Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Canyon Potion: Bighorns on the New Moon Cusp
They were on the move. I'd been watching and photographing the bighorn sheep for weeks as they strayed hither and yon upon a mesa, small groups of ewes and rams lazing in the sun and dropping down the precipitous cliffs to the Rio Pueblo. But now they were gone. I tried another trail, a favorite of mine that unfolded upon a Rio Grande Gorge bench.
The new moon was eight hours away. This time before birth is ripe with magic possibility. The day began warm and springlike but took a turn towards turbulent as a storm front gathered to the west. Charcoal clouds parted with bursts of brilliant sun in potent palette of shadow and tint. The air felt crisp and smelled of new-growth sage.
I was about 20 minutes into my hike when I began to see bighorn sign. Large tracks and scat. No doubt about it, the big boys had recently passed through. I was in between large boulder patches when a canyon wren loosed it's exhilarating trill, the first of the year to my savoring ears. Ah my. I stopped, cupped my ears to better hear better the rounds of this little bird's song. I didn't see the wren, often perched on rock tops to expand the reach of his song. No matter. It had already lifted my spirit well beyond the mundane.
I continued to a high point where I often stop. The drop-offs are steep with splendid views of the gorge and the Rio Grande below. There were more tracks and several piles of scat where I wanted to sit. They were here this morning, I ascertained. I gazed down canyon, shed my jacket, placed camera and binocs on top, and prepared to stretch. Teak loosed a low, short ho-hum growl and laid down in the sun. I took a couple of steps and was jolted from my plan by three bighorn rams laying in the sun at cliff's edge, not 20 feet from my body. I almost stepped on them! A young one and two oldsters with horns as big as the world.
WHOA. I backed up and watched as I reached for my camera. They laid still, gazing side to side and at me as I hung out with them for many precious minutes, pure Zen. There was no signal of irritation or aggression, although I am always alert to a change of heart. How fascinating, I mused. For the past several years I had been the recipient of wild mother and baby visitations. This, and the subsequent message of feminine and planet survival, was the germ of my most recent book. Now here I was, face to face, with the rams, their signs of outward aggression resting upon their placid heads. It was the perfect metaphor. While the mothers may have symbolized the creative force of giving birth through writing, the flurry of promotion and book events was most obviously male -- taking the energy out into the world. I was at home in their presence, soaking in their serene power.as well as their potential to butt heads.
The largest ram finally rose and began to step down the cliff; the next largest followed, stopping to eat snow from a rock top. The small guy took up the rear. They picked their way down to the river but never lost sight of me, as they stopped to look up. I left my cliff side perch and returned to my jacket. Humbly appreciative of their gift, I didn't need to encroach any longer. I returned to Teak as movement caught my eye on a faraway cliff, where females dotted the steep red rock as they made their way to the mesa top. A distant reminder, if you will, that I have a sequel to write. As in, a cliff to scale.
I sat and watched in utter awe, the rams below, the ewes above. And then, the canyon wren trill. I spied the little guy as I departed. Teak at my side, we breathed the sensuous nature of the real world.