The Syncline: The sandstone ponds had had a flashflood through them. In the lower pools the willows were torn and full of wreckage, but the higher ones were beautiful. We went in naked on the sandy, gravely mud.
Polliwogs and froglets nibbled us. We slid down the algae-coated water chutes of the linked pools; the stream’s steady drip from pool to pool became overflow as our bodies displaced water.
So quiet! Wind in the cottonwoods, sun on the washed stone, warm breeze on bare skin. Absolute peace.
I’d never seen live water on Red Mesa before. High up it was milky, coming off the pale-yellow-to-gray sands and clays; below it was a rich red, thick with mud. We couldn’t get any wetter, so we waded right through the freshets that were neither sun-hot nor rain-cold but somewhere in between.
On the highway home, just east of the Ojito road, an arroyo roared down like ocean waves. Astonishing.
Jemez foothills in thunder season. A rattler was getting the heck out of there. A million millipedes the color of violins were footing it furiously, looking like baby snakes.
Jan said, “It’s the crawliest day I’ve seen in a long time.”*
In the Jemez Mountains we hiked among the Tent Rocks: eerie, beautiful. Pink-white ashy pumice forms teepees, minarets, cupolas, gables, totem poles, shrines—their bases scalloped like coconut-cream popsicles, their tops jagged as blades. Don’t slide off; by the time you got to the bottom you’d be, not just dead, but completely skinned by volcanic glass. As we crept along the steep sides of the hills each of us touched the slope with one hand.
The ash is full of obsidian, Apache Tears.
Peralta Canyon, Jemez: pictographs in red ochre. Finger marks, in groups along ridges of rock next to the creek; one faint handprint; stars, turtles, and this pretty sun face.
Unlike those of the classic Zia symbol, all its rays are of equal length. The slanted ones may be feathers. It had been painted with a finger, and seemed to be subtly smiling.
Hiking in the volcanic world of the Jémez Mountains, whose pavement of shattered obsidian has been mined by flint-knappers for twelve thousand years. Among the glittering prehistoric shards, a recently discarded cigar.
Cochití Golf Course nudges the Jémez wilderness. As we walked Jan told the story of finding, at the foot of a tall Ponderosa a mile from the course, about fifty white golf balls within a radius of thirty feet.
That’s one disillusioned raven.