Thursday, May 8, 2014

Rio Grande Healthy Living Park

Rio Grande Healthy Living Park

Agua Es La Vida, oil on linen, 16 x 20


I am honored in creating a painting that promotes the attributes of the Rio Grande Healthy Living Park in my Rivertown- Alamosa, Colorado.

The park will evolve on the site that belonged to the local school district- almost 40 acres. On a small section of the land, a school once stood- now torn down.
I have a history with this school. It was named after local educator Margaret Polston. I went to school with her daughter.

My daughter, in turn, went to Polston Elementary School. There are towering cottonwoods outlining the playground that were planted by a friend to shelter her son when he went to school there. Local gardeners made plots and a greenhouse and the kids learned that you can eat what you grow- and that freshness is an unparalleled treat.
There are many such stories in this town.

But the school only took up a small part of the property. Enveloping the school and playground was and is an alfalfa field. There is an abandoned river meander that is fed by a distant warm well that affords all the wetland plants and animals a home. And next to the meander, separated by a dike, is the Rio Grande. The Rio runs through this property.

For a while it looked like this remarkable real estate would transfer into private hands. After a Rivertown kerfuffle which exposed some deep feelings below the veneer of civility, this land will once again be by and for the community people- if the funds are raised to purchase it.

The Rio Grande Healthy Living Park is a complex and invigorating menagerie best explained by the architects of its creation.
One of the features that I am looking forward to is the restored wetlands- removing non-native plants, encouraging wildlife friendly practices and making it a continuing educational feature to Rivertown. It will educate and nurture both children and adults.

Some notes about the painting-

I chose the vantage point from the elevated river dike looking east towards our all-star mountain celebrity- Mount Blanca. It looms over us most days when not obscured by storms- it winks at you from out of the corner of your eye.


The wetlands are indeed a treasure. This slough drains into the river and is fed by a warm well coming from the community artesian swimming pool. In the winter this warm stream offers open water in a land that at times has none elsewhere.
One winter I was perplexed to spot a Great Blue Heron at this open ribbon of water. I had only recently started learning about birds and had seen these large birds in great numbers in Florida. But here, in the San Luis Valley- in the bitter sub-zero weather that persists for weeks on end- what was this bird doing here? Then I saw the heron deftly jab into the water and spear up a minnow. These fishies thrive in the warm winter water- and sustain these large elegant birds in the cold of winter.


The moon reminds us of the subliminal and massive natural rhythms that, although we try, cannot for long be ignored. The rythms are there whether we acknowledge them or not.

Then there is the water. Agua es la vida. In the desert, the oases that the Rio creates is life.

Alamosa and the San Luis Valley prosper because of our engineered rerouting of the Rio Grande. We convert the Rio into sustenance that feeds thousands- waterfowl, livestock and crops. This tradition will continue with the Healthy Living Park.

My wish is that my inspired painting will inspire you to help as well. To give your support go to

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