Slag, wind, beauty, mystery

Sunday, Feb. 24, 2012

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photo: Kimi Eisele

We made our first visit to the Rosemont Mine site today, accompanied by naturalist Robert “Bob” Schmalzel. It was deathly windy and cold … and also marvelous. We piled on scarves, coats, and hats and stepped out onto the earth, just west of Highway 83. Bob began with a cosmic overview, explaining how precious metals came to “live” in the ground. Supernovas! We are all stardust. Ohm, shanti, shanti, shanti.

The first cactus came upon was a beehive cactus, which is propagated, in part, by the cottontail rabbit, which eats its fruit. A similar relationship exists between the Pima pineapple cactus and the jackrabbit. We then explored an ancient oak grove, and Bob showed a photograph from the 1940s to illustrate how the landscape had changed, how piƱons had proliferated.

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photo: Kimi Eisele

We looked at mistletoe and oak leaves and agave and snow and scat and we climbed up a slag heap from previous mining efforts–a beautifully flat surface of “slag tiles” that the smelting man (not an official title) must have purposely created during an afternoon of fun. The shiny black surface creates a stunning stage with the dramatic views in the background. We imagined how audiences might scramble up the steep slope to watch a performance there.

We saw where coleman’s coralroot orchid lives and a zone-tailed hawk nest and deer tracks in the washes and red-tailed hawks overhead. We learned about the talussnails, creatures that make a home out of the treacherous talus slopes on the sides of the mountains and slide away at full speed (full snail speed!) when humans approach, their eyes turning background to keep vigil. And we learned about reverence–for the elusive jaguar, who surely pads along these hills at night, and for all the other creatures who live in this region, the endangered, the threatened, and the common. A lovely introduction to the site.

-Kimi Eisele

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photo: Ben Johnson

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