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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Up Bear Creek / 20oct50011

Harvest time, down on the Spud Patch

CLOUD ACRE … One of the glories of getting old is getting to ask help of your friends (especially younger ones) … I’ve been cultivating heirloom potatoes for over a dozen years now, and developing reliable seed production for almost 50 varieties of Solanum tuberosum. Sort of your one-man horticultural research station … Good keepers. Potatoes are a survival crop. Grow best at high altitudes. We have less bugs on Wright’s Mesa than the San Luis Valley. Or the Snake River Plain of Idaho … Reds, blues, browns, whites and yellows, with names like Pink Eye, Bluebird, Rose Apple, Caribe and Maroon Bells … In total, I have 50 of so separate varieties in cultivation. Perhaps 30 or so seed potato varieities to trade, and enough bulk for gifts and good eating all winter … But harvesting and preparing the beds for planting is time-consuming (though good down-in-the-dirt work). So I was able to talk my (younger) friend Steve McHugh to help me out. He’s a garden whiz of his own – with a plot in Norwood’s community garden, a plot at his place and a plot at mine. But his help made all the difference this year, and we got a darn respectable crop. Thank you, Steve!

OVER ON THE ROARING FORK … I met the amazing Valerie Haugen at the Karen Chamberlain Poetry Festival in Carbondale last winter. So, of course, I had to go see her perform. I love performance. My father was an actor – church plays, community theater, even professional parts before he died. My one claim to theater fame revolves around ushering for several plays at the Strater Theater in New Haven – a legendary old house in Broadway circles … Valerie’s dramaturg and lead actress for the Thunder River Theatre Company (as well as a very fine poet). I had high hopes, and I wasn’t disappointed … Gorio and I hightailed over McClure Pass after school on Friday and caught the repertory company’s current production -- a zany dark comedy of John Guare: The House of Blue Leaves (1971). The play’s about thwarted dreams, friendship, nuns, bombs, love, madness, and show biz -- a bouillabaisse of post-Sixties Warholian madcap married to a kind of half-musical drama … Valerie played a seductively off goddess gone bananas, opposite Lee William’s mercurially athletic singing lead, Jennifer Michaud’s two-timing bad-mouthing know-it-all hussy, and a baker’s dozen of quite believable characters … A delightful evening … Valerie has a one-woman show coming up, The Healing Power of Art, Nov. 27th at 7 p.m. at Thunder River Theatre (go to and click on events)

STICKS & STONES … “Art Good-Nowhere-Times,” my new nickname courtesy of a wild horse advocate who thinks I’ve not been doing enough for our more-than-human friends out in Spring Creek Basin … … The Rev. Clint Perry’s funny aside at his touching graveside service in Norwood: “If you’d never been offended by Dora Spor (God love her), than you didn’t know her” … What Jim Fisher, area manager for Dennison Mines, said, with a big sardonic grin, at the post office closure meeting in Egnar, “It looks like Art Goodtimes and I are on the same side this time.” … “Classless” was how one Facebook friend termed my sarcasm around the departure of Susan Culver from our wagon wheel of West End bully pulpits.

OUTLAW POETS … Norwood actually gets to host two poem-packing street poets from California’s Long Beach on the first leg of their Western tour:from RD “Raindog” Armstrong -- author of Living Amongst the Mangled (Lummox Press, 2010) -- and G. Murray Thomas -- author of My Kidney Just Arrived (Tebot Bach, 2011) … At the Livery, Monday night, Oct. 24th at 7 p.m.  … And then Telluride gets the duo at the Wilkinson Library, Tuesday, Oct. 25th at 6 p.m.

MONTROSE … Got to beep my horn in solidarity and give a thumb’s up to (mostly) young folks occupying the southwest corner of Townsend & Main. Nice to imagine our conservative regional commercial core to be hosting occupation forces … Tea Party meet Wall Street.

BLUFF ARTS FEST … Kate Niles is one of many reasons to make an off-season pre-snow desert drive over into our neighboring Mormon Four Corners state. She’s leading a workshop 9 a.m. to noon at St. Christopher’s Mission for the annual Bluff Arts Festival, Oct. 20-23. The award-winning author of two novels (The Basket Maker and The Book of John) and a book of poetry (Geographies of the Heart), Kate taught at Fort Lewis College for eight years
in the Writing, Honors, and General Education programs. Her anthropological background and love of the American West serve as her principal muses … The title of her workshop is “Fiction or Non-fiction: It Doesn’t Matter!”


That’s U.S.

