What comes to mind when you hear the word "bosque"? How about "Southwestern willow-flycatcher"? Drought? Humanity? 2018 SOBTF intern Sawyer Hitchcock decided to explore the human connection with the Rio Grande by asking local community members to partake in a short survey.
Sawyer discovered some interesting tidbits of information about people's attitudes and knowledge of the ecosystem right in our back yard. For example, only 26% of total respondents had even heard of the Save Our Bosque Task Force, and the common responses to big-picture words like "humanity" and "nature" provide an insight into the human dimension of conservation. Read the full results of his independent project here.
Sawyer also worked on a side project writing "transect sonnets" about a few of the plant species that he encountered while collecting data along out vegetation monitoring transects. Here are three of his poems.
There’s something happy-shaggy, zigzaggy,
like lightning in green-silver sprays and sways
of narrow leaves, when coyote willow plays,
in waves, on river banks — tail-waggy.
Each swerving leaf a pale green grin, a dagger
for carving air and curving wind away,
for spinning sun and glancing light of day —
exciteful, warm, reflective swagger.
Coyote willow, you have a touch of friend —
your wild, lively green reaches over,
arm on shoulder, bending the wind’s own bend.
The touch is light, emotive, clever
with the simplest intelligence of green
swaying, playing, with silver in between.
Those fleshy, floating, orange berries pull
the eyes — those little plump-red globes don’t fit
out here, under dry desert sun. So full —
my tongue touched juiceful surprise when I bit.
The leaves, green and stiffly succulent-seeming,
twinkle down to silty ground from lightest touch.
The thorns are hardly thorns — twiggy-seeming.
The stems are bendy as often as they’re rough.
The name’s wolfberry, ferocious, delicious.
In desert river drains, up barbed-wire fences,
Orange berries, desert-conspicuous,
fruits of dry labor, swelling the senses.
False name, wolfberry: not for wolves. For birds!
But pluck a taste; and name’s strange understood.
Once, for twenty nights, I slept below the sprawl
of a mighty, moony, screwbean mesquite.
Magnificent mammoth trunks like tusks, all
spreadout ragged, disorderly, complete.
Sitting, nights, under dark sprawl and bright stars,
I had thoughts like, "Oh, this is reality,"
and smiled like a child. The blue tarp neatly
spread over dead leaves, thorns, and screwbean stars.
What does it mean, mighty mama Mesquite?
What did I dream, those nights, held in your whorl
of woolly arms? Warm, dark breezes curled,
tickled through thorns; bats dove by and squeaked: "Create!"
I wonder, bare head against trunk two feet thick,
did I let Mind curl too wild, too woolly, too quick?