Thursday on the Rio Grande

Rio Grande at Pilar, NM

Looking downstream from Pilar, NM as a shower moves across the canyon

This is the sort of thing we do on Thanksgiving, drive to a beautiful place and blow our minds. Yesterday we drove down to Pilar, less than twenty minutes away, just before the rain and sleet rolled in. I took this shot more or less in the middle of the place—not that you’d know, right—with a shower between us and the cliffs.

There were a number of Canada geese on the river, including the five above, which explains the odd business I experienced recently. Sometimes when I stay up late, I’ll hear or feel a thump outside that might be a car door slamming and get up to investigate. Decades of practice, chilluns. You can’t sneak up on a paranoid sonofabitch. At any rate, a couple of times over the last few nights, I’ve stuck my head outside into the cold damp air and thought I heard a goose. There were thousands of them back in Maryland, so I know whereof I speak. I’ve heard them here before, extremely seldom to be sure, presumably headed for a pit stop in the beaver dam marshes on the Rio Grande del Rancho that flows out the mountains a short way from here. These last two times were more mysterious. I might have heard one or I didn’t. It may have been the squeaking of a hinge. But now of course I’m sure I heard a wayward goose each time.

There’s something so plaintive in the honking of a solitary Canada goose at night. He must be looking for the others, I think. Any others. It’s always a “he” for me, too. Is that because the females have to be too smart to end up flying after dark? I have this movie in my head of him flying low along a marsh until he hears them calling back and forth the way they do, whereupon he lands beside the unfamiliar flock and falls asleep in the bosom of his species once again.

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John Hamilton Farr lives at 7,000 feet in Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico, U.S.A. As New York Times best-selling author James C. Moore tells it, John is “a man attuned to the world who sees it differently than you and I and writes about it with a language and a vision of life that is impossible to ignore.” This JHFARR.COM site is the master writing archive. To email John, please see CONTACT INFO on About page. For a complete list of all John’s writing, photography, NFTs, and social media links, please visit JHFARR.ART  

  • M.J. November 28, 2015, 11:15 AM

    Beautiful! So peaceful! Loved watching the geese fly over when I was young. However, my pilot husband’s nightmare. They don’t share airspace very good at times. My son cleaned one out of a jet engine not too long ago. He said it was sad for him because they are such magnificent birds. Glad you got out and had a great day of nature. I can imagine the sounds you heard from the river bank. I long for that peace. Love cloudy days of rain.

    • JHF November 28, 2015, 3:05 PM

      The Rio Grande has an almost mystical appeal. All that water in a semi-arid place like this… We drive to Pilar as often as we think of it. The road follows the river for six or seven miles. I creep along slow enough that I can stop whenever we see birds or animals. Usually the traffic will permit that. Sometimes we don’t see anybody there.

  • judyinboston November 28, 2015, 12:19 PM

    Beautiful photo. We have scads of Canada geese. All twelve months. Years ago, someone clipped the wings of a bunch of geese. They couldn’t fly south, and now none of their many descendants fly south. They winter over, esp on the golf courses and the lakes. In Illinois, we used to see them flying south, and it always looked like they followed the freeway. Nature is weird.

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