One Halliburton
Under Goldman-Sachs
With Great Riches
For the Few
& Servile 
For the Rest

-Jack Mueller
Log Hill Village

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Up Bear Creek / 13oct50011

Regional Writers’ Forum hosts first
annual The Language of This Land

GRAND JUNCTION … Frank Coons writes: “We came from other places, other times … all at a crossroads, a junction.” It’s perhaps the greatest beauty of the Grand Valley, beyond its Book Cliffs and National Monument – a generous mix of human traditions. Grand Junction is on a major national east-west trail. Commerce moves along its highways and rails, as well as its busy Walker Field. Geographically, it’s the northernmost reach of the Southwest’s Colorado Plateau in our state. Ecologically, many southern species flora and fauna thrive here, but no further north … Having been through energy’s boom and bust more than once, there seems to be a new spirit in the air at the Western Slope’s queen city. Mesa State, under President Tim Foster, has changed its name yet again, as if the community were still searching for a sustainable vision of itself. Colorado Mesa University certainly sounds more prestigious and serious. If growth is still coming to this state (and it’s hard to see us as a nation denying ourselves anything), much of its Western Slope swagger will come through here … Maybe nothing more dramatizes this renaissance than cultural richness. This past weekend the nascent Western Colorado Writers’ Forum kicked off their first writers conference, with the goal of fostering “a dynamic literary and writing community that advances the cultural life of Western Colorado” … But the gathering wasn’t just about writers. Although MacArthur awarding-winning Native-American author Leslie Marmon Silko and Colorado Poet Laureate David Mason both read, and dozens of us lit types gave various workshops and readings, the core of The Language of This Land for me was hearing the oral stories from elder members of this crossroads community … Wisely, organizer Sandra Dorr, invited speakers from many different local traditional groups to present.

FIRST PEOPLES ... Ute “historian” Clifford Duncan – a much respected tribal leader and storyteller – spoke about the removal of his people from the Grand Valley, though without bitterness, and commented lyrically about his own upbringing, including a stint at a BIA Indian school where he was punished for speaking his language. But, as an elder now, he also spoke to us in Ute, as well as translating – so we could hear the timbre of his Uto-Aztecan tongue and still understand its meaning … Most interestingly, he put to rest certain historical misconceptions … Chief Ouray was only chief because the assembled Ute leaders in DC thought the government wanted to know whom their translator was (not the head chief to sign treaty documents) … Chipeta, Ouray’s second wife, was a Kiowa survivor in a camp raided by the Utes ...The Utes never called the Rockies “The Shining Mountains” – that’s a Whiteman’s fiction … And their name for the Uncompahgre was Davi (“sun”) + watch (“those that live in”), since the Uncompahgre Valley and the Uncompahgre Plateau were so much warmer than the Rocky Mountains … We get the word “Uncompahgre” from a corruption of the Ute phrase: edká (“red”) + bahahree (“lake, pond”), and it referred to the iron fens below Red Mountain up in Ironton … Duncan also spoke about the importance of keeping language and culture alive. He received a standing ovation both before and after his speech.

FRANCES WHEELER … From her wheelchair, 93-year-old Frances May Dorr Wheeler – Grand Junction’s Rhymester Laureate -- recited several of her “cowboy” pieces from memory: “The difference,” she explained most lucidly, “between poems and rhymes is that everyone can understand what a rhyme means” … Her sister Helen also read a rhyme from memory.

GRAND VALLEY ELDERS … Grand Junction-born Josephine Dickey spoke about Handy Chapel, and the hundred-plus years of African-American community presence in the valley. Al Grasso spoke of the Italian-American heritage in stone masonry construction there. One woman read an account of a Japanese-American hero from World War II living in the city. Another woman talked of the Basque-American heritage in Grand Junction and all over the Western Slope. Jose Lucero spoke to the Hispanic-American legacy of over 300 years in the region. The local attorney who bought the church where the conference was headquartered addressed the serendipity of his ownership and restoration work … For all the wonderful literary connections and marvelous new writers and old friends I met at this ground-breaking event, the stories of the elders from the community were easily the weekend’s most moving moments.


