Our Enchanted Bosque by Judith Shaw

judith Shaw photoI 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.

jemez red cliffs72
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.

new mexico mountain streamjemez mountain viewRio Grande north of ABQ

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.

A Tangle of Cottonwoods, drawing by Judith ShawEvery 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, The Road Not Taken, painting by Judith Shawintroduced 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.

the Cottonwood Dance, painting by Judith ShawMayor 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 Little Bosque, painting by Judith Shawpainting 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.

Our Enchanted Bosque, painting by Judith shaw

Our Enchanted Bosque, oil on canvas, 7’x 6.75′ (made up of 4 canvas sections to create one piece) by Judith Shaw

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.

Judith’s deck of Celtic Goddess Oracle Cards is available now.  Celtic-Goddess-Oracle-cards-by-judith-shawYou can order your deck on Judith’s website. Experience the wisdom of the Celtic Goddesses!

Categories: Earth-based spirituality, Eco-systems, environment

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21 replies

  1. Your paintings are gorgeous, Judith. I visited Bosque del Apache in January. I was impressed with the number of “friends of the Bosque” who are working diligently to preserve this sacred space. I took advantage of two of the free educational tours on two separate days. I was impressed with the knowledge, enthusiasm, and dedication of the guides. You are so right about the “miles and miles of natural beauty” in New Mexico. Thank you for reminding us of the importance of preserving our wild places.


    • Esther, The Bosque del Apache is really such a treat – the beauty of the cranes flying in for the night as the sun sets, watching their mating dance in the late winter, and on and on. And it’s such a great success story of how we can stop extinction of a species if we try.


  2. Thanks Judith. Your work reminds me of Impressionism, not that you paint the same subjects, exactly, but that you engage nature with that same delicately loving spirit.


    • Sarah, Thank you so much for your kind words. I do love the Impressionists! Whenever I have the chance to visit New York that is one of the treats I look forward to in the Metropolitan Museum. And of course their art in Paris is great too!


  3. My heart breaks for you, the Bosque, and all the life along the river. Thank you for your heart-opening work!


  4. Your post reminded me so vividly that our Goddess, whoever She is, is not here to command us or punish us. She is here to guide us, inspire us to be better than we are. She has created us to be the guardians of Her beloved creatures. I wish your mayor could see the Bosque through your eyes.


  5. Beautiful paintings, Judith. Your love shines through.


  6. I’m so sorry to hear about this “path” being created next to the Rio Grande in the Bosque in Albuquerque. It’s one of my favorite places to visit when I come to New Mexico. My heart just breaks to learn of this travesty. Thank you for your beautiful work inspiring others to love this place as much as you do.


    • Ann Marie, There are still many beautiful parts to the Bosque but I fear this is just the beginning of more development. Come visit soon. There is another issue concerning public transportation in which the Mayor completely ignored the wishes of the people. I hope we can get a different administration soon.


  7. Judith your paintings are beautiful! I’m so sorry that your mayor does not understand the beauty and importance of the bosque, and instead sees dollar signs. I don’t understand why they couldn’t have built a trail out of natural materials instead. Sigh.


  8. I lived in Albuquerque for almost thirty years starting when my family moved there when I was 8. Your post, photos and paintings filled me with Sehnsucht. The mayor’s absurd plan is but one part of a sad legacy of land, water and air mismanagement in NM. For the curious: at about the 5 minute mark in Lonely Are The Brave there is a great shot of K. Douglas crossing the Rio Grande in Albuq. on horseback (on youtube)–that was the unspoiled (relatively!) Albuq we moved to in ’63.


    • Stuart, I have heard from long-time locals of how much they loved visiting a public park that was located where the river and Bosque meet Central Ave. Of course now it’s the BioPark, which is lovely, but costs money and is of course very manicured. Unfortunately NM seems to run on corruption. Perhaps Louisiana where I grew up is worse but not sure. I’ll have to check out the film. So much wildness lost all around the world….


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