, Saint Paul, Minnesota, May 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.            Home Ground, Saint Paul, Minnesota, May 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.             Home Ground, Saint Paul, Minnesota, May 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 

Home Ground – Language for an American Landscape is a historical map drawn by writers — word geography with cairns that weave through centuries of the American landscape. Liz and I fell in love with the book; she purchased it that evening. When I took the photograph at the top (that’s Liz’s finger holding the book up), Patricia Hampl had just walked out of the library and we chatted for a few seconds about the bloom of Spring on the Minnesota landscape and how well the book sold that night. I’m certain it will find a prominent place on our reference bookshelf.

Thanks for hanging in there with us on our red Ravine break. Thanks for reading. We’re back in the saddle and I’m going to wrap it up with a little taste of Home Ground. There is a short essay on saddle written by Conger Beasley, Jr. where he refers to the twin summits of the Spanish Peaks outside of Walsenburg, Colorado (though it’s closer to ybonesy, I did eat dinner there one evening on a drive to Taos). According to Beasley, because of their resemblance to the torso of a woman at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the Spanish Peaks are called Wah-to-yah, “Breasts of the World,” by the Ute Indians and locals refer to the saddle as “the cleavage.” Conger Beasley considers the beautiful and nurturing Spanish Peaks his “home ground.”

  
Here’s a final excerpt from a word near and dear to our hearts: 
 

ravine
Ravine is French for mountain torrent, and comes from the Old French rapine, or “violent rush.” Larger than a gully or a cleft but smaller than a canyon or gorge, a ravine is a small steep-sided valley or depression, usually carved by running water. The word is most often associated with the narrow excavated valley of a mountain stream. A rarer usage denotes a stream with a slight fall between rapids. In A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains, Isabella Bird writes: “After descending about two thousand feet to avoid the ice, we got into a deep ravine with inaccessible sides, partly filled with ice and snow and partly with large and small fragments of rock which were constantly giving way, rendering the footing very insecure.”

      -Kim Barnes, from her home ground, Clearwater Country in Idaho

 

Home Ground Resources:



-posted on red Ravine, Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

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