Here in the high desert of New Mexico, our river is one of the most endangered rivers in North America. I didn’t even know that a river could be endangered until I took up residence in “The City Different” (Santa Fe), but ours is. Our river runs dry from drought, eerily and starkly absent of water. People walk and dogs romp in the river bed of ancient sand and rock and ruins. In times past, a once thriving river flowed from the mountains down through and beyond the capital city.
Along with long-time locals who remember those days with nostalgia, I too yearn for the water’s return. Thankfully, a dedicated and caring community with the shared vision of a restored river organize and galvanize to bring the river back.
As a community at large, we approach restoring the river–and healing the earth–in myriad ways. Open to all are community celebrations, labyrinth walks, or singing and sharing intentions, gratitude and prayers at a new water medicine wheel that now graces a place near the river. It was there that we planted and watered trees in a sacred ceremony just today.
The city releases precious water from the reservoir this time of year for one glorious week. Imagine water flowing in the desert! Birds return, children and dogs (and adults like me) wade and play in the gentle stream making sounds of merriment that delight many hearts. We all spring into great hope by the musical sound of trickling water and the greening of hundreds of hearty willow trees planted lovingly along the sandy riverbed to prevent erosion. When the sudden monsoon rains arrive–if they arrive–the deep roots of the trees will help retain moisture instead of the water and riverbank whisking wildly downstream in flash floods. Still, we all pray and dance for rain, rain, rain!
With or without rain, in these drought conditions we are in grave danger of fire, fire, fire! Our truck and camper are packed and poised for the road, not just for our frequent weekend camping trips in Mother Nature, but to be “ready to roll” to where the air is clear should the Southwest go up in smoke again. We live with the irony of welcoming rain while knowing that just one lightening strike is all it takes to spark a fire that can decimate and char thousands of acres of land, severely upsetting ecosystems within ecosystems and most of the life contained within them. One of the many things I have learned from living in the Southwest is a much deeper appreciation for water–and how to preserve it–more than ever. Joni Mitchell’s song rings true in that “You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone”.
We live among many wild creature companions in the natural world as subtle as the prairie dogs standing as if in salutation, the bold black raven in flight, the vast open sky that invites us to see for miles and miles and the beautiful, albeit not lush, flora and fauna. They are my teachers, these survivors of changes harsh and relentless. The majestic beauty of the desert in bloom, the intensity of potential danger, the easeful social interactions with a calmer ilk of humans and the slower pace of life make living in this raw and rugged landscape worthwhile. It is here that I am healed of what ails me, drying the fear from my flesh and stripping me to the bone. In my next post, I will share a poem I recently wrote that says more about flesh and bones, a turning from the inside that which needs to dry out and return to dust.
Speaking of dust, I end with a fond farewell to honor these loved ones whose souls have recently flown on to new horizons:
Bill Rives, Barbara DeAngelis, Justin Hatfield, Faye Brown, Justine-Witlox Becker, C. Everette Koop, Ritchie Havens and Aaron Swartz. And happy trails to these fine canines: Tina Tiny Ting, Jake and Oboe.
Who would you like to honor and remember? May our departed loved ones rest in peace and may your thirst always be quenched.