Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Dave Foreman in Durango tomorrow

Thursday night you have a chance to see one of the great forces in the evolution of the environmental movement when Dave Foreman speaks at Fort Lewis College.

Foreman will talk on "The Rewilding of America" on at 7 p.m. on Oct. 1st in 130 Noble Hall. There will also be an informal discussion and Q&A with Foreman will also happen at 4:30pm, at the Center of Southwest Studies.

Read a quick bio of Foreman here.

The many flags Foreman has marched under in his eco-career -- from Wilderness Society to Earth First! to Sierra Club to Wild Earth to, today, the Rewilding Institute -- show his willingness to have a broad embrace of ways to embody what is his ultimate vision: putting the earth first in our society and culture and technology and lives. That's the true Earth First! -- a path and a compass bearing, rather than a mere group. No membership, just action. Whether that's politics, protest, science, or even personal silent solitude in the wilds.

In that sense, then, and equally importantly, in my mind, has been Foreman's role as not just enviro-meddler (as Ed Abbey called good environmentalists), or not even agitator, but as motivator. He's been a life-long cheerleader -- one who backs his cheerleading by reason and evidence and humor and the occasional howling -- who has hounded and cajoled and bugled others to take up the battle to put the earth first in whatever way each of us we can.

See and hear the show yourself on Thursday.

And check out this clip below of Foreman speaking at a Bioneers Conference in 2005:

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Neighborhood harvest!

Last night our friends and neighbors Matt and Janet hosted their annual neighborhood apple-harvest fest. It was an urban bounty.

They rented a cider press from Turtle Lake Refuge, and over the course of the evening -- from warm clear early sunset around the barbeque to cool first-quarter-moon-lit night around a back-yard campfire -- produced a few gallons of sweet and lovely amber cider. Some drank it straight, some punched it up with an assortment of harder liquids. All the apples were reaped from their own or other down-town apple trees.

We even got to see the International Space Station sprint across the early-night sky. A good omen, methinks, on a good night.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

That time of year ...

... when the summer's rafting-gear tarp and painting drop cloth are pressed into to the service of fall's home-grown tomatoes.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Last day of summer ...

... comes with winter's first touch.

Looking north from Carbon Mountain yesterday. Before this storm moved in, we could see a stip of fresh snow lining Mountain View Crest, and some more distant peaks. (Click image to enlarge.)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

One-gear minds ...

Started the day (well, partway through, after yard-saling) with a not-atypical, yet still-new, Durangotan spectacle. A typical, in fact, Durangotan fruit salad of humor, plenty of cross-dressing, and extreme athleticism.

At 10:50 a.m. we and some neighbors and our kids wandered down to the end of the block with coffee in hand, a few lawn chairs for the still-waking, and watched the start of the first-ever Singlespeed World Championships.

Check out some shots (click to enlarge). We were right where the roll-up ended and became a race, marketed by some lunatic in drag blaring a blow-horn. We watched this nutcase get very-nearly mowed down by two cars, three cyclists, and a disoriented and distracted pedestrian.

Several of these mono-gearheads have been camped in my neighbor's yard most of the week. I enjoyed talking to a few in the rain over a keg of True Blonde one night. When I asked them, Um, why singlespeed?

A well-pierced young woman from California said she enjoys it more than regular mountain biking it slows down the ride, and even makes it okay to walk in places. So she gets more out of the ride.

A closer-to-middle-aged guy from Durango with two kids said that since he started singlespeeding only a few months ago, it's like all the trails around here a new again, but you have a heightened awareness of the terrain. You have to, to plan for hills and use you one gear to its best advantage.

Both very astute and aesthetic answers -- not the sort of rage-rock/X-game/MMA-style-of-cycling grunt of a response I was rather expecting.

Still, and even though I love my cruiser for those very same aforementioned reasons and the pleasure they make getting around town like, I still have no interest. To my reverent, faithful, God-fearing mind, mountain biking is exactly why God made gears.

Bumper sticker seen at Irish Embassy Pub last night: "If you ride a single speed and nobody sees you, is it still cool?"

We'll soon find out. We're headed up to the mountains camping tonight -- and trying Sneffels tomorrow -- leaving these one-track minded folks to themselves to celebrate.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Get more culture for less at Walmart ...

I admit it: Every now and then, I go over to the dark side.

It is, after all, only a few miles from my house.

I mean, of course, the Box Store That Must Not Be Named. What you might call, if you were, say, a wizard, Valdemart.

