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Notes on the valley landscape: Travel makes you modest
Kim Bock

Watershed: (1) The geographic boundary within which water flows into a common body, also the boundary between divergent systems. (2) A metaphoric boundary in time that divides contrasting social or cultural conditions.

I flew to the East Coast a couple of weeks ago, along with my husband, to attend my 45th high school reunion. Having not been back to Connecticut and mid-state New York for at least 10 years, I forget how lush it is out there. Hardly anyone has a sprinkler system, yet grass is green and understory vegetation is thick and daunting. Perfect habitat for Lyme disease ticks, so I kept clear. The weather was stunningly warm and bright, so I didn’t feel like I was missing out back home. Even the locals were amazed.

I’m a window seat gal and the dawn flight from Grand Junction to Denver did not disappoint. Sunrise over the Rockies made it worthwhile to be up and at ’em at that hour. A second coffee at DIA was relished and the novice “Avgeek” in me enjoyed the show on the tarmac awaiting our next flight. Up in the mountains our array of airlines and aircraft is limited, so like a true rube, I take note of those “exotics” such as China Eastern, Iberia, Atlas Air, and KLM taxiing by. Huge 777s and 787s eclipse the small planes with which I’m familiar.

Over the plains, I never tire of seeing the circle and square fields, sinews of streams, banks of trees, roadways and train tracks. At some point in every flight I take, I start humming or wording the Simon and Garfunkel song “America”: “Let us be lovers, we’ll marry our fortunes together…”  I start thinking about the westward expansion of our country – the good and horrible parts of it, but always in awe of the suffering and strength it took to move across the vastness into the unknown. When I fall into a funk about having a long travel day via two or three flights, or the two-day drive to California to visit my elderly mom, I say out loud “These sure beat months bouncing about in a Conestoga wagon”…

Aerial observation is so entertaining and enlightening for me. Small hamlets with a solo baseball field eventually merge together to form midsize towns. Ponds give way to large reservoirs or turquoise community pools. Corn fields change to golf courses or corporate campuses. The swoops and swirls of natural elements become angles and straight lines in the man-made environment. A massive wind turbine farm somewhere in Illinois (I think) was unexpected. It debunked my thought that harvesting wind energy was a western thing (remember I’m a bumpkin). 

“Travel makes you modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” – Gustave Flaubert. 

From far above, one can see little watersheds on the ground and begin to figuratively connect the dots about larger watersheds. In the Roaring Fork Valley watershed, we are keen to environmental stresses on our streams and rivers, and lucky to have many nonprofits helping to safeguard these waterways. In a much larger context, our nation is at a watershed moment (see definition 2 above) specific to the protection of rivers, deserts, National Parks, forests and the like. The Trump administration is hell bent to allow huge sums of money to be made for the benefit of a few. Once ravaged by extractive industrial development, these areas will never have the same critical biodiversity and grandeur as today. Rise up now for future generations.

“They’ve all come to look for America, …and the moon rose over an open field.”

Kim Bock is loving the autumn changes at her place in Metropolitan El Jebel, looking forward to a few last warm hikes before winter. She can be reached at kimbock.treedoc@gmail.com