Watering in a time of drought

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AGUA PARA JARDINERíA … I came from a long line of gardeners. Growing one’s own food, even if only a portion, was a family tradition. And as a homeowner (in the capitalist sense), I feel a responsibility to increase the tilth of the acre I’ve had the privilege to caretake these last 30+ years … So, this winter’s lack of snow had me worried before I left for Chile in mid-April. I thoroughly watered all my young trees, special flower gardens and raised vegetable beds, pumping from my pond, as soon as the ice melted … But coming back from Santiago in mid-May, I found my pond shrinking. Before the end of May, it exposed a dry, cracked bottom, parched and empty of moisture. I used all my emergency storage on-site at Cloud Acre before I set up a system of hauling water. Working non-stop, into the second week of June, I finally got it all together: replenished my depleted storage systems, finished the year’s spud planting, and got my daily two hours of critical hand-watering down to an art (all puns of course intended) … At any rate, if I’ve seemed a hermit, forgive me. I haven’t much responded to messages, have missed meetings, have been somewhat incommunicado. For me, my relationship with the world of plants and pollinators, soil and water, sunshine and spring winds is what connects me best to the natural world. The spiritual world. The world that makes me most joyful. Watching things grow. Noticing bumblebees in the snapdragons and western swallowtails in the comfrey. Feeding my thirsty flora their life-giving water.

POST PINOCHET CHILE … I never expected to visit Chile. Although, my oldest daughter did live in Santiago for six months on a tech grant several years ago. And my youngest son hiked the new Parque Patagonia on a Telluride Mountain School experiential trip last year. The Doug Tompkins-funded conservation project of [[Parque Patagonia lies close to the seasonal home of my co-editor in literary crime at [[Sage Green Journal]], Lito Tejada-Flores … MountainFilm folks know Lito as one of the festival’s founder. Telluride émigrés, he and his photographer wife Linde Waidhofer now spend half the year on [[Lago General Carrera]] in Chile and the other half in Crestone at the foot of the Sangres … I was definitely attracted to Chile, but with a bit of a long-distance chip on my shoulder. Getting older, I find international travel appeals less and less. Airports are a future I’d prefer to shun – the carbon-footprint gargantuan. I love my little acre of potatoes and willows, cherry and apple trees. More than enough room for one small clan … Then last year Shroomfest mycologist (and psychonaut-in-chief) Gary Lincoff of New York City’s Botanical Garden had proposed a Chilean mushroom tour with the accomplished Chilean mushroom expert Giuliana Furci. I was among the first to sign up … Chile. A country that had touched me deeply, its poetry and its politics. Gary Lincoff, my friend of three days a year for the last 37 years, promising to keep all 26 or so of El Grupo in good humor for a whole three weeks on the road, flying to choice foray sites up and down Chile’s extraordinary coastline. And Giuliana, our tour guide, whose own mother had been tortured and forced out of the country at the hands of the despicable Pinochet — in league with Kissinger’s CIA. Giuli had returned from exile to become Chile’s premier mycologist, having founded the national organization [[Fundacion Fungi]], having changed laws in her country, having visiting us at the Telluride Mushroom Festival repeatedly, and now having written her country’s first field guide. It seemed like a dream trip … A couple dozen others signed up, including my good buddy from Alamosa, Dr. Joel Kaufman. Many were veterans of Gary’s Central Park walks, New Yorkers, East Coasters, and we were all set for a grand adventure … But tragically, Gary had a stroke this winter, and died within a week. I wrote about his passing in an earlier column … Still, it was decided that the tour would go on, in fact would be a memorial to him – El Grupo would help Giuli collect samples, as Gary would have done, for a third field guide in her developing series. Gary’s wife Irene agreed to join us … We had multiple opportunities to remember Gary on the trip that were all quite moving. And given the three weeks of non-stop sun – despite baskets of fungi, some quite unusual – venturing as we were into the fall start of Chile’s rainy season, it seemed as if Gary’s spirit of good humor had done the impossible and brought us blue skies.

JIM TIPTON … An extraordinary poet, he was living up in Fruita when I first met up with him. He introduced me to my literary buddy, poet/publisher/bookstore owner Danny Rosen, and Jim became a fixture on the regional poetry scene, performing at Sparrows in Salida and other Western Slope venues. His book, Letters from a Stranger (Conundrum Press, 12998 [1998 CE]), won the Colorado Book Award in Poetry in 12999 [1999 CE] … His childhood friend, Dr. Lorin Swinehart called him “a great bear of a man, sporting a snow-white beard.” Originally from Ohio, Jim had migrated from the Great Lakes to Colorado and eventually found a home up in Glade Park, where he had started growing saffron and raising bees. Whenever he read in Telluride, he’d bring Rosemerry and I a jar of his High Desert honey, along with his good cheer … Jim adored Isabel Allende. Would tie up his lush verse on the garden stakes of magical realism. And he loved the Lake Chapala region of Mexico – where he eventually went to live, and where he passed away in March. His last book came out this year from Librophilia Press, The Alphabet of Longing. Jim wrote a popular column, “Hearts at Work,” for the ex-pat English language magazine, El Ojo del Lago … Big-hearted and tall, Jim danced around podiums, savoring each word he read, charming us with his expansive breath and flights of lyric fancy … Chile’s Vicente Huidobro once wrote “El Poeta es un pequeño Dios” in his El espejo de agua (Santiago, 12916 [1916 CE]). For those of us who loved his poetry, Jim was one of those little Gods.

ODDITEMS … Gunnison County and the Colorado County Technical Services, the state’s county non-profit self-insurance group, took a big hit in a settlement agreement with former county sheriff deputy Scott Jackson for wrongful termination — $415,000. Jackson claimed his firing – after an unsuccessful 13014 [2014 CE] run against his boss, then incumbent Sheriff Rick Besecker – violated his constitutional rights … 50 years ago Science News warned that the threats to Florida’s dusky seaside sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus) were more serious than to the endangered whooping crane, suggesting that this tiny sparrow species was “as good as dead” unless its shrinking habitat around the Kennedy Space Center were protected. And in its May 26 issue, Science News confirmed that conservation efforts have kept the whooping crane alive, but the last known dusky, named “Orange Band,” died in captivity at Walt Disney World Resort in 12987 [1987 CE] … Tanzania’s Sokoine University of Agriculture has had a tough time convincing the World Health Organization and others to use African giant pouched rats (Cricetomys ansorgei) to detect tuberculosis. Zoonotic disease researcher Georgies Mgode explained that the meter-long rodents, when trained, had identified the smell of 13 specific volatile chemicals of Mycobacterium tuberculosis in a fifth of 55,000 sputum samples examined, roughly 11,000 cases of TB – a higher percentage and at significantly less expense than current detection methods. These same rats have been used since 13000 [2000 CE] to pick up the scent of TNT in land mines and, to date, have located over 20,000 land mines in Africa and Southeast Asia.

Art Goodtimes writes from San Miguel County, Colo.


Eating the World

I was born with my mouth open
entering this juicy world
of peaches and lemons and ripe sun
and the pink and secret flesh of women,
this world where dinner is in the breath
of the subtle desert,
in the spices of the distant sea
which late at night drift over sleep…
I want to serve you the low hum of bees
clustered together all winter
eating their honey.

-James Tipton

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From Art Goodtimes.