One of the many things I love about New Mexico are the gigantic cottonwood trees that tower mightily in the high plains desert. Their size seems counter to the amount of rain and nutrients that are available in this climate, but they must have adapted well. For tower they do. My friend John and I discovered "The Hawk Tree" while road biking in the Sandia Mountain foothills and exploring some side streets ("all those hills"...gasp, pant). As we rode this particular street the landscape transformed from hot, dry, scrubby vegetation, to a lush, tree filled oasis. The Hawk Tree was the centerpiece. We stopped at the dead end where it grew and stood amazed at the cool, green beauty that surrounded us. It wasn't only the cottonwood, but many other trees were attracted to this area as well, to the point that it reminded us of the forests of the eastern U.S. where we both grew up. As we enjoyed cooling down, we heard shrieks coming from above and behind us. Sure enough, a hawk flew overhead and landed in the cottonwood. He must have sounded the "all clear", because another, then another, and yet another came swooping to roost in the welcoming arms of the cottonwood! It was astonishing...they were talking to each other soaring from branch to branch until they found one they liked. They didn't seem bothered or excited by our presence (too old and slow to be a threat, to big for dinner!) To see that many raptors in one place was a special treat for sure. Since the area was bounded on the east side by city Open Space, I vowed to hike in and explore the eastern side of this unlikey oasis. Two weeks later I did and snapped the pictures you see here. That day I stood beneath its branches and witnessed 3 hawks...it was obviously a favorite place for them.
Even though Hawaii was an awesome trip (and I was a bit depressed on my return home) I realized (I never really forgot) that NM is a truly incredible place. Since I have been home I have been treated to so many moments that make this so evident. The afternoon thunderstorms, the Mommy quail and her 8 tiny chicks that hatched in my backyard, the hummingbirds sipping nectar within meters from where I sit...I think the Universe was just saying..."This place is pretty cool too. Cheer up and look around you...open your eyes and your heart."