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Sunday, July 8, 2012

Up Bear Creek / 28jun25012

Remembering World War II

PAUL HOMER … I still haven’t seen The War, the seven-part documentary that premiered as a TV series about the American experience of World War II which has just been released on Blu_Ray. But I want to. For those of us 66 and 67-year-olds, conceived in that war but born in peace, we feel pulled in both directions. I find myself working for peace at home and abroad but consumed with curiosity for the inconceivable profligacy and abandon of the war experience … Accomplished Chicago barrister and consummate storyteller Paul Homer (One of the “Great Generation”) has written another collection of war-time stories sprinkled with poetry and funny tales. Memoirs and Lies & Collected Short Stories 2011 he calls it. The war stories take us into the action and the craziness (and even the humor) of things that happened in the European theater. A poem about hearing a rabbi chaplain speak about Hiroshima and the war’s end, embedded in a platoon of prose, is quite moving … The collection includes a number of short stories and classic Jewish tales. I loved the “Moscow Cat Circus” and “Twins” – a most amazing legal tangle that sounds, at least in part, autobiographical. But as Paul hints in the title – this is a mixture of memoir and lies in varying proportions. “Ants” seemed almost the ravings of a borderline psychopath. “Alfred at Rest” purports to be the diary of a very cruel man who gets his comeuppance … Homer is not afraid to explore the dark side. But he makes us laugh a lot. Highly recommended.

PLACERVILLE SCHOOLHOUSE … It was nice posing for a photo at the old Placerville one-room schoolhouse last week as the County closed on Downvalley’s historic icon. Kudos to Linda Luther for the County and Banks Brown for the Telluride School Board (the district owned the building, although the deed has long been lost) for making it happen. Downvalley’s Jerry Albin – the closest thing to a mayor that unincorporated Placerville has -- was there. He’d actually attended grade school in the building as a boy, before going to work for the mines ... County plans are to refurbish this historic landmark and make it usable for community groups again … I remember the commissioners meeting there in the Nineties and lovely Thanksgiving community dinners catalyzed by Pviller Jeannie Stewart. Not that things didn’t get heated there as well. Like the time the County Planning Commission denied the Gray Brothers of Olathe a logging permit or the public meeting I was chairing where two local citizens came close to fisticuffs and had to be separated)  … I think this is exactly the kind of project that citizens hoped to make possible with the County Open Space and Recreation fund. And important for Placer Valley to have it as a valuable community space.

ENERGY PIG … If you’ve not been following Confessions of an Energy Pig, you’ve missed the saga of my attempting to reduce my power usage by more than half. As a part-time bachelor & part-time single dad, the amount of energy I was using three years ago was way out of line for a household of one and a half persons … I know there’s a great program that Eco-Action (aka The New Community Coalition) has been promoting of energy audits, retrofits, etc. I’m just not the type that likes government coming into my house and monitoring my life. Besides, I knew I had some bad practices, reduplicative systems. I worked for a year or so to change those obvious energy drains, and for another year I’ve been publicly tracking the results in my energy bill -- the lag time between the promise of better energy practices and the actual savings payoff. It’s not THE answer, but it’s a simple thing we can all do to begin our personal carbon reduction amidst climate change … According to our cooperative power association (SMPA), in August of 25009 (ANAC) my total kilowatt hour (kWh) usage for the past 12 months had been 16,118 kWh. My May bill for this year shows a total annual kWh usage of 6,766 – a savings of 9,352 kWh or a reduction of 6.4 metric tons of carbon released into the atmosphere (SMPA’s electricity is mostly coal-based). My average monthly usage dropped from 1,343 kWh to 563 kWh … It still means I’m releasing 4.6 metric tons of carbon into the air each year just by utilizing cheap electricity, so it’s no time for complacency. There’s much more to be done. But maybe I’m not too bad of an energy pig, after all, just a wee porker – at least by U.S. standards.

