Over the past two days I’ve been curious — ok: more like obsessed — with determining (1) if ravens are in the area, (2) if I have seen one or more, and (3) what their significance is to me.
First, there is a much closer relationship here between nature and man than I feel in Texas. Certainly more than in New York City, even though Central Park is an oasis. Perhaps that’s why there’s not that close connection in the City: many have to take a subway to that oasis. Mayor Bloomberg’s “One Million Trees” initiative at least underscored the desirability if not essential quality of trees to improve not only air quality but also pedestrian life. The most desperate streets and neighborhoods are almost entirely devoid of trees. The word “bleak” fits them. It’s hard to see a few trees somewhere and not see life teeming within and among them. With trees, the wind takes on shape and sound. Without trees, the wind is unseen but still cold in winter and, like a Saharan samoon, blistering in summer.
Here in Ruidoso, the houses and even the main drag, Sudderth Drive, are practically retro-fitted into nature. The name, Sudderth, most likely was derived from “sud-earth” or “sod-earth,” meaning “wet land” or “pasture land.”
Across from the house we’re renting, and looking south-southwest, is a ridge line of red-roofed houses. Karen said yesterday that it looked like a train making its way through the trees. Planned and organized, assertive in its context, roofs that inexplicably are not colored into their surroundings, this serpentine group of maybe twenty dwellings is perhaps one of the few human marks on the area, which to the eye remains fairly unadulterated.
That’s an interesting word to use: unadulterated.
According to Google NGram, which monitors word usage in books since the early 1800s — not sure about online; you’d think that’d be their wheelhouse, but then again, maybe “Google” would appear too often and make them look self-serving — “unadulterated” has dropped in usage slightly over time but has risen more recently. That last trend, of course, would make sense, as more and more tree-line train-like serpentine wrong-colored-roof home tracts appear and disrupt an otherwise unadulterated view of the ridge south-southwest.
It’s like those “trees” one sees along highways or parkways that actually are antennae, dressed up and pumped with Viagra, hoping to go unnoticed to motorists out for a Sunday drive.
Strangely enough, the opposite — adulteration — worked in New York City’s favor over the past 200 years.
In 1811, when the City Commissioners decided to monetize Manhattan Island, not only did they raze the hills for which the island was originally named by the Lenape (Mannahatta, “The Land of Many Hills”), but also they were originally planning for the whole of the island, from Houston Street up to about 155th, to be one unadulterated grid. A vast real estate gold mine that, through rising value over time, would be sustainable. So much so that just prior to his death John Jacob Astor, who’d made his fortune trading fur as well as real estate, was reported to have said that were he to do it over, he would have put all his money into the latter. Beaver mothers everywhere would have thanked him.
But then came Central Park, the feature most “adulterated” after the Commissioners’ plan. Were it not for the Park, Manhattan real estate values would be a fraction of what they are today. Moreover, the city might not even be on the tourist bucket list, Central Park being one of the man-made wonders of the modern world — I exaggerate — and one of the most photographed and identifiable. (I do not exaggerate.) Ironically, the Park, completed a little more than ten years after his death, would exponentially increase the value of Astor’s real estate holdings.
But in New York City in the 1850s we are not.
Ruidoso is not monetized. Yes, it relies on tourist dollars, especially during ski season, and also during the Ruidoso Downs season of Memorial to Labor Day weekends. And yes, it has the concomitant service industry.
But it doesn’t seem to have made nature play second fiddle or the Supporting Actor.
Here, Nature is the Leading Lady. She chooses not to have a tummy tuck or boob job or a face lift as she gets older.
She needs no help; just respect.
She stays young on a steady draught of petrichor.