I live on the wrong side of the mainline railroad tracks that both birthed and bisected my small town, on half an acre of formerly blighted industrial property that now thrums with life in a restored bunchgrass mountain meadow yard, its starry sprinkle of wildflowers fertilized by trilling hummingbirds and furry-bodied sphinx moths, its seeds scattered by foraging harvester ants. I live alongside a spring-fed creek that once wound lazily through willow thicket and sagebrush flat, nurturing baby trout, mayflies, and singing dippers until the railroad-builders confined it to a ruler-straight, bare channel. The verdant thread nurtured by this rare high-desert flow had long been forgotten–along with the creek’s name–by the time my husband and I began reviving it by replanting the shady overstory of native streambank willow, red-twig dogwood, golden currant, chamisa, and sagebrush.
I live in a deep fault-block valley formed by the continent-rending Rio Grande Rift, in sight of the highest stretch of the Rocky Mountains, a violently upthrust wall of peaks that rises a vertical mile and a half from valley bottom to bare rock summits over 14,000 feet elevation. I live in a low-slung house heated by the sun’s slanting rays in winter, cooled by the solar-thermal summer breaths of those high peaks, and powered by an array of photovoltaic panels. The same sunshine fuels the photosynthesis of the food I grow in our organic kitchen garden in the embrace of a cement wall that once contained above-ground oil tanks.
I live in the land of illness too, a place as real as the glioblastoma tumors that over the past year destroyed most of the right temporal lobe of my husband’s brain. It’s a place that reminds us daily to be grateful: for the technicolor brilliance of a stormy sunrise, the licorice-sweet fragrance of wild irises reappearing along our reviving creek, the crunch of spinach leaves peeking out from under snow in the garden, the croaking voices of courting ravens, the circles and cycles of life restoring and re-storying itself.