Meander Grande

The featured photo is the Rio Grande as it goes through the San Luis Valley. I didn’t take this picture. It’s from the Western Rivers Conservancy.Β The river threads and meanders as it heads south with GREAT determination to meet up with the Gulf of Mexico.

Even in the small area that is my slough I get to meet up with a couple of riverbends.

River Bend

“My” Rio Grande

Down by Taos, where the plateau that is the San Luis Valley begins to drop off, the river speeds up and flows in a somewhat less meandering path. It carves a dramatic canyon where, for a few months every spring, white-water rafters have a great time. Tectonic forces have also lifted the land as the river has flowed, and meandering of the ancient river is deeply carved into the plateau — this is very apparent in aerial photos of the Colorado River going through the Grand Canyon.


Rio Grande Gorge/Taos Box


Once the landscape calms down, the river calms down, too and meanders through Albuquerque down to El Paso.

While this might seem like a simple blog post about a meandering river, it’s actually an argument for liberal education. Yeah, I grew up to be an English teacher, but my favorite subjects were geology and physics. I even won two science fair prizes in 8th grade — one from the National Petroleum Institute — for my my project on the formation of Mt. Moran in the Grand Tetons. How the world (meaning the planet) forms itself and the rules to which it abides fascinate me. If I hadn’t been forced to take geology in 8th grade, I wouldn’t be writing this post now or showing you photos of “my” river. I might not even know what my river is doing or why.

I used to argue that with my business students who resented the classes they had to take that had “nothing to do with business.” They just wanted out so they could start making the “big bucks.” I would tell them that their job would just take up their days. What would they do on weekends? What would they talk about at company banquets, sitting next to someone’s wife or husband and wanting to make a good impression? What would they see when they went on vacation? What would they understand when they watched a movie that might be filled with literary allusions? How would they understand the meaning behind special effects in a film about an asteroid hitting the Earth?

I don’t know if my arguments sank in or not, but, for myself, I’m glad I had classes in the sciences even though (in college) I never passed any of the exams in my required intro courses. Formulas and the initals for chemicals do not mix well with dyslexia. BUT I did fine with a box of rocks, field trips and pictures of geological features, well enough to pass with a D, anyway. Well enough to love a river and be thrilled by an earthquake.

29 thoughts on “Meander Grande

  1. Perfect! It does meander. Your love of nature, your surroundings, is eloquent. Imparting that beauty to others is a gift, one you share here as well. This armchair traveller is always intrigued and delighted.

  2. Great pictures! Love your meanders. I share your fondness for a wide ranging liberal arts education. I personally benefitted from it, taking a variety of courses along with the science and pre med stuff. It so encourages curiosity and reduces insularity. Overly constrained thinking is a contributor to some of this world’s current craziness, in my opinion.

  3. As an unknowing Anglo Swiss, the only think I knew about the Rio Grande was the film with John Wayne, but now I know a lot more thanks to you.

    • It’s pretty arcane knowledge as this is a remote area with few people. I think what most Americans know of the Rio Grande is about illegal immigrants coming into El Paso from Mexico and the movie with John Wayne. It’s other name is “Rio Bravo” and there’s a John Wayne movie with that name, too. πŸ™‚

  4. One of my favorite subjects in elementary school was geography — we learned all about rivers and what they do, as well as raw materials, other countries and continents, etc. So many kids these days are not even exposed to such concepts — how can they possibly grow up to be leaders in such a varied world as we have?! I love the featured photo of the Rio Grande

  5. I always point out to the kids who spend their lives on the phone that if they don’t learn to have a conversation, relationships are going to be difficult. Forget about literary allusions. How about a simple “Hello, how are you doing?” Right now, even that’s a stretch.

    I love the meandering river. it’s lovely. Our river meanders, but it meanders down a mountain.

    • I figure the kids are going to do what they’re going to do and since it’s not my job any more to awaken the youth of today and the adults of tomorrow, I just hope they look both ways before crossing the street. I don’t want my life ruined. πŸ˜‰

  6. I love your observations, Martha. Those rivers are a good metaphor for life. It is richer if it meanders. My husband studied geology at university although that wasn’t the field he ended up in. When my child was about 8 years, the school invited parents with ‘specialist’ knowledge to come in and share the knowledge with the class. I gave my husband a shove because he is a gentle and shy man, but in he went with a lot of rocks, and talked to a bunch of 3rd graders about geology (including earthquakes and volcanism). The kids absolutely loved it. So many questions! πŸ™‚

    • Wow. I would’ve loved being a kid in that class.

      Everyone around me loves rocks. The two women I sometimes hike with get rapturous when they see a cool rock — seriously. They both have rock gardens with some pretty interesting specimens. I love rocks, too, but I’m happy to leave them where I see them. I laugh at my friends, and I hope they understand (because I told them) that I just love their joy because rocks are amazing. One of the women, the one from Australia, brought me a rock from Australia when she visited her family last summer. πŸ™‚

  7. You are such an interesting person. Your blogs often reveal another facet to you I never would have guessed. Your photos and words about the Rio Grande are splendid. You would be sad if you looked at the Rio Grande by Las Cruces. As a fellow I talked to on walking path said, “It’s nothing but a canal.” It runs it’s natural course, but during the winter months it is cut off, its water backed up in reservoirs like Elephant Butte. I never saw it with more than a puddle here and there. Then it is turned on in the spring for irrigation purposes. So your photographs lifted my spirits and reminded me of its true nature.

    • I only took the middle photo. That’s “my” Rio Grande and I have the fantastic good fortune to look at it every day if I want to. We’ve been slow to get acquainted, I haven’t even touched it yet, but I hope to raft down it this spring? Next? I love this river very much — it was one reason I wanted to live here.

      The same is true of the Colorado River — it’s essentially dead and gone by the time it reaches the Gulf of California — it IS a canal and I’ve seen it down there. It’s sad because I ALSO knew it from its beginnings here in Colorado 😦 . One of the most beautiful and moving odes to a river is John McPhee’s “Encounters with the Arch Druid” part of which is about a river trip on the Colorado with David Brower, a founder of the Sierra Club.

      You should come down and visit sometime since we live in the same state and all! πŸ™‚

  8. I’ll assume a love of earth quakes (If that’s what a thrill implies) is limited to a low level event. I’ve experienced two very mild ones and they scared me! I can imagine going through a major one!

    • I’ve been in a lot of them — mostly small, but a couple in the 7s. The first was in 1959, the big quake at Yellowstone and I was too far away for it to have hurt me and too little to have been totally aware. It was scary and interesting. Then there was a large one in CA a few years before I left there. I was outside hiking. It was literally a wave in the earth. Very interesting and thrilling. But they are scary, especially in an urban setting.

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