Tag Archives: Rocky Mountains

When Clouds Come Into View

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As my friend and I drove to Ghost Ranch outside Abiquiu, New Mexico, I tried to imagine the dirt road as Georgia O’Keeffe would have driven it in her 1930s roadster. Red rock towers spindled along the narrow highway as we left the Rio Grande valley and ascended the Colorado Plateau. We were on our way to Ghost Ranch as part of the Women Writing the West conference in Santa Fe, but it was a woman painting the Southwest who was on my mind as we drove.

The Ghost Ranch tour was led by Leslie Poling-Kempe, author of Ladies of the Canyons: A League of Extraordinary Women and their Adventures in the American Southwest, a study of the circle of East Coast women who came to New Mexico in the early 1900s to create lives independent of repressive Victorian gender roles. Kempe’s remarkable history of these women is this year’s WILLA scholarly non-fiction award winner and is an impressive work of research that re-illuminates the lives of women whose marks on the Southwest had almost faded from view.

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One of the ladies of the canyon was Carol Bishop Stanley, a trained musician who came to New Mexico on an adventure, married first one cowboy, then another, and never left. Her first gambler husband won a reputedly haunted, remote camp outside Abiquiu from cattle rustlers in a poker game. Stanley became owner after their divorce, named the place Ghost Ranch, and built it into a successful dude ranch and refuge for wealthy families from back East. We toured Stanley’s original adobe home and headquarters with its low ceiling and rustic wooden furniture. Ghost Ranch itself is now owned by the Presbyterian Church and is open to anyone for day or overnight visits. Part of our tour was a preview of a new exhibit at the Ghost Ranch museum about some of the ladies of the canyon, including diaries, photographs, and artifacts of their day.

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Georgia O’Keeffe first visited Ghost Ranch in 1934 and in 1940 bought a piece of the property with a house that had been built by Alfred Pack, who purchased Ghost Ranch from Carol Stanley (read Ladies of the Canyons for the whole story). While O’Keeffe’s house was not part of the tour, we did see the casita she rented when she first came to Bishop’s Ghost Ranch.

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We could also view the Pedernal in the distance, a flat-top mesa in the Jemez range that O’Keeffe painted many times as the colors changed with light and season, joking that it was her private mountain since God had promised to give it to her if she would paint it often enough.

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After the tour and exhibit, my friend and I hiked into Box Canyon, so called for the geological formation that created a natural corral for the rustled cattle once hidden there. We followed red dirt trails uphill, past abandoned hogans, toward a plateau of scrub pine and high stone buttes ringed with cottonwoods, now ablaze in the October sun. As I hiked, I tried to place myself in O’Keeffe’s paintings, imagining what the artist might have seen as she hiked a path much like ours.

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At the top of the rise, before the trail split into two, I stopped. Looking up from where I stood at the edge of a deep arroyo, it seemed the clouds were rising one at a time from the depths of the canyon, rather than floating across the sky. I thought of O’Keeffe’s paintings like Above the Clouds I, a canvas of oval clouds filling the sky to the horizon line, or In the Patio VIII, with its dots of clouds hanging over her adobe home. I could see why these New Mexico clouds appealed to O’Keeffe and how her particular style of painting them straddled a line between abstract and representational, as her work generally did.

On previous trips to New Mexico, I hadn’t noticed how the clouds in that high desert region could differ from the clouds in Colorado that barrel over the Rockies and drape across the Front Range sky. Like the clouds in O’Keeffe’s paintings, the clouds at Ghost Ranch that day were distinct from one another, individual even in their similarity. As my friend and I continued onto the plateau and threaded our way through astounding rock formations towering far over our heads, I kept an eye on the clouds drifting in that trick of the horizon up and over the buttes.

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According to O’Keeffe’s biographer, Laura Lisle, in Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O’Keeffe, the artist began to consider painting clouds in the 1960s when she started traveling by plane. Her first oil portrayed a solid mass of clouds under a sky. Next she broke the bank up into smaller clouds, and then placed more blue between them, creating, as Lisle writes, “an inviting path of stepping stones into infinity.” Whether this metamorphosis from large mass to smaller shapes was inspired by the clouds of her New Mexico home, I don’t know, but the evolution from clouds by plane to clouds over her own patio does seem likely. Whatever its inspiration, the oversized cloud panorama she exhibited in 1966, Sky Above Clouds IV, was unlike anything any artist had painted before.

