Saying goodbye to a good fed employee

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MATT ZUMSTEIN … It was a fitting tribute to the sound management skills of U.S. Forest Service’s Matt Zumstein that one of his last actions as the Norwood District Ranger was a successful controlled burn treatment – planning, getting prepped and taking advantage of a short wind-less weather window to make the Uncompahgre National Forest safer from wildfires … Not to mention his defense of San Miguel County’s Via Ferrata. His good relations with the ski and tourism industry in Telluride. Or his exemplary treatment of the Rainbow Family members when they held a regional gathering up in the Beaver Creek area … He’s moving on to a bigger district in California, not far from where his extended family lives. We wish him well. At a time when many people are leaving federal public service, it’s nice for us out here at the grassroots to be able to let his DC superiors know – he did a good job.

STEWART S. WARREN … This wonderful Colorado poet performed all over the region, wrote poems, organized the Festival of the Imagination in Del Norte for several years, designed books for many a poet with his Mercury Heartlink Publishing house, and is now in hospice down in Silver City, New Mexico. Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, Western Slope Poet Laureate emerita, wrote AN INNER ALCHEMY — the following elegy — “for Stewart Warren, now in hospice.”

AN INNER ALCHEMY … It was the early 2000s. I was in Del Norte as an emcee showing movies for Telluride Mountain Film on Tour. From the stage, I could see in the dark audience a man who was almost beaming. He had “that light” about him. Did I know him? I wanted to. After the show he came up to say hi … “Are you a poet?” I asked him. Why? Some hunch … He nodded and tilted his head to the side. “Yeah.” That’s a word that when Stewart said it had three syllables … Over a year later, Stewart Warren admitted to me that he hadn’t written many poems at that point. He was a drummer, but he had a poet heart. That was easy to see. At the time, I needed poets who were willing to travel and teach in the schools, and he was gloriously game. I invited him to Telluride, and he had the kids drum on the desks and write. He was equal parts goofy and glamorous, childlike and ageless, playful and profound … After that he came here many times to teach, to perform, and many times just to help me with programs. He’d dress up in a sport coat and jeans and he’d be my right hand man, helping with details, making everything easier, smoother, more fun. One tricky thing: I’m a tea drinker and he disliked tea, called it “pond water.” After many visits, he finally showed up with a new coffee maker, the one I still have. “I know that all the poets who visit here in the future will be grateful,” he said … And isn’t that Stewart—the one who jumps in with a devil-may-care grin and a plucky “yeah.” The one who, when given a big pair of shoes, finds a way to grow himself into them. The one who turned his own difficult story into a life of helping others share their stories. The one who relentlessly continued to learn, to push himself, to inspire. The one who thought of what others would need, and then gave it. The one who brings out the best in others because he dares to bring out the best in himself September cottonwood just before the barren time turning itself into gold Stewart, poet, drummer, partner, friend, web-master, tech-guide, word-sharer, heartopener, I am a much better me because of you. Thank you. Thank you.

WHAT’S MISSING? … In the history of colonial independence movements, the U.S. Constitution, along with its expanding Bill of Rights, is respected – even revered among many of us. Personally I consider it a great privilege to be counted among its citizens … But after having the opportunity to learn from indigenous wisdom sources and anthropological studies, I think we’re missing something: A Bill of Responsibilities … Checking my Medicare supplemental Part D Prescription Drug policy the other day, I open up Silver Script’s new 152+ page “Evidence of Coverage” manual (Jan. 1 – Dec. 31, 2020) and come upon Chapter 6: “Your rights and responsibilities.” This health-care provider understands that every freedom implies a tolerance to its exercise in others and the duty to live within society’s limits … When one gives assent to (or perhaps is luckily born into) American citizenship, we ought to be exposed at some point in our lives to a Bill of Responsibilities. Yes, taxes, jury duty, obedience to the law (with the right to dissent but the responsibility to endure whatever punishment the state hands down for your disobedience) … But also a raft of things, like a good neighbor ethic; a willingness to tolerate the exercise of legitimate rights; and if you’re able, to work for the good of the community you live in … I want to see someone run for President on a Bill of Responsibilities platform.

HEADWATERS 30 … At the table next over, they’re talking about Snowden’s interview on NPR for his new book. His willingness to make his case in a U.S. court, if they’ll let him defend his decision, unencumbered … Martin Pinnecoose’s Praying stands outside the museum at Western Colorado University. The sculpture’s dazzling in its delicacy … Dr. John’s personal practice – meditation and a haiku for the day … Alan Wartes outlines mindfulness for the students. In the Gourd Circle Sunday, more than half explain how important that concept was to them … Joel Clement joins the Gunny climate march before his talk – even as a whistleblower, fired for upholding science, he encourages kids to join the federal government and work within the system … Climate change is a word bomb. A grenade thrown into the public square. We can jump on it. Smother the blast with our bodies. Make Kevlar excuses, protecting others from the truth. Pretend we don’t see the meteor approaching. Or we can accept a course correction. Reimagine what it means to live — not just on the planet, but as an essential member of Gaia’s blue fabric.

Art Goodtimes writes from San Miguel County, Colo.


River Bend
for Rosemerry & Eric

In driving
down to River Bend
all you can see
are the chamisa blooms
of rabbitbrush
(Ericameria nauseosa)
lining the driveway
Trumpeting their golden horns
ad nauseam

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From Art Goodtimes.