Monday, August 04, 2008

Upper Rio Grande Watershed: Rio de los Pinos to Conejos River

Flanked by the Conejos River and Rio de los Pinos, this watershed includes Pinorealosa and Osier Mountain, along with many excellent creeks (named and unnamed), alpine meadows, and river bottoms. Controlled burns and selective logging seem to be keeping the woodland open and healthy, while fire or beetles have left enough dead and downed timber to create unnavigateable thickets, quite conducive (necessary and sufficient) for unfragmented, Wilderness landscape.

Thin, filamentous, and/or deeply pinnatifid leaves, everything with prickles, spines, or a dense covering of hair (tomentous) -- but not many poisonous. Hairs serve to insulate as well as defend. ... In the wetlands, poisonous and fleshy plants dominate. Elk and bear, fire and grazing, Rorippa, Mimulus, Penstemon, Geum, myriad rodents scurrying away in all directions, fawns hiding breathless in the grass, hellebores and corn lilies, the 'Umbel of God', ululation, mountain thunderstorms...

The coastal fog of California, gentled by a 1,000 miles travel. I heed the thunder, and elevate the advent of rain above dull annoyance. This morning, I climbed the cliffs above our campsite. When I reached the top I felt like crying. Don't know why. Looking out over the watershed I understand the pattern. All water runs downhill. There is a band of trees from a lower line where it is wet enough to grow to an upper line where it is too cold to grow. There is a line in-between those two, above which precipitation exceeds evaporation. All rivers originate above this line, in their Headwaters.

I was always thinking of new, clever, ways of getting ahead of Nature, ahead of myself, beyond lightspeed and Saturation, entropy, Capacity. Rainbows multiplying from the first: Asgaard, Bridge to Heaven. But why does it curve back to Earth? Everyone sees a different shape and distance, depending on their perspective. The kind of rain mosquitoes can still swim through to sting. Lightening and that particular sound of the thunder rolling off of the peculiar and idiosyncratic topography up-valley.

But what if the world refuses to be ordered by the human mind? We know honeybees can be trained to show preference between human faces, but will they ever understand them? Then how too will we ever understand our world? Words are useless if we rely on them to a fault, if natural variation is continuous and nonlinear, yet we expect it to conform by our contingent, evolutionarily-derived logical architectures and cognitive biases.

On the backbone of the continent, the Genesis of the Southwest; a looking-glass world, mountains in every direction, but the brooding presence of the Great Plains felt in the passes opening between. At times we thought we were in Kansas, or safe away in our beds dreaming, but we were in the San Luis Valley, ripening in the sun.

You have driven up and down the mountain valleys, the flanks that lead up from below or down from above, the highways and streams of rivers and clouds. You have stood, still, in the center of the valley, under Blanca, for days. Transfixed interest, blossoms like dollar bills in the breeze. You have climbed high up where there is more air than land, yet still cannot seem to breathe enough and the mountain says enough and the Thunderstorm says Enough and you flee their mutterings and grumblings

Storms billow on surrounding mountains, then range over the landscape. Powerful rain, thunder and lightening on into the night...sigh... San Juan rainstorms. The next day the storms grow but, despite our hurry to avoid them, only blow for early Evening Entertainment, and on into the night. Next day, storms brush by, delivering a soaking with bits of hail mixed in. These storms build on the San Juans, blow low over the valley --but nothing can slow them until the Sangres, where they slide silently up the crest, lick their salty skins, run a tongue along sharpened teeth, and watch the wounds of mankind's world.

Where have all the willows gone? The heart of the landscape dug out, munched, passed, trampled dirt. The magic and will to live that flowed wild, healthy, worshipful. Destruction AND Growth. Unsimplified. Wet, unique.

All land in the West is "wetland"; fear not. Although nothing fits into categories anyway, each consciousness, attuned to an unique understanding, attempting an unbiased account of who-knows-what for someone else. Under the roof of the world, wet with the aspen, the carex, and the rivers; mountain ridges diverge until they peter out, rivers seek their breathren and converge until they become one with the ocean. Flowing water flows together - it lubricates itself; whereas water soaking into sponge, expands -- it flees the mutual weight of multitude.

Oh now gentle rain, Conejos River hopping along...who understands?

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