TINGLEY BEACH--Last Friday my grandson got a day off from school because of an inservice. "Let's go down to The Ponds,"
he said while cutting up his sausages at Mannie's. I knew which ones he meant--the ones in the bosque west of Tingley Beach. They aren't part of Tingley Beach proper; they kind of sit off by themselves between the bike path and the river. In fact, you can't even see them from far away.
Robby dug a hole in one side of his stack of pancakes and poured a little syrup into it. He looked up while lifting a dripping forkful to his mouth. "Maybe we ought to go back and get your book."
He was talking about my Field Guide to the Plants and Animals of the Middle Rio Grande Bosque
. I nodded. "Are you wearing sturdy shoes?"
," I answered. He was talking like a kid who's been on a lot of educational outings. I finished off my yoke-soaked hashbrowns and we left for my house and then the parking lot at Tingley Beach.
Fall is the perfect time of year to go to the ponds. It is hard to describe the peace that surrounds one, even here in the middle of the city. Water is the low-noted melody of Time. Birds may chirp, leaves may rustle, but water opens its soul in measured reflection--a counterpoint to everything airborne.
The ponds host life as well. Ducks go bottoms up diving for food. Every once in a while a new mallard careens through the sky in an arc that ends with outstretched wings and a feet-first splash into the water. The pond accepts this landing with rippling applause.
Maybe all this is what fascinates my grandson. I should ask him, "What draws you to this place to wander with that heavy book under your arm? What is there about Life that brings you here?
" But maybe this is the only part about Life we really understand--a world of living plants and animals, much of it in miniature, that reveals itself to us moment by moment as we walk in its midst.
We followed the path around the two northern ponds. Baby cottonwood trees have started to take root in the wet areas next to the water. In ten years this will be completely different. It would be good for kids (and adults) to see it change over time. Of course there are minnows in the ponds, but there are large fish as well. They could be trout...I couldn't tell. But the question it raises is whether they came from minnows here from a couple of years ago. I do remember there being a lot of minnows back then, but no bigger fish. These looked to be about 8 inches long.
We did hear a big splash as we walked along. A turtle had been sitting on a floating log and jumped into the water as we approached. Later we identified it in the Field Guide as a Red-Eared Slider. I wish the Field Guide had a page on scat, for we found an interesting pile of it right on the trail. It looked like that animal's diet contained plenty of fiber...some of it hard to digest.
Beyond the Ponds
Robby seemed to know where he wanted to go. A path led to the river. He called it a "beaver highway." Parts of the river bank were about three feet above the current water level. This is quite a lot of distance to explain solely by rising and falling water levels. I just hope the Rio Grande isn't cutting a deep channel from which it cannot escape...something like the Rio Puerco. I noticed this back east. Many rivers and streams were cut deep into the ground by their fast-moving currents, virtually inaccessible, and also virtually lifeless.
But the falling Rio Grande had left some mud flats. And animals had written tiny mysteries there...a larger animal
with a tail, a bird, and an unknown little fellow had wandered through the same place. Each left a story to unwrap. We did our best, but neither of us could identify the small tracks on the right-hand side. Click on the picture to enlarge it and see if you can help us out.
Why We Live Here
The Rio Grande, Old Town, Central Avenue, the volcanoes, the Sandia Mountains...these are some of the reasons why we live in Albuquerque. Or stay here. Yet it is so easy for a whole year to pass without being a part of these wonderful areas. So this week, before the Balloon Fiesta visitors get here and now after the State Fair has left, this week after work go somewhere that reminds you of why you live here. If I may be so bold as to suggest it. You won't regret it.
But you see, I am lucky. I have a grandson who is a 9-year-old adventurer. I have come to realize that I really like being the driver and the guy who carries the Field Guide to the Plants and Animals of the Middle Rio Grande Bosque
when it gets too heavy for him to carry. And his ideas of a good time...well let's just say I enjoy being here as much as he does.