Sunday, March 16, 2008

Foreshadowing the Puerco River

I feel like we're going off to war. Moving equipment, each day more preparation that builds on the gear and supplies and tools we've already shuffled and hauled and schlepped all over the landscape. Each step requires previous and prepares further. This is my third tour: a whole new river flowing through a new watershed held in the lap of new mountains, mesas, and wild country: big water, thickets, and quicksand. A vast brown landscape that requires new color words: burnt umber, ochre, chocolate, burgundy. New growth shows green around the edges.

To get to our encampment you take the exit for Placitas, but go west up the long slow slope of Rio Grande alluvium, while the hills of the Jemez slowly embrace you, and you wind between redrock mesas with deep canyons and cliffs. Onto the Rez, past White Mesa's warm pastels, past the arroyos full of cold salt, unnaturally blighted. Past Zia pueblo, past the dirt parking lot full of cars and people, lit by the neon LOVE RANCH sign, past San Ysidro. Into dark silence, past Cabezon Peak, solitary, unmistakable, dominating the first view (looking South) into the Puerco valley.

Puerco; an ugly name that changed the place to fit it. This used to be the "breadbasket of New Mexico", before the 1800's chewed it to dust, until it had nothing left to give, and it was abandoned... it had served as the hearth and heart of the Anasazi pueblo people, whose empire encompassed the thousand-roomed ruins at Chaco, still abandonded and brooding in a valley to the Northwest above the Puerco river.

You will find me standing there, breathing into the spaces, planting trees.

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