THE PLACE WHERE YOU LIVE
Sandra D. Lynn
ONLY A FEW BLOCKS from the con- crete and glass heart of Albuquerque’s hustle and glare is a ribbon of green,
the breathing, chlorophyll backbone of New
Mexico. It is called the bosque, Spanish for
“woods.” It is a Rio Grande – linked woodland of cottonwoods, willows, many other
native plants, and too many fiercely invasive
non-natives. The bosque all up and down
the Rio Grande has been abused — cleared
for agriculture and city-building, carelessly
burned, invaded by introduced plants, denied the seasonal flooding that allows it to
reproduce and thrive. But in 2010 it still
follows the river, still edges it in emerald.
In a place of relentless sun and aridity, it is
essential to many creatures, including me.
Even though the rambunctious twenty-first century is just a walk or a short drive
away, in certain places the bosque looks
relatively untouched, a true forest, a separate world in our midst. Old cottonwoods
form the canopy—trees with massive,
gray, furrowed trunks, sixty feet tall and
more—and have assumed the dramatic
architectural beauty of age. Their heavy-limbed branches bend and twist like the
arms of flamenco dancers; their leaves
shake like tambourines with the slightest
breeze. In early summer, seeds embedded
in cottony flu= float through the air thick
as tardy snowflakes arriving in the wrong
season. All they want is river-flooded soil
to alight on, but it too often can’t be found.
For years I have heard that the bosque
is dying, its signature cottonwoods disappearing. But in a few places, the red,
muddy river has again been allowed to
flow freely over its banks after snowmelt or
summer thunderstorms. I can stand at its
edge, see thousands of tiny, day-old cottonwood sprouts crowded there just beyond
my toes, and feel pure relief and joy.
The Finger Lakes,
TODAY THE WIND turbines, new to this landscape, churn slowly in a
faded denim sky like goddesses dressed in
white, flowing in some kind of prayerful
meditation over the leafless wooded hills. I
admire them, the hope they represent, the
grace with which they move—never hurried, strong, assured. They symbolize humankind’s ability to work with, and not
apart from, nature. But I know that symbol
is still an illusion, nothing is as it seems.
They have risen over hills cleft with
shale and slate ravines journeyed by the
splash and pools of staircase waterfalls
flowing out into the Finger Lakes of New
York State. Four-hundred-foot-tall turbines, arching white wings two hundred
feet wide, swirl sweet wind into a frosting we can taste. A reward our neighbors
were paid dearly to host. High Tor Wildlife
Management Area is a humpback genuflecting at their side.
You can see them for miles away. From
my homestead I can count forty on a leafless day. Further away, along the stretch of
Canandaigua Lake where the eagle nests,
you can see them spinning in counterclockwise smiles of promises gone astray.