180 square miles.
That’s over 115,000 acres.
That’s how large the Empire Ranch used to be when it was at its greatest. It has been a working cattle ranch for over a hundred thirty-five years and is now under the aegis of the Bureau of Land Management or BLM. The BLM is working to ensure the preservation of the Empire Ranch and all of its buildings and history.
That’s where I am today, the Empire Ranch, near Sonoita Arizona. Although it has lost some of its size, at over 45,000 acres, it is still a giant.
For more information about the Empire Ranch, the different rides and events that happen at the ranch each year, and of course, more about its history, here is a link to their website.
You can also look up information on the BLM site.
The last time I was here I went for a guided tour of the ranch. I got to walk through most of the buildings and they explained what happened when, who owned it and who helped to create this incredible empire. This is a place that is full of history and you can feel that as you walk through the different buildings and as you look at the land and see these incredible vistas. They not only seem to go on for miles but at over 45,000 acres, they actually do go on for miles.
I even got my picture taken at the same spot that John Wayne stood, when he was leaning up against the rail in one of his many westerns.
There is so much to be explored in this incredible place and that’s wonderful and there’s all kinds of information online for you to look at to find out more about the history of the Empire Ranch.
Today, I want to take you on a quiet journey. I want to share with you some of the incredible beauty of this place and perhaps to express the warm, gentle, feeling of peace that I get when I’m here.
It’s been raining. It started last night and sounded so wonderful on the roof of my little trailer. It has been raining most of the day and its just now starting to slow down. It is still very cloudy though. But not that sullen sky, with cold grey clouds, that one so often associates with a rainy day. Here, there’s a brilliance, a brightness to the sky and the land is so vast and huge that it’s still retains its beauty, even on a rainy day like today. Almost as though the heavens themselves are celebrating the wonder and beauty seen below.
You can actually see where there’s been a little snow fall on the very tip of the mountains that pierce the skyline directly behind my camp.
Closer at hand, just beyond the pond, you can see the line of magnificent cottonwood trees that have probably been here for centuries.
Last year, I took some pictures from under the great cottonwood trees.
Their tops are green, growing, and grand,
their trunks are vast, gnarled and ancient.
When you stand underneath one, you feel so small.
Their branches seem to be reaching and stretching for just a taste of the sky.
But for today
The sun is still hidden in the clouds. I’ve only seen it take one tiny little peek out at noon. Just barely enough to let you see its outline, then it slipped away behind the silver grey curtain.
That is the only time I’ve seen the sun so far today.
But even so, there is such incredible beauty to be shared.
There are smaller trees dotting the landscape. Their branches seem bare and stark, adding to the sense that this is a desolate place, yet even in their winter garb, they add to the beauty of the plains.
On closer inspection you can see a bit of green, a bud here and there,
even a branch that is starting to leaf,
reminding you that spring is happening in its quiet, gentle way.
There is a stillness here, a silence, a sense of calm. There is no rush. No desire to be some place else. No need to change its look or feel, to be something different. There is simply the knowing, the being, the accepting, that this is the way here and has been, since time began.
There’s just a bit of a breeze now, its rustling through the grass that runs across these plains. Drawing a whisper from the reeds that were dry, awaiting this spring rain. The sound it makes as the breeze goes through is so calming, so quiet. Underneath those dry brown reeds of former years, burnt to the color of sand by last summers sun, you can see the new green that is only now starting to show.
As I read through this quiet journey again, to be sure that I’ve captured this moment in time, when I get to this part, to this place, I stop and close my eyes. I can feel that soft breeze, hear it gently singing through the grass. I take a deep breath and slowly release it. I can feel my body relax and my heart is eased. This is a place where my mind, my body, even my soul, is at rest.
The sun shone through again. A little stronger this time.
It tried to part that silver grey curtain, to cast its light on the land. Even though it was brief, you could feel the trees reaching for the warmth,
needing that light which feeds their leaves, their branches, their roots.
Then all was quiet, as the sun dropped beneath the horizon. A final gleam of light, a promise for tomorrow.
The light is fading now, as night embraces the land. No fanfare, no trumpets, no amazed surprise, only accepting, that this is the way here and has been, since time began.