The Rio Grande: A River of Myth and Imagination

By Dr. Denise R. Ames

photo Denise Ames

The Rio Grande, a river of myth and imagination, winds its way through my hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico. The river’s source lies high in the San Juan mountains located in south-central Colorado. The river snakes its way 1,896 miles to unceremoniously trickle into the Gulf of Mexico. But the mileage may change year to year as new channels are etched into the land or existing channels may silt up. The river travels the length of New Mexico, the fifth largest state in size in the US. A fact that New Mexicans like to boast about.

photo Denise Ames

City and state leaders in the past exercised a great deal of foresight in designating a wide swath of land on either side of the Rio Grande as a protected area for wildlife and people who want to experience nature. I am lucky that it is close by and I can easily access the trails crisscrossing the banks of the mighty Rio Grande so that I may hike to my heart’s content.

This fall I was dismayed to see the Rio Grande dwindle to a mere dribble in spots. Visitors were able to wade out to the middle of the river where currents were normally strong and swift and stand knee deep in the passive water pools. A surreal spectacle.

photo Denise Ames

Since the mid–20th century, heavy water consumption by farms and cities along with many large diversion dams on the river has left only 20% of its natural discharge to empty into the Gulf. Near the river’s mouth, the heavily irrigated lower Rio Grande Valley is an important agricultural region and draws most of the water. But this year it seems particularly low compared to past years. Fall rains in the north have replenished water levels somewhat, so the river doesn’t look quite so thirsty, but it still hovers below the normal range.

photo Denise Ames, owl is just a dot!

Despite the low water levels, the Rio Grande still offers me an enjoyable assemblage of natural delights. Birds are always fluttering about, chirping nonstop to some compatriot nearby. Perhaps warning them of our approach. Egrets stoically stake out the sand and mud dunes in the middle of the river, in their constant search for fish or other edible creatures. Occasionally, an owl will be sited, camouflaged in the canopy of leafy branches sheltering the walking trails.

What is most wonderous is that the river cuts through the middle of Albuquerque, a bustling city of 915,000, straddling the river’s banks and fanning out miles beyond its shores. This stretch of land and water—a quiet respite from the wailing sirens, unmufflered cars, and megalith semis dulling our hearing sense—is a true treasure. It reminds me that nature is always there for me, providing a soothing sedative to a life that often seems beyond my understanding.      

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences—teaching, scholarly research, personal experiences, extensive travels, and thoughtful reflections—have contributed to her balanced views and global perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units.

Along with CGA’s Gather program, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners and, Global Awareness for Educators, Dr. Ames is developing a new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, & Reflection Network. Turn encourages life-long learners to see with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and recognize the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.

Divided: Five Colliding Worldviews and How to Navigate Them has just been released!

Divided, Dr. Ames’ latest book,addresses the question on the lips of every American: why can’t we get along? The cultural divide is threatening our democracy and destabilizing our country. Divided looks at the deep cultural divide through the lens of five colliding worldviews—indigenous, traditional, progressive, globalized, and transformative. This approach helps us make sense of our deep divisions and suggests ways of bridging them.

It is urgent that we understand and bridge the cultural divide. Bridging the divide is dependent upon first understanding it. Gaining an understanding of the five worldviews enhances our success of arriving at sensible solutions and increasing civil conversations. If not, rancor and intractability ensue.

Divided is one of nine books written by Dr. Ames and the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books 

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