First Fall Storm

Pluck with the long bar
hooked cup
the last of the Macintosh

Cook squash
tomatoes turnips & beets
Still waiting

for post-storm’s first frost
to kill the spud plants
so we can dig up the tubers

& put the seed crop to bed
in the well-house’s cold storage
that I won’t let freeze

Photos of my younger
brothers (both gone)
yellowing like the leaves

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Up Bear Creek / 6oct50011

Of journalism, poetry, fulminations
and presidential historical fiction

CATALYST … Looks like the West Montrose Economic and Community Development group is starting up a flashy new monthly newsletter, thanks to the Paradox Strengthening Community Fund – The Community Catalyst. It’s a great name – a “catalyst” being something that makes other things happen … My friend Greta deJong edits and publishes the Salt Lake City alternative monthly, Catalyst – which I love to read, since it features so many stories relevant to southwestern Colorado and keeps me current on non-Mormon Utah’s counter-culture <> … WMECD’s first issue, a trimmed U.S. G-size newsprint tabloid printed in Montrose, sports a dusk cover shot of the Paradox Rim by Richard Worth. Its inaugural editorial offers an “open forum, to dream of a better tomorrow for ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren” … Marie Templeton of the Rimrocker Historical Society has a column, “Pieces of our Past”. Jeri Mattics Omernik talks about converting grass into greenbacks. Dallas Holmes writes “The Book Nook”. 4th-grader Brydon Haining is selected as the community’s first “Stellar Student”. There’s a Colorado State University Cooperative Extension back-cover color story about canning tomatoes, a full-page community calendar, a West End non-profit directory, couple ads and a survey … It’s really quite nicely done. Pick up copies in Norwood, Naturita, Nucla and Paradox

DIABOLOS … I was surprised to learn, on one of my late-night etymological excursions, that our culture’s idea of a “devil” comes from this Greek word, which means “slanderer” or “accuser” … And that its synonym “Satan” derives from the Hebrew Ha-satan “one who opposes or obstructs”

TALKING THISTLE… “Thistle, a missile of war, or earth repair? Comes to land in need of weedy care. Yes, taproots deep -- breaks up compacted ground, bringing those gardener earthworms around. And all the while brings its presents to us humble, earthy, loving peasants … Blend the alkaline greens with water, lemon and honey. Strain out the prickles and enjoy a life elixir with no money …Peel the stem before it blooms to enjoy a juicy celery treat … Chew the flower into gum that's lasting and mildly sweet … And dig roots for winter liver tonic tea, to rejoice in a good long life of health, carefree! …Thistle, to some, is "Wanted" as the bane of society … Another road to take is to celebrate diversity!”  -- Katrina Blair, Turtle Lake Refuge, Durango

SUSAN CULVER … Can it be true? My evil twin poet journalist colleague over at the San Miguel Basin Forum has left her post? No longer editor? No more ad hominem editorials fulminating on the evil ways of the notorious Badtimes? … I’m gonna have to ship my horns and trident back to the factory.

DAVID MASON … Professor at Colorado College, as well as prize-winning poet, essayist, writer of libretti, and former Fullbright scholar, Mason was named Colorado’s sixth poet laureate by Gov. Ritter last year. He made a pledge to visit all of Colorado’s 64 counties and he’s coming three venues in Ouray County and one in San Miguel County next week … Friday, Oct. 14th, 5-7 p.m. at the Ridgway Library for a Meet&Greet … Saturday, Oct. 15, 9-a.m-noon at Weehawken Creative Arts, 1900 Main St., Unit #7, Second Floor, Ouray, for a  Poetry Workshop (“Killer Openings: How to Get into a Poem”) … Sat., Oct. 15, 3-5 p.m. at Roscoe Fox, 539 Main St., Ouray for a Poetry Reading and Book Signing … Monday, Oct. 17th, at the Wilkinson Library with a reception at 5:30 p.m. and a reading at 6 p.m. … A second book of David’s essays, Two Minds of a Western Poet, will appear in 2011 from the University of Michigan’s Poets on Poetry Series. Mason lives near the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs with his wife, Anne Lennox.

JIMMY CARTER … Found a book saved from my late dad’s things that had gotten a bit moldy in a storage bin whose top leaked. A novel by our former president. I dried the pages and salvaged the book. I didn’t know Carter’d tried his hand at fiction, but since it was a story of the Revolutionary War, I dove in … And it proved a good read. I learned a lot of history about South Carolina, Georgia and Florida during the time of the Colonies separated from England. The characters were strong and engaging. The momentum dragged a little at times, with (no doubt) accurate historical details getting in the way of the storyline. But the writing was good. Not prize-winning, but solid. I stayed up until 5 a.m. reading one night (morning) just to get to the end … I learned that the Creeks had a clan named after the Potato; a member of the radical revolutionary party for the late 1700s in the American colonies was called a “Whig” – a word that originally meant a horse thief; and a member of the conservative party was called a “Tory,” which had started out meaning an outlaw whose first allegiance was to the Pope … The Hornet’s Nest (Simon & Schuster, New York, 2003). Recommended.


Autumn Equinox

Rivers run, fires rage,
End times coming, New Age.
Turning wheel spinning fast,
Fleeing migrants soaring past.

