The reflection of the clouds,on the lake’s calm surface,quiver. The reflection of the forest’s trees, on the lake’s surface, reaches across the lake almost to the bank we are fishing from and look as if they were growing out of the lake right in front of me.
If I had a long enough arm, I could reach down and scoop up these clouds in the palm of my right hand and they would wiggle like the fishing earthworms we just dug up in a close by field.
I know the clouds and forest on the lake’s surface are reflections. The real clouds are in the sky and the real forest and pine trees cover the rugged mountain sides directly to the south of us, across Hermit’s Lake.
If my mind can be even temporarily fooled by nature’s slight of hand, how much more of what I see is not what I see, and how much don’t I see that is right in front of me?
When scientists come up with better measuring sticks, we might start seeing more of the world as it really is, not fooled by its reflections, optical illusions, mirages, black holes, mirrors and miracles..
There will, on that day, as Jerry Lee Lewis sings in his rollicking rock and roll classic,be ” a whole lot of shaking going on.”
Mornings and evenings at Hermit’s Lakes are natural wonders.
The lake, this evening, is without ripples. Fish rise with a splash to the water’s surface for flies, an eagle lazily circles above us, watching the lake’s surface for the same fish we are trying to catch. Richard and Maria share a bench, all of us fishing hard as the sun drops and you hunker in your jacket to keep warm.
It will be dark soon.
Ninety nine out of a hundred people would agree this is a good definition of paradise.
The one dissenting vote we would throw out and figure the voter has a skewed perspective that makes them prone to anxiety and depression.
Whether all this natural wonder is by design or the result of chaotic chance is a question all of us can ponder with the same intensity of a kid playing with a rubric cube.
None of us three say anything to upset the existing balance, our planet a colorful top spinning on a sidewalk, a perpetual motion machine set in motion with one flip of the wrist.
We are fortunate to be silent witnesses of a spectacular sunset.
The fish must be enjoying the sunset as much as we are.
The Rio Grande river runs through New Mexico and most of the state’s population and bigger cities hug the river’s edges all the way through the state, from north to south. The river is sustained by snow pack in Colorado and this is a good year with the river running fast and high. Along the entire river, Indian, state, county, and individuals dip their straws into the river and draw off water they need for their uses.
By the time the Rio Grande gets to Texas and Mexico, it is shallow enough in places to walk across, and it’s color is muddy brown. There are packed legal folders full of legal challenges about who owns the water, who gets to use it, and in what quantities. Our Rio Grande empties into the Gulf of Mexico and, in older times, was the lifeblood of farmers, ranchers, outlaws, Indians, miners and immigrants all living inside our state borders.
This afternoon, rafts carry fishermen downstream with paid guides maneuvering clients to some of the best fishing spots.
I don’t know what it cost these fishermen for their guide and raft, but it all adds up to an expensive trout dinner.
The guide will give this sportsman a better than average chance to catch something worth catching.
When you come this far to catch fish you want good pictures to show your buddies back home.
A few extra bucks for a trophy fish, you can brag on, is a good price.
I was told by a brother, Neal, and, by Pat, that the Great Sand Dunes are worth seeing.
Normally, I have blitzed by them, following I-25 all the way to Denver. On this trip to Creede, Colorado, close to Alamosa, I take a side trip to see the big piles of sand.
The dunes get bigger as you drive from the highway deeper into the National Monument.There appears no reason for the dunes to be here amid more natural junipers, high desert grass, cactus. It is, as if, a celestial construction crew got wrong work orders and dumped truckload after truckload of sand until some angel woke up and cancelled the order. In New Mexico, we have our White Sands National Monument, but none of those dunes are as tall as these. Here, the sands seem out of place, but, nature doesn’t make mistakes.
In the National Monument visitor center, there are photos, posters, and displays to educate those who want to be educated. Visitors can climb the dunes by following a path out to them from the visitor center. You take off your shoes before you reach the dunes and wade across a little stream. Visitors, who are hiking up the dunes, look like ants trying to touch the lazy white drifting clouds.
Not staying long, I get back on the road to Creede, Colorado.
I’m guessing, even if I don’t see the dunes again, this would be one of the first places a tour of cats, from Japan ,would stop and spend an entire day.
County road 40, cutting away from Colorado State Highway 69, takes me straight to the Alvarado Campground in the nearby Sangre de Cristo mountains – the end of a long driving day from New Mexico.
The campground,in the Pike and San Isabel National Forests,is where we are camping out for the upcoming 2019 Mountain Hay Fever Bluegrass Festival in Westcliff. It is a summer July, warm, and these brilliant blue and white flowers are growing everywhere in these pastures under these cow’s close protection. This pastoral scene should be printed on a grocery store container of vanilla ice cream or on the front of a milk carton in the local grocery.
County road 40 is two lane and well maintained and flat as the countryside we are cutting through. On each side of the road are barbed wire fences that keep cattle in their fields as well as designating people’s property lines. In old times, ranching folks hung cattle rustlers and used buckshot on kids getting into their front yard gardens. Now, lawyers shoot it out in court for all of us and all kinds of disputes in the sandbox get erased and redrawn as judges have taken the place of our pistols and rifles.
