So much of nature as he is ignorant of, so much of his own mind does he not yet possess.
–Ralph Waldo Emerson
On Memorial Day weekend Mai and I explored the New Mexico corner of the Colorado Plateau. A vivid place beneath a steel sky. Rivers meet and flow past monumental rock formations. Canyons fall below snowcapped peaks. Diversity characterizes the landforms, biota and cultures. These photos are from Angel Peak, Kutz Canyon, Bisti Wilderness, and Aztec Ruins.
Silence rules the Bisti Wilderness. The rock shapes leap out at you and change the way we see the world. Bisti is dreamlike, opening the senses and awakening the powers of imagination.
History speaks through these lands. As Goethe said, if you want to study the ancients, “direct your attention to the real world, and seek to express it, since that did the ancients while they lived.” The timeless quality contrasts with the sprawling energy infrastructure. Wells, roads, transmission lines, pipelines and equipment are rapidly changing the Four Corners landscape. Diesel generators run all the time in Kutz Canyon, their constant thrum shaking the stillness. The air quality is a factor, too, with ozone and methane pollution damaging the atmosphere.
Yet this grand and intimate land is still achingly beautiful. We need more advocates for a more sustainable American West. A better integration of shared values with an enduring way of life.
The land and people are resilient here. Instead of increasing landscape fragmentation we can act to keep it whole, embracing the challenge of protecting the ecological health of the land. From the high plateaus adorned with horses above the San Juan, to the exquisite canyon colors, and mountains reefed with white snows to the north, this place evokes immense gratitude.
“For answers to the question of how to live, you must turn not to the gods, not to history, not to the state or the family, but to nature.” —Robert D. Richardson, from Emerson on the Creative Process
Resources–Conservation Science Partners quantifies land loss in Disappearing West—
“Every 2.5 minutes, the American West loses a football field worth of natural area to human development. This project maps a rapidly changing landscape, explores what is being lost, and profiles a new movement for conservation that is gaining ground.”