Autumn quells the summer light,
Ushers into longer night.
Western spirit, black holes,
Mystery gate, dead souls,

Bear, coyote, owl, loon,
Baying to night and the Harvest moon.
Voices sing with heart's reminder,
Whoever loses is also a finder.

Nothing else you have to know,
Only this: let go.

-Amy Hannon
Raritan Valley

Monday, October 3, 2011

Up Bear Creek / 29sep50011

One of Norwood’s legendary
ranching elders takes her leave

DORA CORNFORTH SPOR … I had the good fortune to count Dora as a political colleague and a personal acquaintance/friend, although my hippie ways were an aberration that she tolerated more than embraced. And like most relationships, ours had its ups and downs … I recall being invited to ride with her in her carriage one Pioneer Day, although that was early on in my run as commissioner, when I’d managed to get rid of building codes in the west half of the county. Dora was a diehard Republican, and – all else aside -- less government was always better government to her way of thinking. Although she took on the Weed Advisory Board chairmanship with relish. And did serve as appointed chair of the first Wright’s Mesa Planning Group in the mid-Nineties, a ground-breaking process that ended in flames – not because of any failing in her leadership, but mostly because of a serious structural defect. Anyone who showed up could participate and vote on issues. So, after two years of work by Dora and 20 or so folks, a crowd of 200 showed up and shot down all the group’s carefully crafted recommendations … I got to know her as a founding member of the Weed Advisory Board, which morphed into the County’s award-winning Weed Department under the able leadership of Sheila Grother. But in the early days, the Weed Board ran the weed control program. And so there were many interesting discussions about weeds, treatment and budgets … Dora was always firm, in control, gracious but brooking no shenanigans. And she had a way of making even the biggest ego in the room toe her line … I appreciated the stylish way she dressed – western, but with a showy flair that made her stand out for the community leader she was … I always told her that she should have been county commissioner – she was a strong, reasonable and intelligent chair, with a hefty dose of common sense, in any group she led. She had a good feeling for what the West End of the county needed and wanted. But she didn’t mix with the east end crowd, and so wisely kept her political powder dry by not getting sparked into east end battles … I remember having tea and cookies in her living room. Her kindnesses showed through in spite of a sometimes rough demeanor. And her anonymous support for those in need was legendary. She’s the kind of charming Old West figure that could have been a character in a novel by Ivan Doig or Cormac McCarthy … Thank you for all your many contributions to our community, Dora. You will be missed … The Rev. Clint Perry wiped away a few tears, told some funny stories about “his friend,” and conducted a lovely graveside service last week at the Norwood Cemetery. Understated, unvarnished, funny, paradoxical, and heartful – just like Dora.

SMART METERS … There’s been some upset with a proposal by San Miguel Power Association to start installing smart meters in people’s homes and on their properties by next month. Wireless smart meters have generated huge controversies in California and British Columbia – emitting radiation and generating privacy concerns. But SMPA appears to be wanting to install digital smart meters – a much safer technology … Still, some concerns linger in the minds of the co-op’s owner/consumers. Hopefully, SMPA can respond to those concerns and gain public confidence that what they’re doing is aiding us, our health and the environment. In these times of technological advancement, when sometimes unsafe technology is loosed upon unsuspecting citizens, it’s incumbent upon SMPA to ensure that its public feels confident that digital smart meters will “do no harm,” as well as make for a smarter grid.

RARE METALS … Come hear Dr. Jim Burnell of the Colorado Geological Survey speak about some of the critical and strategic metals in our surrounding mountains that are necessary for many of our alternative energy solutions … He will speak at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 5 in the public meeting room at the Wilkinson Library.

TED LIVELLI … Turns out I didn’t give Ted his due, and I got his job wrong at FilmFest … Craig Chapot said Ted had done some sound work for him back in ’78. Dean Rolley also said he’d done sound work for him at FF. Not as a projectionist (an elite group of folks), as I mistakenly said … Ah, be well, Ted, and come visit us again.



Roofbeam. Brooms. Flutes
& drums. Rise & deliver
the He to the She
& the She to the He

Teresa & Jonathan go
walking the wed way
as One. And two, too
Also. Always. Alluvium

of the flow, fanning
across our hard peaks &
deep root cellars – the mud
they make of us --

joined as we are
in their spirit clan. Edge
of the mesa. Looking
south to the Wilsons

For this we gather
in ritual time
Hearts beating faster
than the speed of light

Up Bear Creek / 22sep50011

Small Steps, Big Story: Climate Solutions for Rural Communities

HEADWATERS 22 … Started and run for a couple decades by the writer George Sibley at Western State College in Gunnison and now led by “Dr. John” Hausdoerffer of Western’s Center for Environmental Studies, Headwaters is a conference I’ve attended religiously for the past two decades, which has made me part of an informal group of advisors call the Headwater Elders … This year’s gathering was a mix of speakers, question&answer sessions, hands-on stuff, audience time, and more … Because the Headwaters region in Gunnison drains the Atlantic and the Pacific, the conference has been broadly defined and has come to include many Western Colorado mountain communities, like Telluride and Norwood -- headwaters for the San Miguel and Dolores river drainages. Which is why I’m always surprised so few San Miguel County residents take advantage of this unique educational opportunity. Particularly as climate change is something all rural communities are wrestling with.