Yes, I too loathe Walmart. I don't need a reason -- it's just reflexive. But at the same time, I must admit it holds this lurid allure for me. It's kind of like going to, say, a bull-fighting match -- I disagree with it, yet it is this fascinating cultural phenomenon that the traveler in me could not resist witnessing, exploring.

If you can enter that traveler's mind of the Prime Directive -- observe, experience, but don't judge -- then Walmart really can be its own peculiar cultural foray. Even right here in little Durango, pop. about 15,000. For when I walk around my little town's big Walmart, I can't help but walk around, gawking around, and mouth agape, wondering, "Who the hell are all you people?!?"

I mean, I live here, in a very small town, and have for so long that it seems that generally where ever I go I know at least a good chuck of the other folks there. But not so at Walmart. It's like a five-minute drive delivers me to this completely different planet, and a whole different culture. A whole little different country in a box down the road.

Most of that, of course, is the Box Store Culture itself. I mean the sterility and organization and predictability, the endless shit and sense of shameless consumer gluttony, and the routine familiarity -- the sense that every Walmart everywhere is a clone of some great Mother Of All Walmarts. And, of course, is generally what Walmart is so scorned for: for being devoid of culture, for even sucking away any trace of the variety that comprises culture and cultural differences.

Perhaps. But I'll give it this: At our Walmart you can get see fresh roasted chilies outside.

Take a little Walmart cultural trip for yourself: Check out this list from Seth's Blog of 11 observations made from a visit to a Walmart in China. His first four on the list are:

1. They sell live turtles.

2. A whole display case is devoted to sea cucumbers.

3. Like any upscale American or Beijing supermarket, they have a sushi case. The prices are half what they’d be in America, but the pieces of fish are much thinner.

4. They cut up meat in front of you. A whole pig was being butchered on a table. A roast duck was being sliced for packaging.

Also below is a slideshow of a visit to a Walmart in Beijing -- complete with the ubiquitous "More for Less" signs in kanji, but also featuring live turtles and carp -- killed and cleaned while you wait -- in the meat department.

How about you: Seen any other signs of local culture while traveling Walmarts around the world?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Aspen season

Ed Quillen, columnist for the Denver Post and publisher of the very fun Colorado Central Magazine, has a nice little post on the High Country News Goat Blog. In the post, he gives a great little nutshell natural history of the Aspen, including its tendency to turn yellow in the fall.

Actually, Ed informs, an aspen's leaves are always yellow, or even orange -- they just look green in the summer from the chlorophyll activity. So in the autumn the trees are merely proudly sporting their true colors.

For which we are all most thankful.

Read that and more cool facts about aspen in Quillen's post here.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Today's forecast ...

In the pre-dawn morning, the moon floated luminescent above the pink morning glow like God's flung nailclipping. A lovely morning, warm yet sharp, rich with moisture from last night's rain, and clear and fair overhead.

Still, forecasts in the newspaper and online called for the potential of rain later.

Perhaps so. For walking above Durango later that morning, I could see news from the the real weathermen: The La Platas casting their own forecast for last today on the horizon, like nature's RSS feed in the great homepage of the sky.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Autumn in the air ...

Matt pointed it out to me.

"Decaying foliage is the smell of fall in New England," he posited, authoritatively.

Although we'd both spent more than half our lives in the West, we are both indelibly conditioned by our northeastern upbringings. And as such, both share an affection for that falling, ending, last-savoring season that bridges the vibrance of summer and the sterility of winter.

"And roasting chilies is the smell of fall in the Southwest," he sermonized, concluding.

And with the rich smoke rolling over us from the two chilie roasters roaring away, I noted through that savory haze the vague hint of emerging pattern of re-coloring foliage appearing on the oak-covered flanks of Smelter Mountain and Perins Peak, and I bowed to my friend's good observation.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Swirling in the Farmers Market social eddy ...

Spent the morning at the weekly Durango Farmers Market today. I was down there with my friend Matt, and we were representing Backcountry Hunters and Anglers at a table with some folks from Colorado Wild. We were giving out info to visitors to the market about roadless areas in Colorado, and urging people to urge Governor Ritter to make the Colorado Roadless Rule at least as strong as the Clinton Roadless Rule.

Learn more about the issue here.

But that's not what I want to write about here. What struck me the most about this day was the farmers market itself. And Durango itself.