These cows, big black splashes of paint in the middle of this large natural canvas, will soon disappear into darkness, impossible to see their black in the dark. They are strangely mute, grazing, staring lazily across the great distances between us and the towering mountains to the west.
This evening, as the sun drops and night coolness is coming, I can see these cow’s don’t give a damn about fences, or us,or my philosophy, whichever side of the fence they,or we,are on.
I drive past them at 30 miles per hour, the posted speed limit, hopeful that tomorrow’s bluegrass music makes this long drive worth doing.
When you listen to bluegrass music there should be a few cows in the neighborhood,like this, just to make it sound authentic.
The bluegrass music we are going to enjoy should be as unpretentious as these cows.
Setting up camp this evening is a happy chore long overdue.
The mountain range, to the west, rises ten thousand feet plus into the clouds. These clouds, turning dark and ominous,prompt festival help to lower the flaps of our music tent to protect the performers and us, in the audience, from soon to come wind and driving rain.
The mountains are ten to fifteen miles away and there is a time lapse between something forming out there and something reaching here. There is space and distance around us and between us and the peaks, space punctuated by scattered homesteads stuck in the land like fallen arrows from ancient bow and arrows. Neighbors are not within a handshake and going to Westcliff is an activity you do when you need groceries you don’t grow, hardware you can’t make yourself, stuff you want but can probably do without, or the kids just need to get out of the house.
Change happens here, just like everywhere else, but it takes a while longer to get to you.
In the country, you know you are small, tiny, insignificant, a small sentence fluttering in a big book in the wind.
In the country, folks get together on the front porch to watch weather and talk about the harvest.
In the city, folks lock their front doors,don’t get too close to their neighbors, watch news about what is happening world’s away but feel powerless to affect change on their own block.
in the country, the world is what is in front of you that you can touch. You have time to get ready for events to reach you that start way way way out there, in the distance, in the mountains.
Out here, being lost in space, is literally, and figuratively, true.
This little brook gently runs through the Alvarado Campground, following a path of least resistance on it’s way to join a larger river, and then, with that river, rambling all the way to the closest ocean.
Nature’s music refreshes, doesn’t ask for applause, or notoriety, recording contracts, or interviews.
Nature’s songbook is this little brook, wind moving through pine needles in tall trees on a cool clear night, a woodpecker carving his home inside a tree trunk, the rustling of brush as a brown bear scurries off the highway and back into the woods, waves coming into shore as the tide rises, hail hitting the roof of your car in a freak summer storm,deer antlers striking one another as bucks fight for dominance.
In a couple of days, I’ll hear fish songs at Hermit Lakes, breaking the lake’s surface as they greedily gobble dragonflies.
Back in Albuquerque, city melodies will be even more unique,staccato, complex. There will be horns, sirens,bacon sizzling in a frying pan, heavy equipment taking down condemned buildings, nail guns installing shingles, gunshots, light classic jazz in Starbucks, the sound of a well struck golf ball on it’s way towards the pin.
This brook is the music I’m listening to this morning.
Mother Nature, as hear it, is a very good composer.
Indian School is an east- west Albuquerque boulevard that ends at the Embudo Canyon Open Space at the far east side of the city..
The parking lot, at the roads end, is the beginning of a city Open Space area that moves into the Cibola National Forest Wilderness. The nature walks and trails, at the cities edge, open at seven each morning and close at seven each evening. If you are bold, you can hike back as far as you want into the wilderness and camp out all night under the stars.
Along our twice a week scenic exercise hike, Alex and I pass numerous Apache Plumes, cactus, mesquite, juniper trees, and a huge city deep water well enclosed by a chain link fence and guarded by government signs showing statutes that warn bad things happen to those who trespass.Wildlife has hidden itself but you see signs they are close by, if you are observant.
Other hikers are out this early morning, and, as we pass each other on the trail, we all say our hellos cheerfully. Nature lovers are glad to be out even if seeing humans is not what we come to the foothills for.
By the time Alex and I return to the parking lot,more parking spaces have opened up and the lot is looking empty like it does most working days of the week.
You would think there would be more people hiking with a city of almost a million spread as far north, south and west as we can see.
Nature and exercise, however, aren’t part of everyone’s vocabulary.
It is a bit funny to me that we put Open and Close times on the Wilderness and have a locked gate to keep people out.
Last time I looked, the wilderness wasn’t wearing a watch.
I don’t think anything out here runs on our human time tables.
On the average, Albuquerque sees the sun 280 days a year.The U.S. average is 205 days.
This morning the Sandia Mountains are hidden behind low lying clouds and visibility is limited. The clouds have no substance yet they hide the towering rugged peaks on our city’s east side.
If you ask Albuquerque people what they like about the city, most will say, most often, ” the weather.
Now that weather, however, has been ” politicized” it is much more difficult to navigate in conversations. We old crazies, at McDonalds, have debates about “Climate Change” and whether man is big enough to have such an influence.
This morning, the sun is on vacation and wisps of clouds have draped themselves over the mountains like your favorite beach blanket.
The weather man, on tv, will call it ” a cloudy day” with no wind, with a thirty percent chance of seeing the sun in the afternoon.
Walking the trail, I tuck up inside my jacket a little more.
We can talk about weather all we like, but we get what we like and don’t like of it on a regular basis, no matter what theories we have.