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

The Language of Landscape

Air Date: Week of

Living on Earth continues its series exploring features of the American landscape. Its based on the book Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape, edited by Barry Lopez and Debra Gwartney. In this installment, Pattiann Rogers takes a refreshing look at the desert “kiss tank.”


GELLERMAN: Bandelier National Monument gets its name from Adolph Bandelier, a Swiss archeologist who studied ancient Pueblo Indian sites. The names we use to describe places and landforms often have origins and meanings that are lost to us now…so from time to time we turn to the book: “Home Ground; Language for an American Landscape” to remind us where the terms that define our environment come from.

The book was compiled by Barry Lopez and Debra Gwartney–and today – poet Pattiann Rogers describes: “kiss tank”.

ROGERS: Kiss tank. Walking across the hot, dry lands, through saltbush and snakeweed and desert sage, the tired travelers longed for the sight of a kiss tank, a pool of water left from the last rain and its runoff in a naturally formed rock basin. Ranchers call these pools of water kiss tanks because, when such a pool is found, all creatures of the desert, as well as cattle and horses and humans, put their dry lips and thirsty mouths to its water eagerly, with a kind of passion. And they rise refreshed.

Such basins filled with the water from snowmelt can also be found in mountainous regions. A basin on top of the Maiden, a sandstone spire near Boulder, Colorado, for instance, contains freshwater shrimp that have evolved to survive the dry seasons. A kiss tank is also called a tinaja, which is Spanish for a big, earthen jar.

GELLERMAN: Poet Pattiann Rogers lives in Colorado. Her definition of Kiss tank appears in the book: "Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape" edited by Barry Lopez and Debra Gwartney.



Home Ground Project


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