PICKING CHERRIES… Folks call them pie cherries or sour cherries, and indeed they make the mouth pucker up, but I love their sour-sweet-juicy fruit. And this year it’s late June and I’m already harvesting ripe cherries at Cloud Acre. Even the birds weren’t ready for that bounty this early … The apple trees (Macintosh) are heavy with fruit, and (thanks to my irrigation runoff water) I even have a few plums on the tree my dad planted before he passed in 2008. Only the apricots are still playing understudy this season. But I can’t wait until their golden globes also appear in my harvest baskets.


Soul on Fire

Venus just clears the
gray mountain edge,
barely ahead of the sun.

The morning star
blazes for a time
as the sky turns.

She rises along her arc,
growing ever dimmer
in the hidden sun’s surge.

A soul on fire.

-John Nizalowski
Grand Junction

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Up Bear Creek / 21jul25012

Trying to gauge forest conditions pre-settlement

UNCOMPAHGRE PARTNERSHIP… That’s the new name for the Uncompahgre Project – a spinoff of the Public Land Partnership meetings of years ago. But UP has grown and flourished while PLP seems to have faded to a shadow of its old self. I always liked to call PLP a table of trust, and it’s where a lot of us in the region learned to trust each other – regardless of our different perspectives, values and beliefs. But maintaining a “discussion group” is hard, while focusing around real projects keeps people involved … Last week I visited one of the many projects that UP has been involved with. Well, actually, I was invited by Dr. Dan Binkley and Dr. Bill Romme – two professors who’ve been extremely helpful with the Burn Canyon Project and so many other forest health initiatives in this region. They stopped by Cloud Acre for a brief visit, and suggested Gorio and I come join a field trip barbeque UP was hosting at the 25 Mile Mesa Ranger Cabin. Bill even drew me a detailed map … So, Gorio and I drove over the plateau and down the Delta-Nucla Road to the site last Fricay (after a brief high-centering of my backcountry-unfit Honda Civic and a rescue by the good Jim Free) … Besides visiting with lots of old friends who’ve been involved in public land issues for the last couple decades, including Andrea Robinsong, Colleen Trout and Leigh Robertson, I learned what the volunteer crew of 40-50 folks were up to. It’s what they called “forensic forestry”. They are measuring old stumps and downed logs and, by various methods, determining the size and age of these ancient giants, and how they were distributed over the landscape. Bill and Dan want to get a handle on what pre-settlement conditions were like several hundred years ago. It’s hard to bring a forest back to a healthy condition, unless you know what things were like before the agencies started preventing all fires – which served to increase forest density and its vulnerability to disastrous crown fires, especially among Ponderosa Pine … That UP was sponsoring the work was telling. It’s become a focal point for many wonderful collaborative projects in the region. Check out their website on-line and consider getting involved:

STONE BELLY … Had a great time visiting with my friend and mountain bard from the Front Range, Michael Adams. We traded poem performances at Two Candles. Hiked up Dolores Peak from Woods Lake, tracked an intermittent stream in Busted Arm Draw, and scoured the rim of the San Miguel Canyon ACEC (BLM’s Area of Critical Environmental Concern), keeping an eye out for mountain lion … Check this week’s Talking Gourd with one of Mike’s workings from Han Shan’s Cold Mountain poems – a kind of conversation between the ancient sage and a cancer survivor. The kind Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer has with Rumi in her latest book. Mike’s book is If You Can Still Dance With It: Stone Belly & Cold Mountain (Turkey Buzzard Press, Colorado, 2012). Highly recommended.

AFFIRMATION DAY … Constituents have asked me how I feel about the proposal by some Nucla folks to celebrate the Constitution with a new holiday. Certainly, we have lots of reasons to celebrate the U.S. Constitution that’s given this country’s people so many freedoms and such prosperity over the last 200 years … It’s probably also a good idea to reflect on the things that our Founding Fathers got right and the things they didn’t. We’ve come a long way from restricting the right to vote to Anglo-Saxon men of property, and that’s a good thing. But it doesn’t hurt to review what our political system is based on, and how far we may have strayed from some of the essential rights and responsibilities, explicit and inferred, in the nation’s founding document.

