We say we are bold and go where none have gone before. Our achievements stand on foundations built by our forbearers. How bold would we be if we built a civilization having magnificent structures without the benefit of the wheel or beasts of burden? We would be very bold indeed. The native peoples of the Americas did just that.
Whenever I visit the ruins in Chaco Canyon I am struck by the sophistication of a culture that could build such structures. They built not only in this place but many places across vast areas of desert and mountains. They knew and traded with the cultures of Central America and to the Pacific coast. Then they disappeared.
At night the star filled New Mexico sky and silence in the canyon can be unnerving for a city dweller.
San Antonio is celebrating fiesta this week. It is a ten day gala held every spring to commemorate the Battles of San Jacinto and the Alamo. Both were Pivotal events in the birth of Texas as a sovereign nation. Both are serious points of pride for many Texans.
One of the highlights of fiesta is the Battle of Flowers parade which takes place this afternoon. It is a huge community party. School children get a day off from studies and many businesses close half the day to allow everyone to join in the fun.
Festivities are capped off each year with the Fiesta Flambeau night parade which is billed as ‘Americas Largest Illuminated Night Parade’. It draws a few hundred thousand spectators downtown each year. Afterwards many thousands will join in more adult activities on the River Walk. It is not unusual to see revelers making their way home in the Sunday morning light.
Texas weather is notorious for being changeable. Like other places in the middle of North America, Texas comes under the influence of warm Gulf moisture and frigid air from far north. The clash between the two makes for violent conditions especially in spring and fall.
Climate wise most of Texas is semiarid. Tending to be hot and dry most years. It seems Texas is in a zone of latitude which frequently changes from drought to adequate rainfall depending in large part on Pacific Ocean temperatures. The last decade has been primarily drought. Year after year the rains failed to materialize and reservoirs emptied in a predictable fashion until much of the state was subject to water rationing. In the last couple of years some communities have been importing water in trucks for drinking purposes. Even century old trees started dying from lack of water.
The drought caused major disruption for farmers and ranchers across the state. They found themselves without water or competing with cities for the remaining supplies. The result was failure of many agricultural operations, wholesale liquidation of livestock and farm equipment.
I began documenting communities In the Texas Hill Country around the turn of the millennium. Among my regular stops are popular places on the Guadalupe and Medina rivers. Over the years I have photographed both rivers dozens of times. Even in the worst of the drought some water was flowing. Then one day I drove out to a crossing on the Medina River and it was dry. It was shocking to stand in the riverbed with my tripod and camera.
For now rains have returned to recharge the aquifers. The state is no longer parched. It will be a long time before the first drought of the new century is forgotten. Water is now managed more carefully. Regardless of how well we manage resources we are at the mercy of the climate.