This photo has appeared on the blog before; I still like to take it out and look at it closely every once in a while. Although it appears to represent reality, it's really a sort of photographic riddle.
Our property here in the Chihuahuan Desert of southern New Mexico is a fenced-in lot with a few big trees, some cacti, a vintage adobe house, a garage, and a chicken house; it is surrounded by pecan orchards that are owned by someone else. I am always grateful for the shade and the bounty of these trees, some of which drop their pecans onto our yard. We have a huge supply of pecans in the freezer, we have pecan-shelling/sharing parties with our friends, and we cook with pecans all year round.
I am also grateful that someone else does the work and makes the decisions associated with the orchard: The plowing, fertilizing, pruning, harvesting, and the watering. As our drought continues and less irrigation water is available from snowmelt via the Rio Grande, wells are being drilled and groundwater pumped out to water the trees. The expense grows, as does the moral dilemma. How much water does one dare to bring up from the ancient deposits below the surface of the desert? When should farmers here just say enough is enough, and leave the pecan-growing to the farmers in rainier places like Georgia, where the trees are grown without the need for irrigation?
In the meantime, we are left to ponder the orchard. Although it looks like it has always belonged here in the Mesilla Valley, its existence here in the desert is not natural; should it stay or should it go? Is it what we see or what we think we see?
This is the actual orchard on irrigation day; the photo at the top of this post has been flipped upside down. It's not easy to see which is real and which is perception.