PIÑON RIDGE … The outrage expressed by the Colorado Dept. of Health and Environment a month or so back when DOE officials questioned the failure of the state to hold adequate public hearings on the uranium mill license in Montrose County seems pretty spurious now, after the recent ruling in Denver District Court. Clearly the state didn’t do the job they contracted with DOE to do. Gov. Hickenlooper ought to take note. If the Democrats are going to join the Republicans in promoting nuclear power, they can’t cut corners and ignore federal requirements, even if Colorado has assumed uranium licensing authority within its boundaries … Kudos to Sheep Mountain, the Town of Telluride and the Town of Ophir for holding the state’s feet to the fire. When a state agency in the executive branch fails to allow a mandatory public hearing and gets called on it by the judicial branch, you know somebody’s fast-tracking a proposal. Under our U.S. Constitution, the public has a right to know what private industry and local government are pushing through the process.



I’ve climbed ten thousand
rafted the wild frothy waters
of a thousand rivers
I used to laugh at winter’s
frigid blasts
Do your worst, I’d bellow
into the storm
How could I ever have guessed
that one day I’d huddle
in front of the fire
in slippers and heavy robe
at the first hint of frost?

-Michael Adams

Up Bear Creek / 14jun25012

If You Can Still Dance With It
Mike Adams (aka Stone Belly) on Dolores Peak (Goodtimes photo)
 BELLY BOYS … Come hear Michael Adams (aka Stone Belly) perform his poems -- with yours truly (aka Holy Belly) -- at a non-sanctioned Fire Gigglers/TalkingGourds/LoneConePress/NorwoodWritersGuild special event Thursday (tonight), June 14th at 7 p.m. at Two Candles Café & Bar in Norwood. Bring your own poems & we’ll share after … Author of Steel Valley (Lummox Press, 2010 – a powerful mixed prose/poetry account of growing up in Pittsburgh), son of Lew Welch and a favored bard of Dolores LaChapelle, Mike was diagnosed with incurable cancer a year ago next month. He’s just come out with a new book, If You Can Still Dance With It (Turkey Buzzard Press, 2012) with poem conversation/translation/interpenetrations of Han Shan, Taoist alter-ego Stone Belly poems, and his latest coming to terms with “The World As It Is” and “After the Ashes.” In his introduction to the book, Adams suggests that he’s trying to “examine what it is like to be confronted with a life-threatening disease without prematurely seeking answers, solutions or solace.” The poem Send Some Angels is exactly that mix of industrial fumes & staring-monsters-in-the-face lyricism you find in Steel Valley. Plaintalk about “having set yourself on fire / so many times for a woman or a cause” and how “there’s no romance in it.” Hard male truth, and how hope lies with the poem’s final image -- “mountains in the sun.” … 
Checking Rucksack

Mike’s final meditation in realizing how precious each moment of life is and as regards his most recent death sentence, The Ones Who Get the World Ready celebrates those common folk who make the world “solid and familiar” … Mike is a poet of the solid and the familiar. It’s like talking with an old friend. A true bard of place, as well as a devotee of the senses. A Whitman who gives oracular visions of the land we inhabit, and a Han Shan/Stone Belly extracting essences out of life’s brilliant phenomena … Come join us in Norwood Thursday night.

NIZALOWSKI TRIO … Well, at least a duo, as John and Isadora Nizalowski play voice & violin at Caole Lawry’s Planet Earth & the 4 Directions Gallery in Grand Junction (524 Colo. Ave.) on Saturday, June 16th, 7:00 p.m. at the Planet Earth & Four Directions Gallery on 524 Colorado Ave. in Grand Junction. 
John Nizalowski watching Isadora
I get to tag along as ‘Dora’s “godfather” – one of those duties every good Italian boy takes seriously … This event is free and open to all. Call Caole for more info: 970-256-9630.

DROUGHT … Fire bans and water call-ups. Western folks have been talking about over-stocked forests, and urban folks have been talking about climate changes, and it all seems to be coming together – unlike our political parties – in a frightening fire season. Forget about monsoon shroom showers (did I say that?) and let’s just hope for a gullywasher or two this summer.

