I was walking Aw’gy this breezy fall morning while leaves swirled all around us. So many have already detached themselves from their trees only to land in the dunes or have been swept or raked then discarded. But one leaf is going to spend the winter on my desk. It’s the leaf that landed on my head.
It didn’t land really, but sort of plopped – purposefully. With a flat hand I plucked it from fine, graying hair. (It’s a copywriter’s choice. Why say thin when fine will do? And, it’s in a ponytail. A sort of personal oxymoron.)
“Thanks,” I said out loud, studying the fine oak leaf in my hand.
Pin Oak, I know. Pinnate lobes, I thought, and alternating, not opposite. The base of the stem looked slightly green, telling me it had had a healthy life. I studied the fine veins. It had a few small blemishes and a couple of warts. Me too, except for the warts.
How many leaves did I rake this weekend, I thought as I raked a bunch to the curb. How many leaves are on the ground in these dunes? Hmm, how many grains of sand on the beach?
I stopped thinking about how many and became a grateful observer.
We just came back from three weeks on the road. Put 4,900 miles on the tires and spent most of the time exploring southern New Mexico. There were beautiful vistas at almost every turn – the Sacramento Mountains on the way to Cloudcroft, crossing the White Sands Basin, darting through the forest toward Pinos Altos. But the views that come to mind this morning are the grand – my-camera-can’t-do-’em-justice – landscapes en route to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Park.
Years ago when I lived in Chicago and had to drive to the western suburbs, I imagined the clouds as mountains rising out of the horizon. No need to imagine in New Mexico! If you’re not in the mountains you can see them in the distance.
The road from Hillsboro and Kingston – once old mining towns, worth a visit for their tranquility and interesting history – was closed due to pretty serious washouts, so we took the desert highways from Deming through Mimbres into the Gila National Forest. I hadn’t used my “real camera” in quite a while since the phone has decent capacity but in the Gila, it would be a shame to point a phone at the mountains.
“Copperas Creek Volcano” read the roadside marker – remains of a 30-million-year-old volcano. In a way it’s like staring into the Grand Canyon – it’s hard to grasp the magnitude of this natural world.
From this point there are still mountains to climb, rivers to cross and bendy roads to follow to the national park, but it’s worth the drive. You learn the Gila Cliff Dwellings were home to many nomads over time; perhaps most notably the Mogollon Indians about 700 – 800 years ago.
Dear Readers, if you ever get the chance to visit, please do. There’s no place on Earth like the Gila National Forest. Although like many of our country’s national parks, it inspires awe, invokes awe and reminds us we are all connected in so many ways.