03.12.21: Gila, New Mexico

There’s a Gila Woodpecker, a Gila monster, a Gila National Forest, and right now I’m next to the Gila River, which is quite lovely, especially after driving through Lordsburg, New Mexico, where everything except the graffiti on trains (“HELL TO OFFER!” “DOOM!”) and the neon signs on motels (“Luxury Inn. $27.99/night.”) is sepia toned because of a dust storm.

But the Gila is a place where barbed wire demarcates the canyon from overgrazed rangeland, and down in the canyon cottonwoods sprout, their tips turning green; the smell of leaf litter–nearly forgotten after so long in arid-lands–is pungent to dry nostrils I’ve been a little wistful for spring, or the Great Lakes features I’ve attached to the meaning of spring: woodcocks spiraling over boggy fields. The squeals of a Rusty Blackbird flock. The way a male Common Goldeneye wrenches his neck into tertials to impress the hens.

But on the Gila, flocks of swallows (mostly Tree) swoop west, downstream, follow the river’s curves. Vermilion Flycatchers that can’t be long back pop out from the landscape. A Great Horned Owl hoots so close to my truck it wakes me up, and the next morning I find it roosting. Here too, I’ve found a balm for my longing to submerge in spring.

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