FIRE … Talking about possible worst case scenarios should this monsoon season bring dry lightning, as predicted, government officials realized that everyone needs to be personally prepared for sudden evacuation, should that become necessary in the case of an out-of-control fire this summer. Our local Intergovernmental meet up at the Mountain Village last week was sobering. Even the possibility that the governor may ban fireworks on the 4th of July was discussed, as happened in the bad drought year of 2002 … We would all do well to be prepared this year. Burning Man may be coming to a backyard near you.
Friend helping prep Spud Patch for planting

CLOUD ACRE SPUDS … Finished up my spud patch this spring. Took me a month to prep the ground and plant some 50+ varieties of potato (59 varieties, by my count, and some 208 mounds). Part of what makes the process time-consuming is keeping accurate records of what was planted where – alternating colors so it’s less likely to mistake varieties in the fall harvest. I plant 3-4 seed potatoes for each variety, and usually keep 4 tubers of each kind for my own seed plantings. I store some for my own food, and the rest is what I sell or trade. Some varieties have been cloned and adapted for the past 15 years at my place (with an aberrant year growing in California, while I was taking hospice care of my dad) … This year I had seed potatoes available at the Norwood Home & Garden Show and Norwood’s first Farmer’s Market. Next year I hope to have full line of unusual varieties to offer folks in the region.

WEEKLY QUOTA … "Poetry is when you can't afford the "v" in poverty." -Doug Haning, Portland Jazz Musician 


Stone Belly’s Poetics

Stone Belly is not gentle
with his poems, does a jig
on the lines to see if they got rhythm,
boogies with the beat, twirls them around
to find there they bend
and break.

After all that, if you can still dance with it,
you know a poem is good.

-Michael Adams

Up Bear Creek / 7jun25012

Local leader appointed to National Forest Service Committee

JOAN MAY … It has been a singular pleasure to work with Joan on the County Board of Commissioners. She is bright, fair, of the deepest integrity and understands the difference between good governance and campaign posturing. Turns out we locals are not the only ones to notice. She has just been appointed to a prestigious U.S. Forest Service’s National Advisory Committee for Implementation of the National Forest System Land Management Planning Rule (Planning Rule FACA Committee) … Both as a National Association of Counties subcommittee chair and as a friend of several members of USFS leadership, I’ve been strongly advocating that the Forest Service utilize the kind of citizen advisory help that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management uses with their Resource Advisory Councils. It’s wonderful to see the agency do exactly that with the Planning Rule and doubly great to have a local political leader chosen for membership on the 21-person group … The Planning Rule FACA Committee will advise and give recommendations to the Secretary of Agriculture and the Chief of the U.S. Forest Service. Their duties will include 1) Review the content of and provide recommendations on directives related to implementation of the planning rule; 2) Offer recommendations on implementation of the planning rule, based on lessons learned and best practices; 3) Offer recommendations for consistent interpretation of the rule where ambiguities cause difficulty in implementation of the rule; 4) Offer recommendations for effective ongoing monitoring and evaluation, including broad-scale monitoring, for implementation of the planning rule; 5) Offer recommendations on how to foster an effective ongoing collaborative framework to ensure engagement of federal, state, local and Tribal governments; private organizations and affected interests; the scientific community; and other stakeholders; and 6) Offer recommendations for integrating the land management planning process with landscape scale restoration activities through implementation of the planning rule … This is a feather in the cap of Colorado, San Miguel County as well as Joan herself. It’s wonderful to see her receiving national recognition for the fine leader she is

Mark & Elaine Fischer

MARK FISCHER … It was great to join Elaine Fischer, my other talented colleague on the County Board of Commissioners, past winner and this year’s contest judge Kiersten Bridger and Telluride Arts in honoring the late Mark Fischer with our 14th Poetry Prize in his name last week. The Steaming Bean hosted a great reading including local winners Elle Metrick of Norwood and Beth Paulson of Ouray, a Skype reading by a Colorado Springs winner, and the in-person word magic of first place winner Wayne Lee of Santa Fe.

