An aerial tour of the Colorado Plateau

Print this article

FLYING HOME … Published by the Peaks, Plateaus & Canyons Association, Sojourns was a gorgeous Colorado Plateau journal of 14 years’ standing, only recently having ceased publication. According to co-editor Carol Haralson, they decided to send the photo-thick periodical into the archives with a special double-edition, and Craig Childs’ Flying Home: The Colorado Plateau From Above and Below was born … Once again, it’s gorgeous (Haralson is an excellent designer). A full-color perfect-bound coffeetable paperback, with a cover flyleaf that opens and sends us soaring cliff-high along the West Rim of Zion National Park, courtesy of a photo by Joe Braun. Indeed, all the book’s photographs are iconic. Gripping. Unfailingly spectacular. Even Elena Miras Garcia’s close-up “Datura unfurling” … The text is vintage Childs – adventure story, gonzo travelogue, lyric prose and eco-romance in a chili con carne of scientific fact. He and his buddy, an ex-cop, fly an old cloth-wing Cessna 140 two-seater into harrowing and unmappable places to touch down, hike and then soar off into the aether for days of high-altitude joyriding. There’s even a facsimile page or two torn from Childs’ journal … The flight path keeps pulling you in. Only the details of a day’s flight change shapes. Turn into stories. Remembrances. The possible discovery of a mammoth petroglyph on the Plateau that could be 13,000 years old. The third date with a new lover wandering pathless in the wilds of Petroglyph National Park … Childs and his pilot take you into the heart of the light and the darkness, from the depths of the Grand Canyon to the Columbine Shooting ballfield, where a young athlete lies dying. Each of the pieces are as mesmerizing as the rainbow trunks of petrified forest Childs wanders through with his mysterious lover “silhouetted against the indigo horizon” … Regina Lopez-Whiteskunk shows up in this book. As does Katie Lee, Fred Welch, Theodore Roosevelt, Ed Abbey, Joe Pachak, Neal Schwieterman. It’s a book with one foot in the past, and the other hanging out the side of a prop plane, as the wings tip to bring a cliff in focus, trying to get one more shot of the now. Highly recommended.

WESTERN COLORADO ALLIANCE … It’s exciting to see a longtime regional community action group re-invent itself. Kudos to Western Colorado Congress President Steve Allerton, Teresa Purcell of Purcell Public Affairs and the WCC board for making this significant change … My connection to WCC (and now WCA) goes back to before the group formed in the West Elk mountains outside Crested Butte. As a summer visitor to Telluride in 1979, I got to hang with my friend George Greenbank at a gathering up on Hastings Mesa known as the Colorado Plateau Rendezvous. A loose-knit, ad hoc event where regional enviros came together to see how they might work to socially and politically shake up the conservative Western Slope. Out of that meeting came a push for a progressive alternative to the development-oriented Club 20 of Grand Junction … I wasn’t part of the organizing group in the West Elks in 1980, but I visited the gathering by chance that spring and sat in on some of the discussions. I moved to San Miguel County in the fall of 1981 … When Jack Pera and I organized a group to fight against a bad timber sale on Lizard Head Pass in 1988, I spearheaded a drive for Sheep Mountain Alliance to join WCC after we won the battle with the Forest Service … Over the years I served as a WCC senator, representative to the Western Organization of Resource Councils and member of various committees … I had criticisms of the group, for all the good work they did. They used a Saul Alinsky empowerment model of community organizing that didn’t always work in resort towns. Over the years I watched as community groups joined WCC and then left… A few years ago I tried to talk to the board about the need for a reorganization, but arguing that the Club 20 structure (not its politics) was a good model for a supposed “congress,” I got nowhere … So, like many, I drifted away from participation in a group with dwindling numbers of community groups – in the last few years the “congress” only represented a handful of Western Slope counties … But I’m excited about the reorganization. I plan to join the group again, and I’m looking forward to their bringing back Colorado Rural Voters as a 501(c)4 project. As a seasoned pol of 20 years’ standing on the Slope, I think it’s time we all jump in to help “recruit, train and support new leaders” … WCC is dead. Long live WCA!

EDIBLE SOUTHWEST COLORADO … If you haven’t seen the annual Storytelling Issue of this free publication (#31, Winter 2018), grab one. Editors Rick Scibelli, Jr., and Rachel Turiel have done an outstanding job pulling together fine stories from some of the region’s best writers. … Scibelli got me going with his editor’s letter. Pretty soon I’m packing up a Saab for a retreat back to Connecticut and what turns into a failed restaurant gig, several years testing battery acid, and a back-to-school come-to-Jesus moment that leads back to a schoolboy dream of photography. Already my head’s spinning. I can almost see battery acid being sucked up a pipet with strange red dye … The first actual story made me sit back and remember. How my father died. How I went and spent hospice with him. Held his hand as he journeyed into the mystery. Sheryl McGourty writes quietly but powerfully: “What I came to witness is that someone’s death can often closely reflect the essence of how they lived.” … Scibelli’s kodak of a kite flyer on an Oregon beach is a strikingly nostalgic companion to McGourty’s My Father … And Jennifer Rane Hancock of Grand Junction has a lovely poem, In This Season of Soup, that honors the diversity as well as the food of her relatives and ancestors: “I cook to celebrate your lives, and cry/into the onions on the cutting board” … Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, herself a fine poet, leads us down the in-law path of a holiday faux pas, only to be rescued by the grump whom she most feared. … Kierstin Bridger shares a diary, inverted, of watching as her 15-year-old tests boundaries she herself broke as a youth, trying to help Sophia “set her compass back to her own true north.” It’s a story almost any parent can understand. … Rachel Turiel knows how to pull a reader in. Her second sentence: “The days are just slivers of light sandwiched between thick slabs of darkness.” She’s a mom with a houseful of tweens, including her withdrawn son. When he asks to make dinner, she follows his lead and amplifies it into a 12-year-old success story. They name it Mungo. Her definition of how she copes with kids is one to remember: “This parenting is like a progression of dance moves … It’s beautiful and terrifying.” … In Dune’s Day Zach Healy takes us on a dog pilgrimage that teaches a lot about expectations and how what doesn’t work can teach us as much or more than easy success. … I wasn’t prepared for Samantha Tisdel Wright’s dazzling travelogue into a remote part of China. Of Pigs and Dragons is a marvelously droll tale with surprises galore and colorful language in several languages: “Since the only Naxi I knew was ‘oho-la-a-lay, dao a-kun dao-pay,’ which means ‘Hello, I can see chicken feet up your ass,’ (I had learned this during a raucous New Year’s Even celebration a couple weeks before) I tried Chinese instead” … I enjoyed the multipage interview stories by Scibelli. The second-to-last story took me completely by surprise. Amy Irving is an old friend and excellent writer who lives in the little Western Slope town of Norwood as I do. Inedible, with its unsigned sketch of a toadstool (maybe a russoula?), was a story I’d told many times. Only this time Amy was telling it; and I was turned quite around, being a character in someone else’s story. It’s one of those scary kid’s stories every parent fears, but all’s well that ends well. … Food, of course, figures prominently in most of the stories. But it’s the quality of the writing and all the places those stories take me that makes Edible Southwest Colorado a favorite regional magazine of mine … And it’s free!

Art Goodtimes writes from San Miguel County, Colo.



The trick
about perfection

McRedeye sez

is to get through it
Not just to it

Print this article

From Art Goodtimes.