Shadowland

It’s flat out here,
not flat like east Texas
or the panhandle
More gently rolling.
But you can see mountains
in the distance in every direction.
A few old volcanoes were active
35 million years ago
putting down layers of molten rock
hundreds of feet thick at a time
for wind and rain
to tear down again.
This was an inland sea too
an ocean bottom where salt collected
when it dried up.
Now desert grasses, cacti and shrubs thrive here
and with them all manner of creatures
that call grasses home or hunting ground.

I come here before the sunrise
to watch first light break clear
of the eastern horizon
to see it rake low across the pasture
spreading long shadows
through the grammas, bluestems, three awns, muhlys, fluff grass,
soaptree yucca, white thorn acacia, Mormon Tea and mesquite.

I stand on this land
with its torn edge horizon,
the silhouette of
Blue Mountain to the north
the Haystacks to the east,
and around the full circle,
Cathedral Mountain, Cienega Mountain
Chinati Peak, Capote Peak
and Mt. Livermore,
tick marks on a compass face.

You can tell what time of year it is
by where the sun rises.
At summer solstice the sun rises
centered over the Haystacks.
At winter solstice it peeks up
over Cathedral Mountain.
Here the early shadows can reach
the length of a football field as
light changes perception of the land and sky,
change is constant.

Early mornings are sometimes witness to unfinished business,
nighthawks still hunting with their frantic flight pattern
as if feeling pressed for time,
a pair of coyotes slipping the cover
of the tall grasses to cross the road
moving east toward the Puertacitas
far away from roads,
pronghorn grazing new growth
in the pastures closest to town.
Turkey vultures line up on fence posts
to warm themselves for the day ahead.
In the soft dirt of the pasture road
patterns of life and death struggles are traced by
kangaroo rats, beetles, lizards,
the small world
trying to escape the bigger.
Walking here requires paying attention
to where you put your foot with each step

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