July 2015

Beauty in the mountains

By Art Goodtimes

FATHER’S DAY … Lizard Head Pass was abloom in dandelions [genus Taraxacum] – a European transplant (like us) that takes well to the high alpine meadows. Golden starbursts merged with the abundant green grass. I waited at the trailhead to meet up with family before high-kicking into the mountains … Seated in my borrowed aquamarine pickup, scribbling notes, I felt something feather-like brush my knee. Turned out to be a giant yellow&black swallowtail. Grabbed my notebook and started to sketch the beauty on the floorboards. But she flew off before I could finish drawing her ciscritter self. I felt touched … Not long after, Rio, Mesa and Amy came scooting along, and we had a lovely hike up into the spruce-fir groves of Lizard Head Wilderness. A perfect way to spend my Father’s Day solstice.


Time as a Well-Spring

I thought, said Mr. Probus, there was time,
Time by the dipperful, time lipping, flowing
Out of some plenteous spring where I’d be going
With my bright dipper, frosting it with rime,
Hoarding no more than God would hoard a dime,
Slipping time over my palate, careless blowing
Drops off my mustache, wasting it full knowing
There would be more, more always, soft and prime.

I’ve lived some years at Stringtown, Probus said,
Back in the mountain mining molybdenum,
Gassed and sent in again and lined with lead.
Seven years some few will last who stand the gaff.
Sometimes where the machines bore, springs will come.
I have to laugh, he said, I have to laugh.

from At That Point Mr. Probus
Belle Turnbull
Poetry Magazine, Dec. 1937
Harriet Monroe Prize Winner

SWALLOWTAIL … Researching online, I found out the butterfly was a Papilio multicaudatus – what we call in Colorado the two-tailed swallowtail. It is among the largest butterflies in the state with a wing span that ranges from 3 ½ to 5 inches. Wings are yellow with black striping. A small second projection (tail) off the hind wing is a distinguishing feature.

STATE BOOK AWARDS … Colorado Humanities held their annual bookaward ceremonies in Aspen last month. Peter Heller took the Literary Fiction category with, “The Painter: A Novel” (Knopf) … And the late University of Colorado Denver English professor Jake Adam York took the poetry title with his posthumous “Abide” (Crab Orchard Review/Southern Illinois Press). His second time gaining state recognition. He won the Colorado Book Award in 2008 for “A Murmuration of Starlings” from the same press. He also won a number of national prizes in his short lifetime … Fort Lewis Professor and San Miguel County historical witness in several court cases Andy Gulliford’s “Outdoors in the Southwest: An Adventure Anthology” (University of Oklahoma Press) took the anthology category. A finalist was “A Democracy of Poets in the Roaring Fork Valley and Beyond” by Kim Nuzzo, Marjorie DeLuca, Cameron Scott, and Rett Harper, editors (AGS Publishing) … One book I thought should have won in the General Nonfiction category was “The Wild Wisdom of Weeds: 13 Essential Plants for Human Survival” by Katrina Blair of Durango (Chelsea Green Publishing) – probably one of the most important books from Colorado in years.

GOOD BILL THAT FAILED … Columnist Katha Pollitt took national aim in The Nation last month over the failure of the Colorado legislature to take over funding of a successful five-year pilot program that offered low-income women (primarily teens) free long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) in the form of IUDs or hormonal implants. Over-the-counter costs of LARCs can run as high as $1,200 … Norwood’s own State Rep. Don Coram (R-Montrose) was one of the sponsors of the bill to save a program that saw a 40 percent decline in teen births and a 34 percent decline in teen abortions. And for every dollar spent on the program, the state saved $5.85 in short-term Medicaid costs. Passing this bill, as Coram suggested, was “a no-brainer” … But not so for our other state legislator, Sen. Ellen Roberts (R-Durango). No-cost birth control is already provided by Obamacare, she said, so why should the state pay? Well, if she had read the fine print, insurance companies under Obamacare are supposed to provide access to all means of birth control without a co-pay, but can opt out of more expensive methods, as they’ve done repeatedly. And they don’t provide privacy for teens … So, thanks to Rep. Coram for bucking his own party to do the right thing. And shame on Sen. Roberts for helping her fellow ideologues vote down a program that cut teen births and abortions.

MYSTERY & THE PERIPATETIC Quite the mouthful. But it was meant to be challenging – a by-invitation multi-discipline poetry, spirit, dance, yoga weekend with formal presentations from Renaissance literature, to Robinson Jeffer’s “Roan Stallion,” to walking like Plato liked to do and talking about Dolores LaChapelle and deep ecology; having drum jams; telling stories around campfires; hot tub soaks and varied meals … Poet/painter Wendy Videlock of Grand Junction organized the event last month, drawing inspiration from past Talking Gourds poetry events in the region. But she wanted a retreat rather than a festival, and a supersized log-home rental in Breckenridge provided a great start. The place was littered with couch beds plus mats & bags tugged into corners. It was a giant slumber party with meals. And conversations and discussion/presentations that sparkled. Wendy drew teachers from as far away as Michigan and Portland (including my dear friend Seven Root – one of my regular box-office crew at Shroomfest for a dozen years, now leading dance workshops along the Willamette). The air was thick with the smoke of deep discussions … (coloradawendy.wix.com/ mysteryperipatetic) … The reason for Breck as site for Mystery and the Peripatetic’s first run had much to do with perhaps the greatest poet Colorado has in the past produced, Belle Turnbull. David Rothman of Western State Colorado University has been working tirelessly to revive her work. His lecture about her was groundbreaking.

BELLE TURNBULL Rothman, who will be hosting the annual Writing the Rockies conference at Western State Colorado University in Gunnison July 22-26, gave the Mystery crowd a “rocket ride” through the history of Colorado poetry. We learned a string of perhaps forgettable poet laureates before the modern era (Nellie Burgess Miller, Margaret Clyde Robinson, Mildred Shields). Then the appointment was revived with Mary Crow, David Mason and current state laureate Joe Hutchison … But, while none of those names have much cachet beyond state boundaries, there are poems written in or about Colorado that have achieved lasting fame. Katharine Lee Bates wrote “America the Beautiful” while teaching at Colorado College in Colorado Springs in 1893. Longfellow wrote his well-known poem for his dead wife, “Cross of Snow,” about a mountain in Colorado. In Whitman’s “Specimen Days,” there’s a poem about the valley of the Platte. And Robinson Jeffers has a lovely poem about Red Mountain near Silverton … But once you read Turnbull’s “Goldboat” or “Ten Mile Range,” you realize you’re dealing with one of the best poet voices Colorado has yet produced. A graduate of Vassar in 1900, Turnbull came to Colorado Springs when her dad was named its high school principal, and where she herself later became chair of the English department. Retiring with her lover, Helen Rich, to Breckenridge, she continued to write and publish poems throughout her life. Her last book was “Trails,” of which very few copies remain. She died in 1972.

Art Goodtimes is a five-term county commissioner in San Miguel County, Colo.