Underneath an Ocean of Light

On clear mornings when I’m walking at my local park I see a sheet of light appear on the West Mesa as the sun rises over the Sandia ridgeline.  The morning light hits the west side first then chases the shadows across the river.  I see sunbeams illuminate the tree tops and gradually angle down on me, lighting up the field.  It’s a beautiful scene but sometimes I yearn to see more.  So Sunday morning Mai and I decided to check out San Lorenzo Canyon south of ABQ.

San Lorenzo cactus flowers

San Lorenzo form flow

San Lorenzo tilted forms

San Lorenzo Canyon is a quiet place on BLM lands .  Visitation is light enough that there are no developed areas aside from the dirt road into the canyon, there are not even trails.  This kind of unmediated experience and direct contact dissolves the abstract notions we have about “the environment” and fills in our mental map with actual places and the vivid details that we absorb through immersing ourselves with a walk and some modest exploration.  The canyon is managed for the gift that it is, and the value it bestows is the spirit of the American West itself.

San Lorenzo white and wood

San Lorenzo red

Mai in big sandy canyon

San Lorenzo red on sky

It was a fun day.  As we prepared at home I was excited with the anticipation of the cool desert morning air rolling down the canyon walls.  The fault-block ranges casting trapezoidal shadows across the fanned alluvial sands of the canyon floor.  Curvy washes shaped by the ebb and flow of water.  Being outdoors in nature’s theatre is the ultimate life.  The canyon walls show millions of years of history and tell of their origins below earth’s salty ocean.   As we walked the sun arced higher and hawks circled on warming air currents.  We followed a side canyon with a faint trail past damp microclimes and verdant growth so stark against the oxidized tone of the hard rock walls.  We scrambled up scree slopes before topping out with tremendous views of the canyon below and vistas across the Rio Grande Valley to the Manzanos and even the Sandias some 70 miles away.  We stayed awhile and let the desert light shine in.

San Lorenzo gnarly juniper suprise

San Lorenzo wash fluvial

San Lorenzo hidden cactus flowers

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