January 2017
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Shroomfest in To-Hell-U-Ride

By Art Goodtimes

REPUTATION … Old “Columbia” was, indeed, a rough’n’ready hard-rock mining camp from the get-go. And it’s within memory of the oldtimers when the 4th of July in Pandora’s box canyon was a wild, bacchanalian affair. I’ve heard some of the stories from biker friends … So it’s no surprise that the former San Miguel Park (what the locals now call the “Valley Floor”) plays host to a town of ideas, festivals, politics, and a mountain society far more cosmopolitan than its neighbors. A pioneer Telluride newspaper once ran a weekly column, “It’s the Altitude” … And Westinghouse’s first City of Lights has always had an attitude. The local bank was Butch Cassidy’s first heist. Telluride’s different. Blame it on the unions, company goons, sporting houses or modern gentrification. Politically it’s a blue anomaly on an all-red Western Slope, but with several blue cousins – Crested Butte, Carbondale, Aspen … But even in their difference, they’re quintessentially Western. It’s the New West deep in conversation with the Old West, walking shoulder to shoulder. Laughing. Sometimes haranguing. Maybe almost throwing punches … Me. I’m a city boy. I like the spirit and energy of Telluride. It reminds me of my Noe Valley neighborhood when I lived in San Francisco. A little bit of the City transported to the Rockies. Dizzy Gillespie called it “heaven.” Rio Grande Western conductors, “To-hell-uride!” … It’s the county seat of the government I’ve worked for these past 16 years. And I resonate walking Colorado Avenue, nodding, shaking hands, working the street – trying to gauge the populace with random sampling, as well as the prepared papers and the testimony we get in public meetings … I’m glad to live in Norwood and grow 59 varieties of potatoes. But when I need a city hit, it’s To-hell-u-ride for me.

THE TALKING GOURD

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, Colo.

MUSHROOM FESTIVAL … What started out as a medicinal conference called Wild Mushrooms Telluride has morphed into a full-on festival over the last 30 years. Cultivation workshops. University credits. Permaculture certificate. Forays. Lectures. Culinary Cook-offs. Identification tent. Movies. Poetry. Drumming. Dancing. Parade. It’s become a four-day extravaganza, starting Thursday, Aug. 16th and running until Sunday, Aug. 19th … If you can only find one day to make it up into the mountains, come up Saturday – go for a mushroom hunt in the Uncompahgre Forest, bring your specimens back to town to be identified by our experts, cook your own edible ones on the spot, and join in dressing up like a mushroom for the annual parade up & down main street … If you’re interested in the many faces of mushrooms – edibles, medicinals, toxins, entheogens – check out the website for this annual summer offering of the Telluride Institute www. shroomfest.com. Meet the philosopher-mycologist- wild forager Gary Lincoff. Listen to Kat Harrison recount her entheogenic field work in Mexico with indigenous women. Hear experts, amateurs, savants and psychonauts. Eat some of the most delicious wild foods imaginable. Dress up with your kids and win the costume contest at the Shroomfest Parade.

COMPASSION FEST … The Dalai Lama’s translator, Dr. Thupten Jinpa, clarified for me a bit of Buddhist thought that I’d always found troubling. On-line at “A View On Buddhism” one of the discourses suggests a computer analogy – the body is the hardware and the mind is the software. It’s always seemed to me that Buddhism was an intellectualization of reality. Where’s the heart in all of this, I’d ask myself. Love isn’t an act of the mind alone ... Ah, but, as Dr. Jinpa explained last month at an earlier Telluride Institute offering in the ancient Pali texts, the word <citta> really means “heart/mind.” It gets translated as “mind” only, but it really speaks to the integrated balance of emotions and thought. That was just one little insight of a stimulating weekend of science epiphanies, religious reflections and the latest research into psycho-social implications of a compassion practice … Joel Finkelstein introduced us to optogenetics, and the recent discovery that light could be used with the neurotransmitter dopamine to activate neurons in brain cells that appeared, in turn, to modify mouse behaviors … I love it when Telluride opens the mountain shutters and plays host to its window on the world.

SHI SHI & VANCOUVER … Got to rendezvous with my oldest daughter Iris Willow (29) in Seattle earlier this summer. My two kids still at home – Gregorio Rainbow Oshá (13) and Sara Mae Friedberg (17) – flew out with me from Denver. Our Washington rent-a-car allowed us a leisurely drive up the Puget Sound, snacking on raw oysters at Hamma Hamma’s Lilliwaup store. All the way up to Port Townsend where a Norwood friend loaned us his cabin on a Discovery Bay spit called Beckett Point – the tide rising and falling practically at the front doorstep, sunsets over the water spectacular … The four of us made a pilgrimage to Shi Shi beach just off the Makah’s Neah Bay reservation – part of the Olympic National Forest. Gorio and I had been there many times, Sara once and Iris never. It was the favorite beach of my teacher Dolores LaChapelle, and the site of an annual poet’s gathering of some Northwest poet friends of mine the last several years. This year we did it as family. Running in the sand. Counting starfish and anenomes in the tidepools. Slogging through mossy coastal trails ankle deep in mud … Iris had to head back after a couple days. We saw her off at SeaTac and then the three of us made our way north to Vancouver. Crossing the border was easy. Although both Sara and Gorio were disappointed that they didn’t get their passports stamped. We found a run-down hotel to meet our pocketbook out a ways from the airport, but not far from the rapid transit line. We stayed their three nights and used transit passes to wander from Capilano Park with its oldgrowth forest and long swinging suspension bridge, to Stanley Park’s dazzling aquarium, to an impromptu movie set amidst a wharfside street. We ate well. Hung out together. Walked and rode and saw two movies at two different city theaters all in one rainy night downtown … On the way back we spent a day in Anacortes, at the home of an old San Francisco buddy, trading stories and laughing a lot … Just the kids and me. Lucky me.

COLLEGE TOURS … Of course, nothing’s ever done singly. Sara had an ulterior motive – to check out possible colleges. She’ll be a high school senior this year at the Telluride Mountain School. She was attracted to the Pacific Northwest. We visited Evergreen College, where her mom had gone to school. The tour was small, the tour guide okay (by the 6th insistence that this feature was “special”, nothing seemed very special, really), but the campus was intriguing with winding trails through dense forest and an organic farm garden big as a football field. It was my kind of small hippie school … We balanced that with a tour of Western Washington University in Bellingham – a much bigger school but particularly good in marine biology, which Sara thinks she might want to major in. It was a bigger group on the tour – 30-40 folks. The tour guide team was funny and smart. They made you laugh and seemed to enjoy the walk as much as the visitors. The campus was beautiful, the city intriguing … But after enduring a week of drizzles and overcast, Sara was less sure she wanted that much moisture in her life, after years living in Colorado’s blue sky sunshine. And that’s just what college tours are for. To get a feel for places and their vibes.

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


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