Hummingbirds floating above a feeder faded pink by the sun… in a cloudless sky framed by giant cottonwood trees…in the distance the rhythmic sound of a creek snaking its way through McElmo Canyon; for the next few days this is my piece of heaven on earth.
Pecking away on my laptop I’m sitting in the shade steps from our cabin at the Canyon of the Ancients Guest Ranch. My husband is working nearby cleaning and repairing an old saddle retired by a long ago cowboy to one of the many storage sheds on the ranch. I should be precise here. For him working with saddles isn’t work, it’s fun. This will be his third saddle since we started vacationing at the ranch.
Once or twice a year we pack up the car in Minnesota and make the long drive through Iowa, Nebraska and Colorado. Climbing to the top of Wolf Creek Pass our anticipation of the days ahead climbs right along with the altitude. As Gary guides the car along the hairpin curves we chatter about our destination; how big are the long horn calves? Will Bessie Mae’s surprise litter of puppies look like her? What about the mountain lion spotted in the canyon?
Questions soon to be answered when we settle in at the ranch and catch up with the owners and our friends Ming and Garry.
During our multiple visits over the years we learn this magical environment is dependent on limited water supplies that must be rationed and respected. Observing the day-to-day lives of the men and women who call the canyon their home I can say without a doubt their’s is hard work—a labor of love— requiring an eye to the future if their life is to be sustainable.
I’m struck by the similarities of ideals shared by these ranchers and our Native American friends and neighbors in Minnesota as they work to protect natural resources as an investment in the generations that will follow in their footsteps.
Many might view this piece of heaven in in the Four Corners in stark contrast to the abundance of water and lush forests back home in Minnesota. In a state where weekends mean a trip to the family lake cabin and the waining days of summer bring fall colors and the harvest of the wild rice crop… it’s hard to imagine that our ten thousand lakes and rushing rivers will ever go dry or that our fresh water supplies will ever become contaminated.
But the truth is—whether we live in the land of endless sky blue water or the land of enchanted canyons dependent on rationing and respect… our water is under threat. Our water must be protected. Water is life.