This morning I put on my boots to walk down to the Bosque where the Cottonwoods with their fluttering heart shaped leaves that rustle in the slightest breeze tower over the Russian olives, wolfberry, and gray-green willows. As I open the rusty gate, tufts of white cotton drift down around me carried by a faint breeze because the cottonwood is seeding the moist ground. Here, at least, in this small sanctuary, the trees will regenerate and these elders are already being followed by strong young saplings.
In this magical mystical ephemeral landscape the river’s song is infused with those of a multitude of nesting birds. The Red-winged black birds and Bullock’s orioles are nesting in the giant cottonwood above me and both males announce my presence with warning calls. It’s hard to believe that this magnificent tree is probably only a hundred years old.
Hummingbirds chirp and tweet, well hidden in the tall willow – strewn thickets. As I close the gate I glimpse orange day lilies opening on one side of the path and a clump of Japanese iris blooming with their feet under water almost opposite but nearly hidden in a tangle of vines. The delicate iris are tall and thin with sword-like leaves; the lovely flowers shine like the sun – a golden yellow – some repeat a tricolored pattern with three etched sunbursts inked in pale brown on the tops of the outer three petals. The wide swampy path is partly under water, and I step carefully around ancient horsetails, one of the earth’s first plants, scanning for toad eggs. A little wooden bridge takes me over a small clear stream that feeds into the churning river. The emerald green grasses sway as I pass by, each bending with ripening seed.
When I reach higher ground I see the first wild roses, single blossoms, pale and deep pink they open under the sun dappled shade. I marvel that these same small roses also grow almost wild at my home in Maine. Originally I planted one small bush and now these lovely fragrant roses have sprung up everywhere in my own riparian woodlands.
The cat tail marsh
For a short time the path is straight and then abruptly turns right. I stand on the wooden bridge that goes nowhere that I can discern and gaze out at the beautiful marsh with its papery wheat colored remnants of last year’s cattails and lovely gray Russian olives in various stages of growth that provide such a lovely contrast to wheat and verdant green. Oh, the Japanese iris are all in bloom at my feet on both side of the wooden board. A hummingbird startles me, hovering above a silky cattail tuft, capturing some of the soft material in her beak and then disappearing in a flash into a tangle of wild clematis.
Retracing my steps from the board back to the path I am led to yet another part of the swamp, one that allows me to cross the bog because carefully placed stones have been placed there. I walk over the damp places just above the waterline. More swamp iris herald the coming summer season clothed as they are in sun gold. Once I pass the cattails I find myself knee deep in emerald green. More wild roses are opening and hummingbirds and thirsty bumbles sip sweet nectar. The Bosque is bursting with the sound of crickets, and the turbulent waters of the river are just beyond to the left.
I am stopped in my tracks by the smooth skinned serpent draped gracefully around a clump of willows. The snake watches me intently with one glittering orange eye, while listening to my softly spoken words. “I will not hurt you,” I say as I pass by this magnificent silky skinned copper colored snake – a red racer – people call them. (On my return the snake is still watching me from upside down – his tail and lower body are coiled around the upper willow tips and his head is hidden below in the lower branches!) Who is going to become his lunch I wonder.
I spy a small oak tree, ringed with stones that are chosen with care. When I come to the wooden sign it too stops me in my tracks because I am not expecting it! The path I have been on is Wildhaus and to continue on San Diego road is where I am headed; the sign points straight ahead. “Home” a third sign gestures to the right with a wooden finger. I choose not to explore this latter pathway; I don’t want to intrude. I linger here for a few moments thinking about the woman who cares so deeply for this natural landscape that together they have become co- creators.
Her gentle touch is evident in the small fruit tree she has staked and ringed with wire, the Arizona cypress and Junipers, the ringed stones, the almost wild flowers, the clearing of this path (which I know from personal experience) takes a huge amount of time and effort. Love seeps through this Bosque, a holy presence that is palpable. Silently, I thank my friend for this priceless gift, before moving on.
The ground is higher now and opens onto a sandy plain of sorts; in the distance a huge clump of Apache Tears stands out, a massive white cluster of primrose blossoms hugs the ground and bright yellow salsify stalks are blushing as they are being pollinated by bees. A massive rock pile captures my attention, and I pick up a few to examine them more closely.
The river is visible now; it’s turbulent coffee colored waters make the most soothing background music of water rumbling over stone. I notice a couple of old beaver sticks pointed at one end. Suddenly, a Great Blue heron is flying overhead, his massive wings moving in slow syncopated rhythm –another ancient relic from the deep past.
When I come to the wire fence that defines the edge of this property, I happily retrace my steps allowing the power of the Bosque to flood my senses once again. Each time I come here, I leave with a feeling of renewal, knowing that there are some natural places that are cared for as deeply by others as they are by me. To my mind, places like the Bosque speak to Nature’s Grace incarnating in ordinary time.