Celebrating the solstice spirit, if not the shopping mania
By Art Goodtimes
HOLIDAZE … While I don’t celebrate Christmas – not being a Christian (for the sacred part) and being disgusted with the orgy of consumerism that Christmas giving has become (the secular part), I do honor the winter Solstice. It’s a time for a bonfire in the snow, drumming and the singing of one’s favorite chants, the drinking of hot ciders and other holiday spirits … I love the gathering of family and friends. The potlucks and parties. The enlivening of the physical darkness with a social spirit of celebration. And, I have to admit, I even love singing the old Christmas hymns (and a few Gregorian chants), much as I promise myself each year that one day I need to write new lyrics for those lovable old tunes – as has been done for some. I don’t always agree with the message, but the songs’ music seems hardwired to my DNA.
SAGE GROUSE COUNTY COALITION … Although Montezuma and Mesa counties have not been as-strong members or as-regular attendees, the 11-county coalition that Gunnison County has organized has been working to demonstrate to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service that local efforts to save the Gunnison sage grouse are not only crucial for the bird’s preservation, but just might be more effective than anything the feds can do on private land. (That’s Gunnison, Montrose, Delta, San Miguel, Dolores, Hinsdale, Saguache, Ouray, Mesa, Montezuma, and San Juan County, Utah) ... The problem is that without listing of some kind, the public-land management agencies may not be able to do everything they could to protect the grouse. It’s a conundrum … The best of all possible worlds would be for the feds to get the public-land agencies to work as hard as Gunnison and several other counties have in initiating protective and restorative measures. Whether that can be done under the current Endangered Species Act is dicey. Whether that will prevent lawsuits from unhappy stakeholders is an unknown … But, bottom line, it’s wonderful and amazing to see 11 counties and two states working together for the protection of this iconic Western Slope species.
THE TALKING GOURD
Wet drizzle soaks in, pre-storm
One year since we sang
Wilson Mesa’s cirque of peaks
No, more, searching for miracles
COURTNEY WHITE … I was lucky last month to attend the Quivira Coalition conference in Bourque (local slang for Albuquerque). Founded in New Mexico a dozen years ago, Quivira’s managed to forge an incredibly strong coalition among ranchers interested in resilience and sustainability, environmentalists more interested in working landscapes than winning lawsuits, and lots of us in-betweens who think the real work in the political world gets done in the radical middle … Courtney White, founder and director emeritus of Quivira, likes to call it “the radical center.” He’s been a good friend and an ally in all my years of working on public-lands issues as a county commissioner. He even talked me into speaking about my perspective on collaboration at a Quivira annual meeting several years ago. It was the first time in my life, including all the years as a poetry performer, that I got a standing ovation from upwards of 500 people …Courtney almost came to Telluride a couple months back to talk about the “Carbon Ranch” – a brilliant idea he has for using private-land management practices to sequester carbon in the rural countryside even as our urban carbon footprints continue to expand. He had to cancel that time and now San Miguel County is shooting for sometime in late winter / early spring to bring him to the Wilkinson Library for a slide-show presentation … Attending Quivira’s annual meet this year fit nicely with San Miguel County’s second-generation Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) program. I was interested in learning possible land-management techniques for the county’s latest PES project – how we might benefit local ranchers and farmers in the face of the imminent Endangered Species Act listing of the sage grouse … Certainly, Bill Zeedyk’s low-cost methods for repairing riparian habitats and increasing water storage in adjacent floodplains was an eye-opener. Leigh Robertson of the San Miguel Basin GSG Working Group is hoping to bring Bill to the region for a workshop soon, and it’s something I’d recommend anyone interested in increasing water availability on drought lands might want to attend … An added plus was hearing the inimitable poet, deep ecologist and natural philosopher Gary Snyder reading his work as keynote speaker, along with his buddy and aural historian Jack Loeffler … The theme of the conference was Inspiring Adaptation, and the many workshops and talks were inspiring and full of ideas on how we might adapt to what seems pretty clearly a time of global warming.
GARY SNYDER … On top of getting to hear Gary read his poetry along with a raft of New Mexico poet friends, I got the chance of a lifetime the next morning – to have breakfast at the Range Café in Bourque with Gary and a few others. For the past 40 years. no person has had more influence on my life, my belief systems (post-seminary) and my chosen path (poetry) than this Sierra Nevada poet … Gary’s 83, and a widower, so his physical body is way slowed down. I invited him to Telluride, as Mountainfilm folks would have loved to have hosted him, but he declined, regretfully. Traveling is getting harder, and as a Zen Buddhist sage he has his mountain cabin to take care of … We talked of calendars – something we’ve corresponded about and traded views on for a number of years. He prefers a 50,000 + 13 scan to stretch us back to our human roots in culture. I prefer a North American calendar, 18,000 + 13 -- using the latest DNA info for the appearance of the first human on Turtle Island … I had to ask him why he hadn’t ever written fiction. He explained that it was his goal in writing poetry and non-fiction to tell the truth, and that he wasn’t very good at making up stories – although he allowed some folks he knew were … Funny, after 40 years of assiduously following someone, reading everything they’ve ever written, to finally have a meal together and get a chance to share a few words and thoughts. It was curiously old-school, in this age of instant networking with everyone.
NICK THEOS … What an old-time character this good man was. Oh, he wasn’t universally liked. He’d shot an eagle protecting his sheep and that drew the ire of many environmentalists. He served in the legislature, and was a very conservative voice. And he made some outrageous statements and took some horrible positions … But in spite of all that, I grew very fond of this Greek immigrant while serving in Club 20 for 10 years. In fact, I shared the Johnson-Theos Bridge Builder Award with T Wright Dickinson back in the day – a recognition of a conservative and a liberal working together on issues … But, in the end, I got maneuvered out of leadership by Kathy Hall and the Oil & Gas interests, and decided that the group wasn’t really representing San Miguel County’s positions. So, our county and several other progressive counties left the table … But I missed not seeing Nick. He was rough-hewn, tough as nails, but had a sweet, sweet heart … Nick graduated from Grand Junction High School where his proudest accomplishment was being a member of the State Champion football team in 1936 that was never scored upon. He then attended Colorado A&M on a football scholarship in 1938 … He spent his lifetime operating his sheep ranch and working to protect the livestock industry. He served as a leader in many capacities – president of the Colorado Woolgrowers and the National Public Lands Council; director for the National and Colorado Public Lands Council; chairman of the Colorado Cattlemen Public Lands Committee, BLM Liaison Committee, National Woolgrowers Land Use Committee, and Governor’s Predator Advisory Council, amongst many others. All committees he served on were directly related to his true passion, the livestock industry. Nick was also very passionate about politics and as his obituary noted, “as strong of a Republican as you can find in the world” … He passed away this past spring, but I just learned about it. And couldn’t let his passing go unnoticed, even from a tree-hugger like myself.
Art Goodtimes is a county commissioner and poet in San Miguel County, Colo.