Red Mesa. The redness of the rock, and of the plants as well. Even the grass is red at the base. Perhaps that’s just the color it is—it might be Little Bluestem, such a contradictory name—or maybe it picks up the iron in the soil. Tracts of red sandstone are covered—covered—with knobby, black, marble-size concretions.
At the edge of the rugged canyon is a sheepherder’s monument, a two-legged stack of red sandstone reminiscent of an Inuit inuksuk. Old cairns mark the sheep trail down into the barranca.
Three big red potsherds lie where a pot was dropped, hundreds of years ago.
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.
Red Mesa. Up the roughest canyon to the plunge-pool cave, the scoured sandstone channels. We put our backs against the stone and listened to the Ponderosa sigh. In the midst of this communion I found a thermos of hot chocolate had come open in my pack.
Along the arroyo I picked up a clump of breast feathers, each pointed with a tiny dark heart.