friday we were on the Cebolla Mesa (the Onion Table). it is park-land north of us, and it borders the Rio Grande, complete with a deep canyon drop. as you drive in, a sign warns you that the roads aren't safe for passenger cars. our last visit was a year ago, for d.'s birthday picnic. this time we were there to find firewood.
we drove around bumpy, sort-of-roads. one that had such a narrow, steep decline that we actually had to back down rather than attempt to drive on forward.
the beauty of this place is that it is open & isolated. trees, dirt, & mountains all around. this mesa is mostly pinon & sagebrush, with some amazing ponderosas & firs filling out the skyline. this is the flat New Mexico, a large, wide table of land with narrow arroyos that drop everywhere & suddenly. quiet but for the trees and the ravens & hawks overhead. you feel alone out there. you are alone out there.
we have permits to cut firewood. but the law is that we cut the dead wood, the already fallen trees. this is one way the forest service can keep the land safer from fire. unfortunately, many folks go out and poach live trees. large trees with a lot of wood.
and it is sad & disheartening. from once tall ponderosas, pine & spruce. we come upon piles of cut limbs, trails of fresh sawdust and still-wet bark. the big tree is just a paycheck. cutting them alive is the easy way out, the lazy way.
though we go together, d's time is spent with the chainsaw. my job is to find trees to cut, and then carry what's cut to the truck. so I find myself with alone time. I walk around and look for rocks, bones or (hopefully) arrowheads. I try to identify the trees. I count all the signs of animals I can find. I usually find rusty, old beer cans.
the top of the canyon peaks out in the land's edge. and then beyond the Rio Grande gorge, over on the other side, are some of the old volcanoes that helped shape this enormous & dramatic tierra. being in the presence of this place, like so much of New Mexico, reminds me of just how powerful nature is.
we headed home as the clouds were getting thick & dark over the mountains. by the time we unloaded wood at the house, a cold rain was falling.