Two weeks after visiting Ghost Ranch, I hiked with my partner John in Rocky Mountain National Park just a half hour drive from our home. I wanted to compare our clouds with the ones I’d viewed in New Mexico. Just as I remembered, small clouds are rare here except as part of a larger pack. What’s more, in the Rockies, the mountains are so dominant, it’s easy to overlook the sky. Each time we hiked up and around a switchback, a new vista stretched before us, like another layer of a painting hidden, until then, from view. As I tried to let the majestic peaks recede in my vision, the clouds suddenly came forward, reversing background for foreground, earth for sky. With surprise, I realized that the clouds before me were as big and even bigger than the mountains, so massive in size, even their shadows could cover an entire mountain from peak to base.

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One mark of a great artist is how they inspire us to look at the world in a different way. I love O’Keeffe’s work for many reasons—her fierce commitment to her art, the trails she blazed for women, her recognition of beauty in common or traditionally “feminine” objects, and the emotional sense of place she worked to portray. But it wasn’t until I visited the land on which she walked that I understood the way her art inspires us to transcend what we see with our eyes into a larger vision. Whether the genius of her work is found in color, shape, scale, juxtaposition, or craft, her paintings capture something more than the sum of their parts. They offer us the opportunity to see both into the essence of an object and beyond its earthly form. O’Keeffe’s work teaches us that new perspectives are within our reach if we take the time to look.

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Photographs by Kayann Short

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Thoughts on Squash in Winter

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We’ve all noticed it lately: more light. On the Colorado Front Range where the sun drops abruptly behind the mountains rather than drifts slowly to the horizon, we notice when the days get longer and 4:00 isn’t twilight anymore. Longer days mean shorter nights for the cold to settle in and more time for the sun to warm the frozen earth. By the third week in January, even the chickens take note of the increased sunlight to start laying again.

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At Stonebridge, we’re eating our winter fare from storage vegetables grown last season—the tail end of the harvest when meals are both simple and inventive. Take winter squash, for example. We usually store our winter squash in the closet of an unheated bedroom where it won’t rot or freeze. Yesterday I spotted a few butternut hanging out in the cool room of our barn. I thought they may have frozen since they weren’t covered with a tarp like the other vegetables we store there (onions, carrots, garlic, leeks, and roots). I tested one with my thumbnail. Seemed okay. Why not make Thai butternut soup?

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I’ve written about this soup before (check it out here if you want the actual recipe). The first time I made it was for a January yoga and writing retreat at the farm. Thai butternut is the perfect soup for mid-January: savory and filling from the squash, garlic, onions, and ginger, with a tangy dose of citrus from the lime juice and lemongrass. Now I get hungry for this soup every January–plus it’s a good way to use the storage vegetables in the barn and closet.

The hardest part about this soup is peeling the squash. Most of my winter squash recipes involve baking squash first to use as an ingredient rather than peeling them. I generally enjoy the textures and smells of fresh vegetables as I prepare them, but I don’t love peeling squash, I decided once again as I stood at the sink for longer than I’d like. I do know what makes it easier: my Japanese vegetable peeler, the kind that doesn’t swivel.

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John volunteered to quarter the large squash  first. (I’m not sure whether he likes doing it or he’s worried about my using the knife.) I cut each of those sections in halves or thirds, depending on the curvature of the piece. Smaller pieces are easier to peel; if you get them too small, you’re likely to peel your fingers. About like this is good:

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Cutting and peeling a squash reminds me of the time my Grandma Short brought a big Hubbard squash to our house when I was a kid. I wrote about that squash in A Bushel’s Worth but I mis-remembered who chopped it. Recently a family photo surfaced of my Grandma Smith with a hatchet and Aunt Lola holding the squash on the ground for Grandma to whack the tough thing. In the book I debated whether the squash was hard because of the variety or because my Grandma Short saved her own seeds (squash cross-pollinate with others within their species). We’ll never know but that was one thick-skinned cucurbit.

