The Crestone Eagle • May, 2021

Writer’s Forum: Crestone-Baca Indigenous

by Anne H. Silver

“When you drill wells, the rains don’t come” is a premise I’ve been pondering as the Baca Grants fills with drilling rigs and new houses.  According to Native American wisdom, when rain clouds observe we don’t need them, they go elsewhere!  Thus, in our entitlement and desire to control our access to this essential element, we inadvertently disrespect one of nature’s life-giving gifts!

Can we do anything about the growth here? No.  Just because some of us discovered this jewel before others doesn’t give us the right to build a giant gate somewhere on Road T.  As much as I might pine for the “good old days” when all the roads in the Baca were cross-country ski trails and neighborliness was essential to survival, that’s all but gone. Nonetheless, I can be respectful of who and what was here first: trees, rocks, animals and hardy pioneers.

Our wilderness environment is an attractive feature that most newcomers claim to support.  What might each of us do to preserve it?  

Perhaps newcomers don’t notice the mushrooming of population.  There’s still a lot of space, but much less silence than old-timers are accustomed to. Boisterous creeks, silent browsing of deer, the gentle call of owls, the cooing of doves and the rush of wind in the pine trees used to be the Baca soundscape. Now automobiles and construction trucks dominate most waking hours in many neighborhoods, thanks to increased development and a few perverse engine-noise show offs.  The recent push to establish Dark Skies designation, thankfully, could help control an increase in light pollution.

One task for me, I decided, is to educate relocated urban dog owners about how they handle their pooches’ waste.  After three unprecedented surprises on mountain trails, I feel I must speak up.   A plastic bag full of poop on each occasion astonished me: who was supposed to come by and pick it up? One person left a ten dollar bill under a rock next to the laden plastic!   City thinking, for sure!   Couldn’t the owner have just pushed the leavings far off the trail to let the sun and time take care of them? In these mountains  I manage to avoid stepping in coyote and bear scat even when these wild creatures don’t always have the inclination to defecate off-trail.  I appreciate owners’ concern about their pet’s nuisance potential, but a plastic bag disintegrates messily and pollutes the wildness forever.  If you want to use plastic, pack it and its undesirable contents out!

This brings me to the subject of “end -of -the- road” accountability which is essential to this small, isolated place of extraordinary power and beauty.   We can’t place enough value on keeping it that way. There is no amount of money that is its equivalent. Clean air and water are precious commodities in our chemical-subservient nation and most of the world.   And silence is even rarer!  It will take concerted human effort, and, yes, even some sacrifice to maintain what we’ve found here.  

The convenience of water-on-demand is not natural to a desert. Crestone’s once-heralded “virtue of inconvenience” has disappeared in our community’s rapid and inevitable growth. What efforts can we make towards the end of surviving here harmoniously with one another and with what we love? Keeping plastic out of the environment seems like a very small beginning, a minimal sacrifice.  Minding how we use light and sound will take more awareness, and may necessitate changing ingrained habits.  But isn’t it worth it to keep a respectful relationship with a beloved and extraordinary place?

The Baca is not just another suburb. Its natural beauty invites us to become “indigenous” and live in harmony with the earth.   Indigenous rainmakers know they must make sacrifices to attract rain’s blessing. Rain can’t be bought. It is a gift.  Native people continuously express their gratitude for all of Creation’s gifts. 

I pray that our gratitude for the blessings of this place can inspire us to abandon inappropriate customs in order to maintain what we have discovered here. Giving up familiar habits helps make us accountable.  Habituating to an awareness of how one’s presence in a wild place affects other beings is worthy spiritual practice. And a continual outpouring of thankfulness will nourish us all.