March 2007

Dolores LaChapelle takes leave of her beloved mountains

By Art Goodtimes

A MASTER PASSES … Death came quickly. Dolores had been in a lot of pain. Her hip, replaced a dozen years ago, had started failing. She was contemplating a second hip replacement – not a good prospect at her age. She’d spent the day with friends in Silverton, who had rallied together to help her over the last few months. Bringing her food, taking care of her needs, demonstrating the kind of generous cooperation and generosity that we’ve all come to love in mountain communities … She’d sung some chants with a neighbor and a visiting friend earlier in the day. And they’d even had a little party and music Saturday night. She went to bed singing “Goodnight, Irene,” one of her favorite songs ... As irony, coincidence, or some unseen hand

would have it, I too had been at a party at my Quivira Coalition conference in Albuquerque that late January evening, and we all ended the night with “Goodnight, Irene” as finale … In the morning at her Way of the Mountain home in Silverton Dolores was unable to get out of her bed. A friend accompanied her in the ambulance to Durango, as she drifted in and out of consciousness. She suffered a massive stroke and passed away later Sunday Jan. 21st … Dolores had become an intellectual mother to me, a teacher and a mentor, a crone and a friend. We would have long talks on the many aspects of deep ecology, poetry, culture, aesthetics, tradition, discoveries, new perspectives, the past and the future. She always welcomed me into her world of rhizomic connections, daring speculations and dazzling leaps. Bateson. Heidegger. Arne Naess. She moved easily in a world of big ideas, just as she skied fearlessly in deep powder snow, letting the flow take her down the mountain. Leaving us to follow in her tracks.

CAFÉ NUBA … It was a treat recently to visit the Mercury Café in Denver for the long-running black performance poetry venue, Café Nuba. Going on its 7th year, the series is hosted by Day Acoli, a dazzling poetry performer who knocked the socks off local audiences last year as part of the Roc’em Soc’em trio that headlined at the annual Talking Gourds festival over Earth Day weekend. Roc’em Soc’em is slated to return for the Gourds event again this year, April 20-22 … Since Day is a friend and had invited me to Café Nuba, she also offered me a spot in the open mike section of the evening show. I was honored. While the audience is a mixed bag, the performers are all black. In fact, the refrain that Day uses to fire up the crowd is a call and response. She says, “Café Nuba!” and the audience has to say, “It’s hot and it’s black!” And she does it over and over until the energy level has reached a fever pitch, the audience yelling and going wild, warming up for the next performer … Well, this white boy loves performance, so I had a couple memorized pieces to show off my country stuff. Except I didn’t use the mike on “Sardines” and that was a mistake. Even my bellowing voice wasn’t a match for the couple hundred folks crammed into the Merc’s downstairs performance space. And my second piece, “Skinning the Elk,” may have been a bit too country for the urban audience … “Secret organs slide steaming into full moonlight/on the bed of Greenbank’s battered pickup” … The young gal poet after me suggested she was a vegetarian, and seemed a bit grossed out by the animal realities of the hunting world … Oh well, no shining star for that quick shot, but I was proud of myself for taking the challenge of a different audience. They were polite. They applauded. But I was quickly upstaged by some great rap and hip-hop done by locals and invited performers from out of the state. I wasn’t able to stay for the endof- night slam, but I bet it was all a treat … If you get a chance and are in Denver, catch Café Nuba at the Merc on the last Friday of every month. It’s a great show. Check the Mercury Café calendar on line for more info.

CAFÉ ZELE … I also got a chance to perform in the feature reader spot at Kim Nuzzo’s Café Zele reading series in Aspen in January. What a kick that was! … The night started out with local musicians, who were great. And then an open reading, which included a great rhyming poet from Australia and a local who did a great piece on finding Jesus on line … Then it was my turn to shine, and I did. “Sardines” went over great here, and “Skinning the Elk” was a great finale to a handful of my tried and true performance pieces from my new book, As If the World Really Mattered (La Alameda Press, Albuquerque, 2006) … The night’s finale was also a slam, which was won by the emcee for the open mike portion with his ironic sendoff on a gratitude poem, although personally I really liked the Aussie and thought his content and delivery were outstanding (he was in town visiting) … The next day I went for a walk up past the Smuggler Mill into the hills above Aspen with Kim and his wife, Elaine – both substance abuse counselors and truly marvelous people. It was clear from talking to them that, while Aspen has developed a bit further along the resort town trail than Telluride, the issues and concerns and situations are very similar. Kim and Elaine are part of a truly lovely community that still calls Aspen home. The prices for everything may be a step ahead of us, but the game is the same. And the people who live in deed-restricted housing make up an important and vital part of the Aspen scene. The atmosphere at Café Zele was supportive and friendly and warm. I didn’t see any snobbery at all. But that may have a lot to do with Kim, as charming a host and overall emcee, as could be found anywhere. The Aspen Writers Conference has a definitely uptown feel, and certain airs, but the Café Zele series is all about community. I was impressed. Catch their show if you’re in Aspen. Contact Kim for more info at <e.kinkelaar@comcast. net> or call 970.920.9209.

THE TALKING GOURD

Dolores LaChapelle

Sorrow was always her first name
tossed from the womb
like a hat
while they worked on her mother.

She landed across the hard floor
with her heart turned
away.

Only to be found breathing
in spite of everything.

And that arhythmic beat
became her life song.

As later when taken
swiftly away

avalanche
taught her Heidegger’s
dasein.

Not nature tamed & tabulated
but Earth Sky & Snakes
affording one
the apple of first learnings.

To be alive!
To dive deep into earth’s rapture
& come up singing. Chanting.

Last chance it was
for the chaos
to grab hold.
Smashing her into a tree.

 

Teaching her the discipline of
place.

As it grabs hold of
every speeding heart
until one stops. Wakes up. Gets it.

Starts one listening
the way mountains do
weaving their baskets of clouds
season upon season.

The way aspens do
their golden limbs trembling
with the each breath, each breeze.

This curse becomes her gift.
She turns sorrow
alchemical.

Into a spark of tongue.
Into the writ wisdom of mind
free-roving & wild.

And suddenly we too see
what’s she’s up to.
Her way of the mountain.
Open eye, all of it our skin.

See, far-off a crone’s braid
making first ascents.

Skiing deep powder
dipsy doodle
with that sexy swing
of profound connections.

Art Goodtimes is a San Miguel County commissioner.