Thursday, June 6, 2013

adapting to the desert.

I've been living in southwest Colorado for three weeks now and haven't felt so much as a drop of rain against my face. Every morning, a cloudless blue sky flutters behind the thin curtains and sunshine streams in through my bedroom windows. I've stopped carrying raingear "just in case" -- last week I went on a three-day trip down the Rio Chama and against all my training and better judgement, brought neither a rainjacket nor a tent. I'm growing used to sleeping under the stars.

Farmers and ranchers are praying for rain, and the local newspapers are full of stories about drought. But it doesn't feel like a drought. The hillsides are verdant, the trees are topped with bursts of spring green, our garden is flourishing. But whereas summer in New England is a nonstop explosion of green and growing things, the color will only last so long here in the West. Even in good years, anything not artificially irrigated will wither and turn brown by the end of July. I have to tell myself that my idea of beauty -- the one ingrained by my cultural and environmental upbringing in the Northeast -- is not the only one. My friend Montana thinks there is nothing more beautiful than an undulating sea of gold and brown or a jumble of bare rock. Just as concepts of human beauty differ between cultures, so do ideas of environmental beauty.

In the midst of the dry air and endless sunshine, it amazes me that some of the most beautiful rivers in the world still flow, and that life here feels rich rather than scarce. I've spent as much time on and in the water here on the edge of the desert than I did in the middle of the rainforest, and given the lack of precipitation, the gift of water feels even more miraculous.

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