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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Adiós Al Color

Air Date: Week of

The landscape in Great Sand Dunes National Park. (Photo: © Mark Seth Lender)

Living on Earth's Explorer-in-Residence Mark Seth Lender shares his encounter with a herd of elk galloping over the cliffs in Colorado's Great Sand Dunes National Park.


CURWOOD: Biological diversity is everywhere on our planet so as an example, now that winter has settled in over the northern hemisphere, we turn to Living on Earth’s Explorer in Residence, Mark Seth Lender. Here is Mark’s description of elk passing the winter in Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park.

Adiós Al Color
Great Sand Dunes National Park
© 2021 Mark Seth Lender
All Rights Reserved

The lake is black. The creek comes to an end there in one deep gulp. On the far side the curve of the lake shore is high, rising in a cliff. Beneath that cliff a cluster of shapes detaches from the sand and rock and gravel. Elk. Browns and tans. How small they seem. And even smaller when considered against what looms above so large they appear closer than they are, the Great Sand Dunes, yellowish-red as the sun sets; violet, in the approaching dark.

In the dark the land grows spare and wide. The eye, the pulse, the mind adopt the presence of absence.

One of the elk shambles over to the edge and drinks. The others wait - then on the move. At first slowly. Faster. Galloping!

Their hooves on hard ground, the leap-loping run and the clods of earth tossed head-high. Creosote bush and sage part in the rush of them. They speed westward chasing the last light into obscurity.

A herd of elk start to gallop. (Photo: © Mark Seth Lender)

Morning is its own impossibility. Snow. Thick as plaster. The creek, the cliff, the lake, erased. A creamy layer swirled to the contours of the dunes; as if what lies beneath is not earth but cake.

It’s true, proved by the progression of seasons and just as much by the passage of a single day. The only permanence is change.

CURWOOD: That’s Living on Earth’s Explorer in Residence Mark Seth Lender.



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