Gila wilderness centennial student prose, poetry and art exhibition

I spent an interesting evening a few nights ago at the Hot Springs High School open house, in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.  As I sat at the table with a big banner blazoned with the logo for the Gila Wilderness Centennial, the parents, students, and teachers slowly moved through the room looking for tables of interest.

To those curious, my leading question was “Do you like nature?”  The most common response was “I guess so.”  Then I asked, “Are you familiar with the Gila and Aldo Leopold Wilderness Areas?”  A few were, but most were not. I spoke about Aldo Leopold’s effort to set aside a portion of National Forest to remain wild. On June 3, 1924, 100 years ago, 755,000 acres were designated as the Gila Wilderness Area, the world’s first recognized effort to preserve wild lands.

My purpose in attending the open house was to interest the students in partaking in our Gila Wilderness Centennial Student Prose, Poetry, and Art Exhibition. It will be exhibited on the walls of the Grant County Convention Hall in Silver City from May 29 – June 1st. We want to give students in grades 3-12, the opportunity to write or create an art piece that expresses an experience they had while observing nature.

It might have been a moment of watching five Broadtailed Hummingbirds battle for a drink at the feeder. Or searching the skies overhead for the vee of Sandhill Cranes, who were flying so high, that their raucous calls were heard but the beautiful birds with a six-foot wingspan were mere specs so hard to see. Perhaps it was a stunning view of far-off vistas from a high ridge reached after a five-mile hike through mountain wildflowers. Maybe it was a vivid sunset or a sunrise, a wild thunderstorm symphony of driving rain, jagged bolts of lightning and thunder rolling down a canyon or the full double rainbow after the storm had passed. One doesn’t know when those moving nature moments will occur. It might have happened when they climbed a tree just to climb and discovered a hummingbird’s nest or found a perfect orbweaver web laden with dewdrops, when leaving home on an early morn. They may have been on a family outing when they suddenly were mesmerized by an elk herd grazing nonchalantly alongside the highway, or an owl hooting in the dark morning as they were leaving on their trip. Moving and memorable moments abound for those who pause and observe. Perhaps you are a hunter and after three days of waiting for the moment, it arrives in stunning form. Do you shoot or do you just admire? Ahh, that is a question for the moment.

Most of us have experienced a Nature Wow. Break out that journal you always have along and write with passion about what you just witnessed. You know most likely, you will never experience it again, so write about it or create a drawing or splash some paint to recapture a bit of that magical moment. These opportunities to explore the habitat in one’s yard or a jaunt into the shady woods should always be treasured as nature has a way of awing us effortlessly.

We wanted to give the students of the communities ringing the Gila and Aldo Leopold Wildernesses the opportunity to express their nature moments. This is an exhibition open to all students who wish to share a story or a poem or an art piece that catches some aspect of wilderness, be it a tiny piece outside a bedroom window or earned by hiking five miles.

If this interests any readers who are themselves a student or you know of someone who you think would enjoy being part of this, please contact me or talk to your English or Art teacher and they can contact me. We are asking to have all work submitted by May 17 in order to have time to hang the masterpieces.

This should be a fun project. One you can be proud of and a treasure as a Nature Wow memory.


Steve Morgan

Aldo Leopold Living History

Gila Wilderness Centennial Planning





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Steve Morgan
Steve Morgan

Steve Morgan is a retired landscape architect who spent most of his 35 year career in Arizona and New Mexico. His current career is giving Chautauquas or Living History performances, as Aldo Leopold. He happily calls Kingston, New Mexico his home now, nestled in the Black Range Mountains only 3 miles from the Aldo Leopold Wilderness. His writings are strongly shaped by Aldo Leopold’s love of the wild lands, with respect and compassion for the land – the soils, waters, plants and animals. Steve’s compassion for nature is evident by his strong, driving desire to open people’s eyes to the marvel and joy of experiencing the natural world.

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