ED QUILLEN … Ed died of a heart attack last weekend in Salida, where he and his wife and two daughters made their home over the last couple decades. A newspaper editor, founder of the monthly Colorado Central (still publishing), and a brilliantly witty rural columnist for the Denver Post, he cast a large shadow. His grasp of Colorado history was second to none. He successfully used humor to skewer right-wing ideas (and sometimes left-wing ones). He was uncompromising with the truth and unafraid to take positions at odds with many of his fellow citizens … For years he was one of the star speakers/participants in Western State College’s Headwaters Conference (the school is set to change its name to Western State Colorado University this summer). His hotel room, thick with cigarette smoke, was often the haven for long, late-night discussions on a wide-ranging assortment of topics. All of which Ed would expound on with unique perspectives and withering arguments … 
Ed Qullen

He and Martha were generous too. More than once they invited me to sleep at their home in Salida, and in spite of the haze (I detest cigarette smoke – having grown up with smoking parents) I would gather with others in fascination and awe around their kitchen table for more brilliant discussions … He’d cleaned up his act of late. Had stopped smoking (mirable dictu!). And begun to seriously exercise. But the hard-living life of a journalist with its deadlines, public debates and passionate opinions caught up with him … Colorado has a lost a great one. And many of us have lost a dear friend.

SHARON SHUTERAN … Telluride is still reeling from the sudden passing of a local icon – our good county judge. The memorial on Saturday drew a large crowd to the Palm as we all tried to deal with losing someone who was quintessential Telluride. From the government of Bhutan to words of friends and family and an elegant eulogy from Rick Silverman, it helped us face the loss of one who had married community involvement with judicial reserve, fairness with compassion … 
Judge Sharon Shuteran

But, even with the ceremony, it’s still hard to believe we’ve lost her.

PEACE WALK … Join us Monday, June 11th at noon at the county courthouse for our monthly walk down Colorado Ave. for peace. Hard to believe two things – that we’re still doing this (it’s been over a decade!) and we’re still at war.

JEB BERRIER … Heard rumors that our local Douglas “Faux” Fairbanks roasted me at the Telluride School graduation, even though I wasn’t there to defend myself. The comedic cad! But who can take anyone seriously whose name rhymes with derriere? … Be on the lookout, actor man. Revenge is coming.



Blue as the solid ice
in Shelf Lake early June,
hard as tourmaline stone,

Blue sends me sliding
to a gate I cannot open,
though a part of me
could knock it down
faster than a shot
of brandy on
a finger-numbing day,
after hours of climbing
in the snow.

Maybe time never
takes the steam
out of this hot drink.
Maybe there's a root
that digs below,
keeps growing.
Maybe it's just
the ice blue gate
of your eyes.

-Linda Keller

Up Bear Creek / 31may25012

Photo by Melissa Plantz

Kicking off the festival season

MF33 … Lito Tejada-Flores. Rick Silverman. Arlene Burns. David Holbrooke, Peter Kensworthy, Emily Long, Ellen Shelton – my Mountainfilm list is a long one (and hopelessly incomplete, because this festival is a uniquely Telluride event, involving hundreds of local volunteers and boardmembers plus a small but passionate staff) … It’s been the spring gem in the mountains of our festival season since the year I came to town, back in the summer of ‘79, when MF started – two years before Shroomfest .... What local wouldn’t relish the caliber of MF patrons & passholders -- people who love mountain life, mountain sports, mountain quests. And as a liberal bastion in a purple state’s deep red Western fringe, San Miguel County appreciates the conscience that the Symposium has added to our four-day orgy of action cinematography … In global politics, MF has aligned our mountain town with Tibet and against China (“one of the most brutal regimes on the planet”). This year it brought Ai Weiwei : Never Sorry by Alison Klayman – one of the many films I only heard about … And in the national conversation, the Moving Mountains Symposium took on a taboo issue – population. I remember reading Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb in a small cabin in Mendocino that someone had let me stay in for the weekend on one of my weekly hitchhikes north from San Francisco. Must have been 1969 or ’70. It had a big influence on me, as I moved from the strict Roman Catholicism of my youth to the earth-based spirituality that informs my life these days. To have him here, all these years later, trying to tell us the same message – it’s inspiring. And disappointing … My teacher, Dolores LaChapelle of Silverton always called “population” the 900-lb. gorilla in the room that nobody wants to acknowledge. “It’s hopeless,” she’d sigh. And then proceed to suggest myriad courses of action that could lead us into accepting reasonable limits for our impacts as a species. But she knew that animal behavior and human behavior are part of a continuum, for all our beliefs in our own species exceptionalism. And the urge to procreate, feast & multiply is probably beyond the powers of human consciousness to control … In biological terms, Homo sapiens (or, as I prefer, Humus ludens) is a crash population headed for a fall. What the Hopi call, Koyaanisqatsi … From climate change to environmental disasters, MF covered the symposium field with fine films this year.

