February 2013

Tweaking a North American calendar

By Art Goodtimes

THE TALKING GOURD

The Female Form

Yes, I posed nude for him.
But he wasn’t like any
other artist I’ve ever
worked for. I’d sit on
his lap, his left arm tightly
around me while he painted
with his right hand. He said
he didn’t want to paint
the way I look, only
the way I feel.

-Valerie Haugen
Marble

BEYOND THE JULIAN … I know, I know. I have this obsession with calendars. Certainly the Christian calendar that we use, dated from the (unverified) date of the birth of Jesus of Bethlehem, has served us well. And it’s become an international standard. But, to my way of thinking, it’s far too religiously bound for the modern era, and far too culturally bound to our Graeco-Roman roots as North American immigrants of mostly European stock … Of course, there are other calendars … Muslims use the Hajri lunar calendar, starting with the flight of Muhammed from Medina to Mecca. Thus the current year is 1434 AH (standing for Anno Hejirae, in the year of Hijra) … The lunisolar Hebrew calendar has changed over time, but in the current Anno Mundi (in the year of the world) epoch, the current date is 5773 … The old traditional Chinese Yin lunisolar calendar can be calculated in a number of ways. We are currently in the Year of the Dragon, and the date is either 4709, 4649, or 4710, depending on the epoch used … There are many Hindi calendars, as might be expected from that hotbed of that ancient culture, each specific to different local cultural groups … So I think we as North Americans, with our New World perspective, ought to craft our own calendar. For years I’ve tried to tie a calendar to the earliest humans to touch foot on this continent, but the science is unsettled. While the oldest physical anthropology evidence is 12,500 years ago, there are a number of unverified sites that are claimed to be far older – perhaps as old as 25,000 years ago … But the recent hoopla around the end of the first Great Cycle of the Izapan Mayan calendar has led to increased scrutiny on this indigenous calendric system. Based on astronomical observations at the Mayan culture center of Izapa and focused on the passage of the solstice sun through the center of the Milky Way (the galactic womb for our solar system), their Long Count calendar started several thousand years ago. What the calendar showed was an understanding of the precession of the equinoxes – a cycle based on the wobble of the earth on its axis that changes the scan of stars seen in the night sky over the course of 26,000 years. I figured measuring our time from a start date at the Izapan marking of that precessional cycle with their baktun 20-count system makes more sense to me than something that happened in the Middle East just a couple of millennia ago … But in order to transition from the Gregorian dating system to this new dating system, I’m proposing we change our calendars from 2013 to 26013. The conversion factor is simple. We merely add 24 millennia to our current new year … In my mind, it puts our world into better perspective. It’s based on an astronomical insight gleaned from a date arrived at by the most sophisticated calendar ever created in the New World. Plus, it’s probably close to the date when the first humans reached Turtle Island.

SPIDERS … As with snakes, I was afraid of spiders as a young child. We lived among black widows and my mom even got bit by one hiding in the sleeve of a jacket she put on. She was sick for days … But meeting an herpetologist at Pinnacles National Monument in California, I learned to love snakes – recognizing the danger but respecting their power and beauty. And after 30 years living in Norwood on a property with many old outbuildings and in a house with many resident spiders, I’ve come to an arrangement of sorts. I like to say, they don’t bite me and I don’t kill them. Both of these statements are true, although there may be no direct correlation between them. However, in my own magical worldview, there is. And I take great care to escort spiders out of my home (where a good number provide fly-catching webs, eliminating one of the area’s summer pests). My success in doing so relates in no small way to making use of that wonderful humane spider trapping tool, the BugZooka – an air gun that sucks up spiders and lets you relocate them outside, unharmed … Having become a fan of spiders now (one of the great Diné feminine deities), I was delighted to learn in a recent issue of Science News of the discovery of a whole new family of spiders, Trogloraptoridae. Tens of thousands of new species are discovered every year, but finding a new family of critters is very rare. These new specimens sport big, three-part claws and spikes on curved feet and measure about three inches with feet extended. So far, this spider family has only one genus and only one species. It was discovered by cavers in southern Oregon, and was dubbed Trogloraptor (“cave robber”) marchingtoni (for amateur spelunker and deputy sheriff Neil Marchington). However, specimens have also turned up in the redwoods of Jedediah Smith State Park in California, and may be a second species of the genus Trogloraptor.

WESTERN COLORADO JOURNEYS Kat Rhein of Wild Kat Media has published a second edition of the Grand Valley’s premiere regional art, media and poetry guide. There are marketing sections on all the local hotspots surrounding Grand Junction, luscious photographs of impressive artwork, arts-related stories, and a selection of regional verse from placebased poets … To get your own copy of what are quickly becoming collectors’ items in their own right, or to learn more, visit westerncoloradojourneys. com and enjoy the work of Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, Malcolm Graeme Childers and Frank Coons.

FIRST FRIDAYS Camille Silverman of the Western Colorado Center for the Arts Art Center and Luis Lopez of Farolito Press held a special show, Make It New: Poets Take the House, last month up in the Western Slope’s queen city, and it was a whopper … Over a hundred people crowded into The Art Center’s exhibits of Christopher Z.Y. Shang’s paintings, images from Tibet, clay vessels and local artists to hear something different – four dazzling poets assembled by emcee Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer … Grand Junction local Frank Coons kicked off the evening with humor and panache. Denver’s LadySpeech took the house by storm with her evocative performance. Rising national poetry star Wendy Videlock and her daughter Shawnee, both of the Grand Valley, combined word, song and music for a masterful synthesis of sound and sense. And New Mexico poet Stewart Warren took the audience on extended flights of deep image and earth-based metaphor … Easily one of the best readings I’ve ever attended on the Western Slope.

GENERATION R … I hadn’t heard this term used for the upcoming crops of leaders and followers, but – overhearing it in a conversation at a conference I attended in Florida – I think it makes sense, and I sure hope it’s true, because the future depends upon it … Out with Generation X and in with Generation Responsible.

Art Goodtimes is a poet and a county commissioner in San Miguel County, Colo.