3, 187.3 miles and a whole lot of wide open spaces

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Filson-2Filson-3Filson-4Did you guys know PB took a job detail down in New Mexico for the better part of this spring and summer?  (I know we have a lot to catch up on here!)  Well he did, and I just returned from an incredible trip down there to visit him and the new landscape he is learning to love.  We both hold an incredibly intimate and highly revered spot in our hearts for the southwestern landscape.  These spaces are open, raw, and decorated with such intensely severe beauty it sometimes makes my heart bleed in despair for the fight and tenacity desert life owns.  I never realized how much I took water for granted until visiting these high desert mountains and seeing just how even a trickle of water can support an entire green oasis.  Water is sparse here, and by sparse I mean you can go days without seeing even a drop of it.  And, what makes it worse is there is sign of where it should be flowing sweet as a freshly squeezed lemonade on a hot summers day everywhere I look.  Each round of the bend, dip in the valley, depression in the mountain hillside is a disappointing tease and an intense reminder of just how different desert living is than my now apparent spoiled lush mountain valley living.

After hiking two-and-a-half hours in 90 plus degree heat at just shy of 9,000 feet, all I can think about is water.  Water to drink, water to swim in, water to stick my dusty, sunburned, cactus scratched and heat blistered toes in.  Water, water, water…!  I’m exaggerating a little bit, but seriously it has never been so clear to me how distinctly I have become the ecosystem I most comfortably call home.  I belong in the high granite mountains, the ones where rivers and lakes dictate how life leaves and enters existence.  How existence is by nature intrinsically tied to the blood and rhythm of all things aqueous.  How obvious it is that I am made of water, 75% to be somewhat exact.  I’ve never felt so weak and exposed with this new and humbling knowledge of just how limited I’ve become based on this one natural resource.

As I sit here writing this, at 8,920 feet in the Gila Wilderness, I am both proud of my ability to have lasted 6 days down here, in temperatures well above my normal functioning comfort zone, but also a little disappointed in myself with this newly discovered limiting weakness…heat and no water.  It makes me feel even worse as the whole time I’ve been down here I’ve taken a searing desire to find out and soak up all I can learn about how the indigenous people and nomadic tribes who passed through this area used this landscape to their advantage in their fight for survival.  And, not fight like war or battle, but just a daily fight to hunt, gather and grow enough food to nourish themselves and their tribal kin.  A fight to build homes in the cliffs above whatever water source they could find.  A fight to limit disease, stay hidden from enemies and advance their society with intuitive cultivation, tool making and necessity living skills.  I am in awe of these people who ranged these lands in the early and truly wild days, pre horrible-horribleness that plagued the indigenous people for centuries to come.

It again makes me feel weak and soft as we leave the basically untouched Mimbres Valley and return back to the nearest city; now decorated with car dealerships, grocery stores filled with boxed crackers, sliced bologna, american cheese, enriched white bread and processed snack cakes; instead of the small-eared corn, pole beans and squash that beckon to grow tall and nourish any willing and mother-earth loving soul.  Geepers, how did we go from that to this…how did we end up here?

I am now delightfully cooled off as I found a shady and sheltered spot on the side of Signal Peak amongst the sweet cream soda smelling Ponderosa pine trees, the always steadfast Douglas-fir and the lovely catkin wearing Gambel oak.  I now realize I’ve already adapted to this new landscape, I can survive here…heck I’m sure I can even thrive here.  It’s one of the very favorite things about myself, if I can be quite frank, is that I am a landscape chameleon.  Any place I get to call home, no matter for how long or short, I learn to love it.  I believe this connection happens because I throw myself head first into exploring these new places.  I put a backpack on, shoes on my feet, hat on my head and head out of my threshold to the timeless abyss of landscape and space.

What a trip, what a truly incredible and enchanting trip, friends.

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Breathtaking, right?! And can you believe this is only about one-quarter of my favorite photos…phew!  Thanks for letting me photo-bomb you.

Also, I finished this book while I was down there.  I can see why Georgia O’Keefe fell so head over heels in love with this landscape.  It is truly the land of enchantment.

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5 thoughts on “3, 187.3 miles and a whole lot of wide open spaces

  1. the rocky buttresses look like cathedrals to my eye.
    such wide-open spaces.
    and such love fill it all….

    blessings to patrick in his smokejumping….and blessings to your lone heart, dear hannah….

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