MASONS THEATER … I love the grammatical push to simplify our written language. “Masons” used to have an apostrophe somewhere, correctly or incorrectly, in the vicinity of “s”. And I remember seeing “theater” as “theatre” for the Masons, as the Nugget has always done. But MF’s program cut to the quick. Gone were apostrophes. Gone the Frenchy spellings for the halls. It was Masons Theater. Nugget Theater. I think it’s the same impulse that leads to Twitter’s abbreviated scripts. And, like it or not, it’s how language works … For the last several years, I’ve had the honor to emcee the Masons, with a wonderful crew of folks, like Brad and Rhoda Green. It’s a lovely venue. Many folks call it their favorite, with its intimate seating, pressed tin ceilings and Masonic drapes … Of course, I get a distorted view of the festival in just seeing a slice of the film offerings – mornings and early afternoons this year … Memorial Day weekend is right in the middle of spud prep and planting season at Cloud Acre, and so I have to get back to my Wright’s Mesa homestead every afternoon to irrigate the potato patch, feed the cats and (this year) clean up the wind damage from those fierce dust storm gusts that hammered the San Miguel Basin

SOME FAVORITESFambul Tok – perhaps the most important film of the festival for me. A poignantly told look-see into a local grassroots reconciliation process in Sierra Leone following their terrible 12-year civil war. If you believe in Nobel Prizes for Peace, one of them ought to go to John Caulker, founder of the Fambul Tok reconciliation process. This film has so much to teach us about the power of forgiveness and mutual healing on a community level. As well as, about the money colonial powers spent on sending 11 men to prison at 200 times the cost of reaching 20,000 villagers in 50 some victimized communities, while having 700 perpetrators apologize and be forgiven. It’s a concept we in the Industrialized nations might seek to explore -- working to bring the wounded and wounders together in a healing community process, whether for physical wars or for the war of words we substitute for violence in the West … Darwin – perhaps the most charming film I saw. By a Swiss filmmaker, Nick Brandestini. It’s been out a year or so to critical praise here and abroad. A climbing into the lives of some dozen or so Death Valley ghost town hermits for an intimate look at all kinds of surprising human issues like marriage, divorce, religion, trans-gender children, a son lost to meth, bigotry, art, the post office. Incredibly sensitively done, In chapters. Nicely edited with a great score by Michael Brook … Terra Blight – This deeply disturbing film, made possible in part by a Mountainfilm Commitment Grant, chronicles the destination of 80% of our “recycled” computer parts in this country – African nations like Ghana, where young children in rubber sandals smash monitors with big rocks to fish out a few spools of metal from a former wildlife lagoon that’s become a toxic dump. The U.S. is the only industrialized nation in the world that doesn’t prohibit the export of its e-waste. It’s an international disgrace, and the computer industry ought to clean up its act, before the government acts in the next swing of the federal pendulum … The inspiring Marine Col. Eric Hastings in Not Yet Begun To Fight … Ken Burns’ Dust Bowl … That seriously comedic wizard of the viral and Valley Floor lynchpin, Tom Shadyak, preaching in the Palm about the need for each of us as world citizens to start paying attention to earth’s operating instructions (Yes!)  … And great trailers for local movies-in-progress DamNation and Uranium Drive-In.


Fambul Tok

Welcome filmsters
to Telluride

where we showcase
movies that matter

like these mountains
walking round us

hidden only by the wings
of our theater walls

Come to Sierra Leone
my fellow beneficiaries

of American

Only our daughters
& sons in the military

have had to survive war
We read about it

See frames or films
Allow our leaders

Democrat or Republican
to use it

as what my leftish friends
would call

“a tool of empire”
And so

we’ve never had to
forgive atrocities

to our loved ones
Come watch & learn