Besides craving its warming flavors, I like to make Thai Butternut soup so I can use my vintage juicer, just like the one Grandma Smith used to juice lemons for her meringue pie. I do buy fresh limes for this recipe, if I think of it beforehand. Like chocolate, salt, and olive oil, I forego my buy local habits for this recipe because fresh lime juice enhances the flavor but a good bottled juice is fine too. Similarly, if I happen to see fresh lemongrass, I’ll pick it up, but I’ve also used dried (raised by farm members) to great success.

If you don’t have an immersion blender, borrow one for this soup. I resisted buying an immersion blender for many years—just another appliance to store—but it’s worth every penny for the time and mess avoided ladling soup into a food processor.

Last night’s soup was perfect for a cold winter’s night. I’m sure our version isn’t authentically Thai—especially when served with baking powder biscuits—but the recipe is pretty simple once the squash is peeled. Tonight we’ll have the leftovers with some Thai veggie rolls I’ll pick up from our local restaurant. When you make enough for leftovers, a big pot of soup becomes fast food.

Someday I’d like to write a book on storage vegetables, the kind that only need a cool, dry place to get them through the winter. (A heavy box covered by a blanket in your garage can even work.) Winter squash will be on that list, especially butternut with its solid upper section providing a larger flesh-to-seed ratio than other squashes. Eating storage veggies is one way to hunker down in the winter—you don’t have to go to the store to get them!

Cinnamon finds her own winter storage food–in the compost pile

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Rocky Mountain Blues

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Part memoir, part diary, part poetry, The Last of the Living Blue: A Year of Living and Dying Among the Trees propels readers into the haunting landscape surveyed by author Gin Getz from her remote mountain home in Colorado’s Weminuche Wilderness. Here readers will find the magnificent blue spruce and pine forests of the Rocky Mountains dying from a beetle infestation once prevented by frigid winters now diminished by a warming climate. In a small entry like a poem, Getz introduces us to the problem she faces every day:


Confessions heard in dying trees
a small woman looking
at a big forest ravaged
by tiny beetles

As this passage portrays, Getz’s memoir is a story of witness, a lone woman’s voice compelled to detail the loss through the hope of raising awareness before the tragedy is complete: “I can only tell you what I see. I see our hillsides turning pale green, yellow, brick red, then brown, and eventually gray. If you were here, you would see this too.”

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Beetle killed pines in Rocky Mountain National Park

Between descriptions of the disappearing treescape, Getz writes of her life in the mountains with her son and husband, of difficult transportation for goods and services, hard work for daily needs, and welcome isolation for many snowy months of the year. She shares a diary of “digging ditch”—the tough physical labor of clearing a wilderness river diversion of trees, stumps, and rocks with horses, saws, and picks. The work is grueling but the pay-off is large: “Silence. Space. Air. Wind. Rain. Wilds.” The appeal of these everyday scenes carries us through the grief of Getz’s interior conversation.

One summer, drought and fire threaten Getz’s home and guest ranch business through smoke and blaze worsened by the forest’s death: “Beetle kill burns well. This fire has gone huge. We’ll never look at a dead standing hillside the same way again.”

Fire claimed a ridge of pines outside Gold Hill in Boulder County

Fire claimed a ridge of pines outside Gold Hill in Boulder County

Still, Getz and her family remain on the mountainside, choosing to build a new home from logs they themselves will clear from the other side of the frozen river. This home will be full of light, with room for books and baking bread, a place from which to watch her “beloved trees.” Despite the changing climate that threatens her way of life, Getz knows the mountain will endure. “If I am to have faith,” she asserts, “I shall find it in the wind and wild.”

Sometimes, Getz’s verdant prose lulls us into forgetting that what she’s describing—the death of the trees she loves–conveys the opposite of the rich imagery with which she describes their demise: “Sap emerges in sparkling drip lines from almost invisible pin holes. A new batch of dying trees. A new generation expiring.”

