Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A World of Rivers Flowing to the Sea

Water is flowing this week in the Santa Fe River, and it has changed the whole town. People are out and about, playing in the water, walking and biking on the River trail, and just enjoying this important part of our community. We are the first city in New Mexico to allocate water to a living River. We are using water that otherwise would have been used for our city to expand simply to support a living, healthy River. How wonderful and progressive is that? We've allocated a 1,000 acre feet to the River. Those of you who live in the Southwest know what a big deal this is. Without this allocation, the River would be dry right now as it is most of the year.

I've been thinking a lot about rivers lately and the ways they connect us to a larger whole - people, places, cultures, traditions, landscapes, ecosystems, wildlife, the list goes on... They truly are heritage corridors. Nowhere that I've lived before has water and the history of settlement and land uses been so central to my everyday life. At least I haven't been as aware of it any other place. When I think about the network - the world of Rivers - flowing together and to the sea it gives me goose bumps.

Humble beginnings of the Mississippi. Source
I grew up near the Mississippi River, and even though I haven't visited most of the places it flows through, I still feel a connection to those towns and cities and the people who live there. We are connected by the River, the water, the corridor, the network. One of my earliest childhood memories is visiting the headwaters of the Mississippi - staying at Douglas Lodge, eating wild rice soup, seeing beavers in Lake Itasca, and walking across the Mississippi headwaters.

A few years ago they made a movie of A Prairie Home Companion. I saw it in Portland with my friend Rosie. Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin sing a song called "My Minnesota Home" and they sing about their home on the Mississippi.

(Warning: if you're Minnesotan and not living in Minnesota, this song will probably make you cry. It made me weep in the theatre. Thank goodness Rosie was there to hold my hand and cry with me.)

What rivers have played a major role in your life? Do you feel connected to a particular river?

When I was hiking in the upper watershed last week, I met a man who told me that he has lived all over the country, and every place he lives he always volunteers with the local river group. Seems like a good way to meet some good people, some "our people" people, kindred spirits (as Sara would say)!

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