As soon as we say we haven’t seen deer, we spot a few in one of the smaller canyons that break away from a larger canyon we are trekking through.
This family unit inspects us as they nip leaves off branches, ears cocked, knowing we were here long before we spotted them. They are large animals with delicate faces, soft lips, long tongues, long thin legs that don’t seem they could support their big bodies, large wide open alert eyes and ears.
I pause for photos,and ,in this natural setting, the animals are majestic.
It is bow hunting season in Albuquerque and some of these guys will be hunted down because they have a set of horns that turn them into trophies.
When American prairies were covered by huge buffalo herds, the Plains Indians would say prayers before riding into the sea of buffalo and bringing a few down for their basic needs. I say a little prayer for these deer this morning as the sun comes over the Sandia’s and the humming of I-40 freeway traffic grows louder through Tijeras Canyon.
I wish these guys and girls good luck and pray hunters forgo hunting season this year.
When the only nature we see is in zoos and photographs, it is too late for a wake up call.
I don’t know for sure, but I think I see a big buck pointing his big telephoto lens at us, getting closeups for his Facebook page..
Going through a hunting season as the target doesn’t seem like much fun.
If I were a true horticulturist, I would know what this bush in my back yard with the pretty white flowers is called.
I would know its scientific and common names. I would know if the plant has medicinal uses, how much water it needs, the proper way to trim it, the best times of the year to transplant. In the city,us city folks don’t always keep up on the nature around us. In jungle villages, even little children know every plant and animal within their touch, how they can help and hurt.
I do like the fact that this getting bigger bush gives me shade, hides a neighbor’s back yard from view,doesn’t take a lot of maintenance and care, has nice flowers and attracts birds and bees.
This busy bee doesn’t pay me any mind as he digs into nature’s lunchbox but I don’t feel like I need to swat him or interrupt his lunch.
In a natural unwritten reciprocal agreement,the bee helps the plant reproduce and he gets a good meal in return.
I might be a city boy but I admire nature when it buzzes me awake.
When flowers and bees are out and about, it means it is warm and sunny and winter is a long long way off.
Us guys have appreciation for flowers as they have sometimes move conversation between men and women towards the birds and bees.
This guy is a very polite,though noisy,dinner guest.
Dining, while hovering in mid air, is a tricky and remarkable skill.
He would make a damn good helicopter pilot in the next U.S. nation building exercise.
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 say this is a good definition of paradise and they wouldn’t be wrong.
Whether all this natural wonder is by design or the result of chaotic chance is a question I ponder with the same intensity of a kid playing with a rubric cube.
None of us three say anything to upset the balance this evening, our planet a colorful top spinning on a sidewalk, a perpetual motion machine set in motion with one flip of God’s wrist.
The fish this evening 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 officials, and even 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 for twenty or thirty years, even if it seems way too high, is money well spent.
I was told by a brother, Neal, and, by Pat, that the Great Sand Dunes are worth a long look.
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 from the other side of the freeway.
The dunes get bigger as one drives 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 sand hills seem out of place, but, nature can’t be accused of making mistakes.
At the National Monument visitor center, there are photos, posters, and displays to educate those who want to be educated on sand. 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, at the end of the path, and wade across a little stream. Visitors, hiking up the dunes, look like ants trying to touch the lazy white drifting clouds and, for a quarter, you can watch the ants through telescopes anchored into an outside patio stone wall.
Not having time to stay long, I get back on the road to Creede, Colorado and Hermit’s Lake.
I’m guessing, even if I don’t see these dunes again, this would be one of the first places a tour of cats, from Japan ,would stop and spend an entire day romping in the kitty litter.
Next time, there will be more time here to take off my shoes and climb these sand mountains, my feet and toes sinking deep as I struggle to move higher up the sides of the dune’s hills.
It will be dark when I get to Hermit’s Lake and Richard and Maria will be expecting me.
Even retirement doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get where you say you are going to be, when you say you are going to be there.
Seeing cats going down these hills on boogie boards would be amazing.
All this sand has been stored here until Mother Nature needs it for a new project.
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 camp out during the 2019 Mountain Hay Fever Bluegrass Festival in Westcliff. It is a summer July, warm, and these brilliant blue and white flowers are growing in no discernible order in these cow pastures. 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 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 the music sound more authentic.
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 much more staccato and complex. There will be car 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 a comforting, simple, legato melody.
Mother Nature, as hear her this morning, is a very good composer.
Her melodies remind me that there is no need to hurry.
I don’t have to think I need to change anything here.