I live in New Mexico’s largest city, Albuquerque. As a Goddess Worshiper, one of the things I love about New Mexico is the easy access I, a city dweller, have to so much natural beauty. I feel Her beauty and power in the widely varied landscapes of New Mexico.
From deserts to mesas to mountains, the rose-golden glow of this Land of Enchantment provides locals and visitors alike with miles and miles of natural beauty and millions of acres of land protected by our national forest system. Though much of our land is arid we also have a few important rivers – the Rio Grande, Pecos, Canadian, San Juan, and Gila rivers.
The Rio Grande, the second largest river in the southwestern United States runs through Albuquerque. And this life blood of the southwest gives existence to an amazing riverside cottonwood forest, called the Bosque, from the Spanish word for woodlands. Most likely, it is the largest continuous cottonwood forest in the world. It begins north of Albuquerque and extends 200 miles south, all the way to the Bosque del Apache, a wild life preserve established in the 1930’s to save what was then an endangered species, the sandhill cranes.
Every year, in the summer and the fall I love spending time in the Bosque, drawing and painting the cottonwood trees. I am captivated by their beauty and majesty. Looking intently as I paint or draw I feel connected to the universe through these beautiful trees.
The Bosque is an amazing wild spot in the heart of a mid-sized metropolitan city. Almost every major city with a river running through it has turned that riverside property into a commercial zone. Shops and restaurants line the shores of rivers around the world. Whenever I go to the Bosque since moving here in 2000 I say a prayer of gratitude for this wild spot. I bring my water bottle and a snack while I bike or walk; sit quietly or draw; and feel the power of nature. My soul opens and the problems of modern every day life recede for a moment. Almost every other activity in modern life requires consumption. The Bosque has been consumption free but that might not last.
A few years ago Albuquerque’s mayor, who has a background as a developer, introduced plans to develop and commercialize the Bosque, called by him “The Rio Grande Vision”. A huge outcry arose from the public. The Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club has led the fight against this development. They fear that the mayor’s plan will impact the Bosque’s wildlife and habitat.
Mayor Richard Berry backed-off from some of the more extreme elements of the plan. But he has pushed forward with his desire to create a 6 ft wide crusher fine trail which local nature lovers feel could harm the delicate ecosystem of the Bosque. After numerous public meetings he committed to waiting through all the periods of public comment before beginning construction. It seemed we would be able to reach a compromise.
Once again the promises of a politician have proved false. This winter, without warning or further thought to the ongoing public process, he began construction of a 6 foot wide path. This path follows the river bank, the most destructive route possible to birds and other wildlife. A narrower path made of stabilized, natural materials, following a different route would offer a better balance for wildlife and human users of the Bosque. But the city, flagrantly breaking its agreement to work with concerned citizens, continues bulldozing and building without regard to the short and long-term effects on our beloved Bosque.
Through all of this I have continued with my sojourns to the Bosque, drawing and painting the beauty of the cottonwood trees. A few years ago I started work on a very large painting of a forest. I used my photos and drawings of the cottonwoods as my source of inspiration. At first I thought of this piece in more generic terms, simply wishing to recall the wildness that is being lost as forests around the world disappear. Work progressed slowly as it seemed so impractical to create such a large piece that would be hard to store, hard to sell, hard to move.
Last fall, in one of those flashes of inspiration I finally understood that this painting is not generic but specific. The unfinished painting called to me to complete it; to express my love of our Bosque; to express my desire that we honor and protect this beautiful cottonwood forest growing along side the Rio Grande; to bring an image into the world which could open hearts to the need to protect our forests, our wetlands, our mountains; our world. This is my prayer and my offering for a world in balance – Our Enchanted Bosque.
Judith Shaw, a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute, has been interested in myth, culture and mystical studies all her life. Not long after graduating from SFAI, while living in Greece, Judith began exploring the Goddess in her artwork. She continues to be inspired by the Divine Feminine in all of Her manifestations. Originally from New Orleans, Judith now makes her home in New Mexico where she paints and teaches part-time. She is currently hard at work on a deck of Goddess cards. Give yourself the gift of one of Judith’s prints and paintings, priced from $25 – $3000.