It was a lovely morning, with a slight cool bite to the air early on ("That is a whisper," a friend whispered to me this morning. "It's winter whispering, 'I'm com-ming ...'" He grinned, big and happy ...). By mid-day it had given way to shorts-worthy heat -- the typical southern Rocky fall regimen kicking in.

And people were out en masse. The market -- set in two adjacent strips of First National Bank parking lots -- was like a big, swirling eddy. And everybody was happy and convivial and just loving the day. Part of 8th Street just up from the market was closed for the Durango Coffee Festival, and live music rolled out over both venues as people strolled and pushed strollers and biked and sauntered around between the two.

Downtown Durango was alive, and at its tribal, social, communal best early on this lovely late summer day. My parents were in town and I was glad they were able to enjoy it with us.

And that was the perfect place for me to be, it seemed. Always good to be able to evangelize on a street corner, of course -- but beyond that, it was three hours or more of running into friends and neighbors and co-workers and former co-workers and old friends and forgotten acquaintances and old students and meeting some tourists and several new Durangotans who I hadn't yet bumped up against in the great ecosystem that is Durango.

It was fun in the sun and sharing and chatting (and a few cups of good coffee), and it showcased some of the great features of Durango, and of mountain-town life in general: the engagement, the involvement, the caring, the out-of-doors living, the social fabric, the festivarian spirit, the endless swirling and entwining and renewing of relationships.

For us, it was certainly an easy place to push an idea like defending Colorado's roadless areas -- to people who care about their town, their community, their place. People who live somewhere because they want to live there.

Mountain-town people.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The view from Hermosa Cliffs

What a welcome few days. Cool and damp. It reminds me of Norway, and the Yukon, and Alaska -- places we ventured the past few summers, where the summers are, well, cool and damp ... I'm a temperate-zone kinda guy, so for me there are few things as lovely as a damp view of mountains shrouded in togas of cloud.

So, following a summer with with our own climatological recession underway -- a lack of those refreshing monsoonal flows that usually move over the region in the late summer -- the past few days have been a welcome infusion of wet, temperate weather.

So after Saturday's all-night rain, we headed up to the hills to check out our mountains wrapped in moisture.

Here's a view from the top of the Hermosa Cliffs. Makes me glad we didn't head anywhere else this year. (Click to enlarge.)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Silence is golden? Or is it dangerous?

So I was listening to the classic rock station the other day, and, as happens once or twice or six times an hour, the Eagles came on. This was one I hadn't heard in a while, and one I like more than many, both a '70s mainstay and a mountain-town mantra: "The Last Resort," with its prophetic refrain:

They call it paradise
I don't know why.
You call someplace paradise
kiss it goodbye.

That was true, back in the 70s, I think -- that you could, and should, hunker down and shush up about the still remote and un-marketed places scattered around rapidly growing country, and world. I think that was mostly a good strategy.


Hell, I don't know. Back then I was working in Boston (the one in Massachusetts, as Don Henley might sing ...) and found out that if you call someplace a center of industry, you can kiss it goodbye as well. (The called it the Massachusetts Miracle, actually, and it consumed the rural New England village life and countryside in a broad swath of suburban/pavement/industrial devastation around the Boston area.)

I wasn't out here in the relatively wild and fully wonderful West. Yet. And when I finally came, I stayed. I'd found my personal paradise. And I, of course, wasn't going to leave.

And I, of course, wasn't alone.

The West was, is, always has been and always will be lots of people's Paradise. How can you blame'em? I don't blame myself for staking a claim on and making a life in the place I consider the closest I am likely to get to paradise in this here life-cycle go-around. For myself, anyway.

And for others as well.

But for whom?

Now there's a hard question. And here's another: Call some place paradise, does it have to therefore be kissed goodbye?

And in our 21st-century 7-billion-strong Google-Earthed world, does calling someplace paradise perhaps actually help keep it from being kissed goodbye?

I think maybe so. I think we need today more advocates to go along with the activists fighting for our paradises. More people who know places and can articulate why they should be kept and protected and cared for, more people on the ground in places, seeing, looking, listening, like lovers watching over their beloved.

As the Eagles also sing:

There is no more new frontier.
We have got to make it here.

I think we need more people actually making a living somewhere they love -- and living in a way that doesn't devour their beloved place.

And more speaking speaking from that place, and those lives.

We can't afford to only fight against any more. We must fight for things. And to do that, we have to stand up and argue for paradise.


What do you think?


Editor Will Sands takes a look at the same question on last week's editorial in the Durango Telegraph. Read his take on the matter here.