WINONA LADUKE … One of the event’s strengths over the years has been hearing from experts outside the range of usual suspects. Having Winona LaDuke speak on food and energy resilience from the perspective of indigenous knowledge and experience was brilliant … While most may know her as Ralph Nader’s Green Party running mate in 2000, she has a long history as Anishanaabe activist and rural development economist, with degrees from Harvard and Antioch, dozens of national awards, six books and currently co-director of Honor the Earth -- a native organization providing some financial support and organizing more support for native environmental initiatives … Her talk Sustainable Tribal Economies was a keynote summary of a publication from Honor the Earth (which is downloadable, free, on the website). While focused on native nations, it seemed an invaluable template for rural communities nation-wide in achieving energy and food resiliency … Those were the conference’s  twin themes – the relocalizing of food and energy options. LaDuke shocked many of us in revealing that some two-thirds of energy created in the current national grid system is actually lost in generation and production, calling us a nation of “energy junkies.” She described two paths that Anishanaabe (Chippewa) prophets had outlined for the future. One is scorched and well-traveled and the other is green. It’s very similar to the two paths spoken of in Hopi prophecy. Clearly, with climate change looming over us, we’re coming to an irrevocable crossroads where we will have to make a choice on what path we will choose for our children … She related how one elder had told her, “It seems like this culture doesn’t want to be around for another thousand years” … We learned of the Declaration of Atitlán promulgated at the first Indigenous Peoples’ Consultation on the Right to Food, held in Guatemala in 2002, and LaDuke’s own efforts at preserving native strains of squash and corn, as well as her championing of her tribe’s crop of wild rice – when hand harvested in canoes, not the industrially grown “wild rice” sold in most stores … She was a wonderful speaker – casual and yet deeply informed, humorous while vitally serious, respectful, never deprecating … My only disappointment was that I didn’t get to speak with her at length about Green politics and other issues, as she had to leave right after her talk. But I’m hoping to begin a conversation with her. And I would highly recommend anyone interested in food and energy independence to get a copy of Sustainable Tribal Economies.

ENRIQUE SALMON … While Winona’s Friday night talk was my most inspirational experience, Enrique Salmon’s “Finding the Story” workshop was easily the most challenging and perhaps the most rewarding. It wasn’t about storytelling, as a cursory read had led me to believe. It was more a leadership training in finding and understanding one’s own story -- the genesis of one’s own belief system and vision -- so as to be able to better communicate to others what you’re passionate about and believe needs transformation. His workshop should be a required course offering for any activist trying to persuade others to change – both in understanding oneself first and in using story as a way to entice people over to your perspective … Watch for his forthcoming book, Eating the Landscape: American Indian Stewards of Food and Resilience (Univ. of Arizona).

AND MORE … Attendees had a choice of three community workshop tours: food stories of localizing food production and consumption, energy stories of history and possible efficiencies, and nature stories of ecological resilience … There was a film showing of Melinda Levin’s The NewFrontier: Sustainable Ranching Stories and Jack Lucido’s Sustainability in Ranching – both featuring Gunnison County ranchers … Alan Wartes of Denver sang his “Headwaters Anthem,” I did my opening “Art of Getting Lost” poem, and George Sibley read poet Aaron Abeyta’s “Letter to the Headwaters” … In closing came the Gourd Passing on Sunday morning – a Headwaters tradition of listening and speaking, where everyone gets to share their story, poem or song. Mostly we hear how they may have been touched, or even sometimes transformed, by three days of liberal arts academia, real world experience and ritual traditions … I find this the most moving part of the weekend, when young students and seasoned elders all get to hear each other speaking from the heart ... If there’s one regional event a year I would urge community leaders to attend, it would have to be Headwaters -- if only for this chance to learn from dedicated activists and environmental studies students, eager to change the world … It’s the kind of human magic that gives one hope for the future.



shoots from the woods,
his pure blackness stunned
to molten silver
in the evening sun.

And another, right
behind the first,
glides along the road
and then,
into the dark woods,

-Michael Adams