And the view below is from the opposite extreme, at the far end of the field (where it meets the Pecos River), looking back over at the little house, and the hill rising up behind it (on the other side of which is the unspoiled arroyo winding into the New Mexican wilderness, and where I saw the local bear a couple years ago).
You can use the green tree in the middle of each shot to orient yourself (if you’re into such things…).One of the first things we did after arriving, was to set off up that hill behind the house. We did it within an hour of arriving the first day, and then we did at least one hike up the hill pretty much everyday after that.
The rocks and lichens were gorgeous, vibrant, and strange. This cute lichen, below, either started waaaay back when this rock was all one piece, or developed a knack for leaping across the relative crevasse between the now split stone pieces. The cactuses had started blooming just before our arrival. This was the first blossom that we found open. The clump of grass at the top and the size of the dirt grains offers you a sense of the scale… Although we could see these neon gems gleaming in the sun, it took a trained eye find their tiny bodies in the vast, unkempt desert. Here’s a typical footstep, with stone, and dried grass, and sticks, on a mustard-rust, dust matrix. The a-typical thing, here, is the deep grooves on the middle stone. Villanueva has a rich and diverse geologic history, much like the rest of the Canyonlands in the Four Corners area.
One of Natalie’s oldest and dearest friends from her years living in Boulder, Colorado — Andy — came to stay with us while we were at the farm. He folded right into our routines, following along on the hikes, scouting for cool sights, hanging out with Echo, and cozying up by the fire in the evenings to chat or sit in comfortable silence. Here, we’re heading up the hill…
while the clouds shoot arrows at the sun.
In between hikes, and fires, and great conversations, we did a fair amount of just hanging out in the sweet little house that Natalie’s grandma and uncle had built on the property. The colors of the house and furnishings seamlessly bridge the visual distance between the in- and out-sides (Echo’s sporty hot pink and purple outfit, notwithstanding). Here’s one of my favorite views — from Grandma Alice’s chair, looking out through the glass panes in the front door, across the screened-in porch (see the edge of the outdoor fire place on the right…), through the screen, to the bridge over the acequia, and the field beyond, with the still-naked Cottonwoods marking the course of the river, and then the next hill on the other side. Even now, it calms my breathing and slows my pulse to look at it… Same sitting spot, now turning to the right, where Henry lies curled up, but fully alert for his next “duty” (read: food, walk, or be nervous about our movements…), and Echo continues with another hour of audio story. And here’s the same view in panorama, which gives you the fuller (if darker) experience. Next hike… next bloom… (Indian Paintbrush or some other faker?) and more rocks and sticks and dry grass in the loose, grainy earth. We got skilled at employing all available shade. Between light layers to block from both the sun and wind, hats, glasses, and the occasional break under some trees, we made use of as much natural coverage as we could. Here, we’re crowded under a clump of junipers and pines to have our lunch. Natalie is collecting and breaking sticks for a callobrative art project.
Here’s a pretty brave Daisy — I like to think it’s called a Desert Daisy, because I’m kinda “into” alliteration, but I don’t really know it’s full name.
On this hike, we made it over the hill, into the arroyo behind, and down partway, onto a tongue of earth and stone that stretches far into the wash below. It’s the same place I stood a couple years ago watching the bear climb around on the other side of the wash. I’d love to see it during the rainy season, because of it’s peninsular position in the course of the canyon — you’d be able to see the runoff rushing at one side, break around the end, and then continue around the other side before rushing off to meet the river. After our snack on the ridge, I scrambled down into the bone-dry wash, to scout around before meeting back up with the troop. The shot below is looking back up from the creek-bed to the rocks where we’d just eaten.Snugged up against a high cliff wall in the wash canyon, and standing in the bright sun, I found this opulent desert bouquet.Every day in the early evenings, after hikes, and treasure hunts, and audio stories, and hours of play, we made a fire in the porch fireplace and stayed glued to it until bed time. We ate dinners there, read stories, brushed teeth, and after kid-bedtime, we continued to sit near the blazing warmth, chatting and feeling pleased with life. Here, some of the arrowheads, and pre-arrowhead shards we found on top of the hill, sit gleaming by the firelight.Here’s Echo with her start of day activities — frozen blueberries, and audio stories in (Great) Grandma Alice’s chair. The screen in the background was decorated by Bella, Xi, and Echo a few years ago when we all went down to Villanueva together. Here is a pano from the very top of the hill behind the house and looking out over the wilderness beyond. Someday, I am hiking to that huge mesa just right of center… Here is one of the many low rock walls that line the hilltop. They’re old, but not ancient, and stacked with no remnants of a mortar between them; so I’m guessing that they’re not pieces of prehistoric ruins, but merely decades-old property markers for the farms that line the base of the hill — but still cool, old, and mysterious… Here’s a shot from further along the hilltop, just over the edge of some of the cliffs on the back side. You can see the same huge mesa in the background as in the panoramic shot above; and in the middle distance, jutting out from the cliff in the foreground (in the upper middle, and proceeding to the left of the frame), you can also see the other side of the tongue ridge peninsula pictured further above as well. A few more desert blooms — anyone (who cares about such things) know the name of ’em? Here, Andy and Natalie, philosophize beside the river… And here’s a weird pano of the red-mud-saturated, slightly floody Pecos River at the bottom edge of the farm. Contrary to how your eyes will translate the shot, this is not a horseshoe bend in the river, but a result of my motion, starting from looking upriver and panning to looking downriver (with a Henry dog at the end…). It was the only way to approximate the experience of standing there looking back and forth along the watercourse as I found myself doing over and over again while Echo played at the edge. On our last morning, we did a lot of saying “So long” to our various favorite spots and things on and around the property. Here, Echo is reformatting the “Villanueva Rock-Sample” cairn I’d made beside the horno oven out front. And on the other side of the horno, we made our Goldsworthian stick sculpture in the sandy earth — a snake-winding trail of upright, wizened sticks (remember the shot of Natalie collecting above…), leading to a spiral at one end. Here’s a view from the spiral end, looking back out toward the farm. You can see parts of the trail of sticks, meandering through the grass to the upper left of the frame. Thank you, Villanueva. There isn’t another place like you. And we are so lucky to be getting to know you as well and as intimately as we are. We’ll be back soon!And thank you (who- and wherever you are) for letting me bring you with us and sharing in our treasures. I hope you got even a grain of a sense of the grandeur, and beauty, and wonder of this magical place. We all deserve to be so moved — even if we’re only moving through…
Be well, all.