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A Rio Grande Story

January 4, 2014
Rio Grande Sunset
Rio Grande Sunset
I hear the cranes are flying ahead of the storms. Winter’s coming. The moon is high in the sky, like a half eaten cookie, and the stars are strewn like crumbs showing faintly through the moon cast light.
Who remembers spring?
The Rio Grande was flowing high and the catfish were swimming upstream to spawn, but who remembers? Who remembers the spring flowers that have turned to straw and rattle in the wind? The cottonwoods have turned yellow where the springs break out of the mountain, and the rushes too are turning to straw and will soon rattle in the wind beneath the waxing and waning moon. Who remembers all the promises, the smiles, the sweet, sweet words spoken under a warmer and gentler breeze?
Button your coat. The wind is restless in the pines tonight.
Swimming Upstream

Swimming Upstream


That the cottonwoods still stand
Overshadowing the bank.
That the catfish still swim upstream
In the spring to procreate,
That the willows still
Grow on the sometimes
Islands in the stream.
There where the datura grows
On the canal banks with their
Perfect white trumpets denying
There deadliness,
There where the sunflowers form
Congregations that bend their heads
To follow the sun,
There where the snowy egrets gather to muck in the mud…
That the warm hand of spring will brush
Your cheek once again.
The Flood at High Tide watercolor by A. Leon Miler

The Flood at High Tide watercolor by A. Leon Miler

When I was younger, I walked on the Oregon beach on a rainy, drizzling, chill, winter day. I found a dogfish all tangled up in seaweed just above where the waves were breaking on the sand. I don’t know what led to its demise. If the seagulls or the ravens did not get it, then the next tide did. The smell of the ocean and seaweed is quite a bit removed from the smell of cottonwoods on the banks of the Rio Grande, but I know the cold ocean waves still come in, still pull back, as certain as the fog horn blowing through the early morning mist like a warning in a dream, though it lies a thousand miles away. There are reefs lying under the rain and the waves, submerged beneath your closed eyes. Don’t run aground sleepwalking. Don’t let contrary currents undermine your footing and sweep you away before the gray morning arrives to sweep your dreams and slumber away.
A good, rational argument may tell you why, but it seldom wins your heart, while good art may, like a warm hug and embrace, win your heart, but leave you still wondering if the kisses were true. Don’t throw your shoe at the argument; no, make it prove that its love is true, let it artfully reach for your heart, while teasing the dust from the corners of your mind.
Lady of the Lake

Lady of the Lake

I’ve been told that the devil has said:
“I take men’s souls one at a time, I don’t need to do the apocalypse thing.”
You don’t dialog with the devil. There’s nothing, really, to talk about, there is no common ground, just a question of who’s getting title to your soul.
Arthur won his battles even at Mt. Badon, but in Mordred there was treachery and death. They say that a crane’s beak shrouded in mist resembles a sword being held up above the water by a white robed hand. Some throw their swords into the pool, some their spare change, but whether Lady Luck responds, or shows her hand, or merely waves you on to Avalon, or whether there is a mist shrouded crane daring you to be mystical about what you see is another matter. “But, let’s not go to Camelot, ’tis a silly place”, and beside all that, it’s not in New Mexico, so, no need, really, to go there.
Lady of the Lake

Lady of the Lake

 The Rio Grande runs through a rift valley, a torn piece of the continent caused by the east bank’s refusal to move at the same pace as the west side of the rift. This has done some violence to the surrounding geography. The mountain that shadows our house as the sun goes down, stands as the ruin of an ancient volcano, the eastern edge of a massive caldera. Above the far side of the valley lies the Quebradas, over which the morning sun rises, a sedimentary tilt of layered rock broken into ravines and arroyos, a sandstone paradise where ancient fossils live on in stone. The ocotillos grow there with their brilliant scarlet flowers, mesquite and yucca, various opuntia cacti and Apache plume, as do the junipers with liberal doses of desert grasses and desert flowers in season.
 The river begins its run in the mountains of Colorado, picking up snow water and red dirt as it goes south.  By the time it gets to us in Socorro, the rift valley is filled with several thousand feet of sediment. The river has done its job well, making a very good place for growing chiles and the things that make life worth living here. The river keeps on moving, a long, skinny avenue for the water heading south, eventually to the Gulf of Mexico. The river did not name itself, did not make a claim to the title of “the Grand River”. It’s not that pretentious. It’s just an avenue for things floating downstream and things swimming upstream, a place from which cottonwoods can drink, an avenue for fish and turtles, a resting place for the cranes in the winter, a refuge for deer and wild turkeys.
In the spring, we gather our jackets, our lanterns, our fishing poles, toss them in the back of the pickup and go on down to the river, turning where the blacktop ends onto the gravel and dirt canal road. There we pick our spot between the cottonwoods, light our lanterns, and cast out into the darkness and silence, into the sound of water moving, gurgling, sloshing, but, always moving. The bait hits the water with a plop, out beyond where the light reaches, swings with the current and drifts into the deep spot up against the bank downstream from where we sit and wait in silence.
One Comment leave one →
  1. January 6, 2014 12:27 am

    Reblogged this on aleonmiler and commented:

    Changing the title to see how it affects the response…..

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