The Way Home

I can’t say why I love this land the way I do. Maybe it’s the years of walking the same paths, of watching the seasons cycle in and out, the droughts come and go. Perhaps it is simply that I have so long been held in the strong arms of this arid landscape.

In any case, I welcome the shifting seasons that return us to the arroyos and piñon-juniper hills that surround us. We leave behind the high mountains, with their lush green summers and brilliant fall colors. (Long gone are the days of our radical adventures skiing and winter camping.)

Now we just mosey. Up and down the same paths we’ve taken for years. The occasional coyote, a cawing raven. Sunlight shining through the lacy gramma grass. Onto our faces.

We know these well worn trails by heart.

We’re home.

::

 

River Blessing

The River Blessing is my favorite community ritual.

It’s been happening for a couple hundred years in this same spot–San Isidro, the patron saint of farmers, is brought to the river in a procession. There’s lot’s of singing, and flowers.

Some years, there’s no water in the river. Some years, there is.

I can’t help but wonder if maybe it’s us who are blessed by the river, and not the other way around.

River Love

What a glorious and busy week it’s been in these parts.

I was consumed with getting ready for this reading featuring fifteen contributors from the book I edited (it’s still forthcoming, but soon, soon).  Yes, before I quit plastic I had a life as a literary activist. (I should put that on my tax forms instead of Extreme Eco Housewife.) The reading was dedicated to honoring a vital but much neglected part of our community: our river which was once named most endangered river in America. We had music, poems, and stories from some of the most talented writers and musicians in town, and a wonderful packed house.

Here I am giving my little speech at the beginning. The reading was in a gallery currently showing an exhibit about the Santa Fe River. Fitting, right? Basically what I said in my talk was this: “Our stories, poetry, songs, and art are a crucial part of breathing life back into the river. I believe this kind of praise and honoring feed it in a vital way, and that they are possibly as essential as water. For a river can flow with water and still be invisible and neglected if it doesn’t live inside us…By re-storying the river we bring it back to life in our hearts and minds, smoothing the way for its physical restoration.”

Have you gifted your river, mountain, forest, shoreline, woodland, canyon with a story-song-picture lately?

On the Land

Hiking familiar trails in every season makes me feel most a part of this land.

Sweet smelling, abundant land.

And to see this girl growing and coming to know it, too–oh my.

::

Thanks to the path, thanks to the feet.

Thanks to the many wonders they bring us to meet.

Mending the Land

My garden is a small part of what I consider home. Home is the high mountains rising up in all directions and framing the huge valley with various watersheds winding towards the Rio Grande. This open space, with the vistas I know with my eyes closed and the trails I have followed in all seasons, is my home.

Pretty as it is, this is a landscape that has been severely altered and damaged in the last few centuries. Like so many things in the West, and, I suspect, landscapes everywhere, it is close to impossible to tell what is “natural” and what is a remnant of a once intact ecosystem.

The other defining feature of my home ground is the river. Once free-flowing and healthy, today it’s dry as a bone save for what the city water managers decide to release from the reservoir that supplies this town with its drinking water. The river today is a deep, severely eroded ditch largely denuded of plant and animal life, and heartbreaking to behold. Despite this, we walk it almost daily. It doesn’t always run with water, but contains the flow of our days.

I say all this as a preface to my garden post, as a bit of grounding that will help you to see why I consider nurturing this small piece of land an act of healing. For years my garden has suffered because of my stinginess with water. I couldn’t justify watering a few lettuce plants at the cost of the river. My efforts at conservation yielded not much more than bitter greens. The city gives saved water to developers, the cycle of overuse continues. Now I see watering this land as an integral part of restoring the river. Water soaks through my rich soil, trickling back into the water table. The water I use nurtures a kind of ecology, devised by me, yes, in a sort of hit or miss way, but an ecology nonetheless. It sustains insects, bees, birds, and abundant plant life. It is a patch of soil that is fed and cared for rather than stripped and neglected.

Here’s the huge pathway that used to divide two of my garden beds. (Both of which were in the shade, as it happens.) I spent this spring turning it into fertile beds. Which brings me to another kind of healing–the gift that comes from regular connection with the land. From relating to it in the intimate way that is the gardener’s–touching, digging, sowing, watering, harvesting, smelling, sensing. From the give and take of energy exchanged. From the mutual care-taking that happens when one eats food grown from the soil one has fed. This is healing of another kind of cultural wound, the kind that comes from disconnection with natural cycles, removal from food production, and an acceptance of the loss to human and plant communities that is its inevitable result.

The next level of healing that takes place in the humble garden is of the broken system we are so entrenched in–the system that keeps us reliant on imported food, petroleum powered corporate agriculture, and an economic system that doesn’t aid our communities. At the same time we are shut off from our neighbors, our land, our water supply, and our own resourcefulness. It’s a question of dependency on the System vs. interdependence with Place.

So that’s why I water my garden now. By hand, often, and thoroughly. That’s why I turn kitchen scraps into black gold, and keep on trying. It doesn’t always yield what I hope for. But at the same time it yields so much more.

And each year we become a little more whole, my land and I.

A Special Thank You to Old Man Winter

Lot’s of gratitude in our house these days for the super abundant snow pack blanketing our mountains.

Seeping into the earth, down the mountainside, spilling through our taps and, blessedly, into our most beloved and dry river.

Our walks have meandered down from the ridge tops we frequent in the winter back into this once-again running, much neglected riverbed.

We hope for a long season of flow, the health of the willows and native plants, the birds and beavers, all the creatures that share this waterway.

And give a special thanks for the watering of our own thirsty souls.

Postcards from Mama and Papa’s House

In the home:

On the land:


We took a little journey this week to my parent’s house. They live in paradise (a very long drive from everywhere, I might add). There’s magpies sailing through the big sky, generous storms, majillions of stars, the heart filling smell of sagebrush all around, and a landscape that has nourished our family for many good years.

In a few months my folks are taking a big step and moving to a house just down the road from us here in the big city. We’re so excited to have them closer. I mean, how wonderful is that pastel/water color board my mama turned her coffee table into for Cora? It is exciting to have our family coming together at a time when it will mean so much to Cora. To all of us. Still, I can’t help but be a little bit sad to lose regular contact with the other member of our family, this beautiful land that we all love so well.

There are many landscapes I love and consider a part of me. But this one is so wrapped up with my identity, my experience “coming of age,” that it will always be sacred to me. Like family, the land we love runs through our veins and memories. It lives in our stories, and is the link between our future and past. It sustains us as surely as any kind of love.

Breaking Trail

It’s not always easy getting out the door and up the mountain

{inner and outer storms, missing mittens, spilled tea, etc.}

The adventure begins when we give in, and give way…

{I said Cora needed a nap, he said if we hurried we’d get first tracks.}

…When we learn to glide through the realm of what is.

{He was right.}

Sometimes, not always, but sometimes, we find our way.

{So was I.}

For all of it

For the days of hard work and the sweet rest that follows;

for naps with my little one, and the time we spend awake before even the roosters next door crow;

for a return to pen and paper and the stories my heart wants to tell;

for the challenges of tension and hardness that gives way to connection and softness;

for the icicles crashing from the northern eaves of this home and the leaves poking from wet earth like the return of old friends;

for the cycles of creativity and fertility that move us from production to fallowness, and from speaking to listening;

for the mystery of all of this unfolding,

I give thanks.

::

I made this little scene with cutouts from a calendar years ago, and sadly have forgotten the name of the artist. Do any locals recognize the work?