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A stand of dead trees near Bear Lake in RMNP

Lush language pulls the reader—the often-addressed “you” Getz hopes to persuade into caring—toward empathy with Getz, the mountain, and the disappearing forest. To those who consider such devastation “natural,” Getz counters with a small dose of science and a large dose of observation: “I take out the draw knife for the first time this season and peel a small log we need for a remodel project on a guest cabin bathroom. With every pull of the knife, tiny white life revealed. Ten, twenty, maybe more. Slicing through life. Larva.”

Readers unfamiliar with the beetle infestation of Colorado’s Front Range eastern slope may require more context before they’re convinced of the link between “the last of the living blue” and global warming, but for those who are interested in this environmental tragedy or remember the Rockies before they withered brown, Getz’s memoir will remind them why testifying to such a loss matters. By many accounts, any policy actions—should the will to enact them ever transpire—will be too little and much, much too late. But for Getz, what matters first is the sharing: “Perhaps there will never be comprehension, but at least there should be compassion.”

Snow-capped Scotch pines still standing on the Front Range

As an ecology-based memoir, The Last of the Living Blue falls into a category I call “ecobiography” that connects a human life with the larger ecosystem in which it exists. Ecobiographies are testimonies that bear witness to the natural world around us. Insightful authors like Getz see and evoke beauty for us so that we, too, may understand. As life on earth changes lamentably and inexorably, books like The Last of the Living Blue will become important records of a world once lived with abundance and hope.

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And a new one just begun

“Do you have any words to share before I pitch the yeast?” John asks as I pour the last of the honey into the five-gallon bucket in our sink. We’re making our annual batch of mead, the fermented honey wine that we brew from our own Stonebridge honey. Mead is the ancient beverage from which the word “honeymoon” derived, for weddings were once accompanied by a celebratory “moon”—or month—of revelry and mead-drinking.

“To 2014,” I say simply. “A year without pestilence, flood, fire, plague . . . .”

“Or war,” John finishes.

“Definitely, without war,” we agree.

2013 is a good one to put behind us. Damages from the flood that ravaged our area are still apparent in the people displaced, homes lost, and businesses closed. Still, so much work has been accomplished in re-establishing infrastructure that it’s easy to forget how ruptured our lives were for weeks following the flood. Just driving into town on repaired roads without checkpoints or heavy machinery blocking lanes has brought a sense of normalcy back to our lives.

And the flood was the capper on a difficult year, one with freezing temperatures in April that killed emerging fruit blossoms; heavy hail in June that damaged tomatoes and grapes; drought in July and August that delayed fall crops; and then flood and its chaotic aftermath as our community was evacuated and our members relocated for weeks, with some still to return.

We are glad to put those times behind us as we rebuild and plan for the year ahead. But 2013 also had its gifts, both personal and public, like the publication of my book, A Bushel’s Worth: An Ecobiography, and the growth of new neighborhood and community bonds as we all worked together to survive.

I’m a little superstitious when it comes to the first day of the year. I like to fill the day with positive acts that portend the way we’ll spend the next 364 days, hence making a new batch of mead that we’ll enjoy this summer (and which we’ll keep in vintage bottles and label “New Year’s Straight,” since we brewed with straight honey rather than adding spices or fruit). Another new year’s ritual is taking a walk around the farm, so after the new batch of mead was stored in the basement brew room to ferment for a couple days, John and I headed outside to survey the land and visualize the coming year, me wearing the lacy knit scarf he’d given me for the solstice and he in the down vest that had been my gift to him.

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We stop to watch the water flowing through the upper ditch on the east edge of our farm. Even though we don’t own shares in the Highland, the return of water to this ditch is a welcome sight. The majority of irrigation ditches in our area suffered some damage during the flood. Even though our ditch—the Palmerton—didn’t overflow on our farm, it did breach on land before and after ours, and the headgate is now many feet above the new level of the river. We’ll learn more about the fate of our own ditch at a meeting later this month, but we’ve been told we’ll have water to irrigate this season and the winter water in the Highland is a hopeful sign for ours.

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Yesterday, I’d seen a bald eagle flying above a former cornfield across the highway from Birch Lake east of Stonebridge, perhaps the same eagle we’d seen two weeks earlier perched in a tree at the edge of Hygiene nearby, so today I watched for birds and nests as we made our way to our north fields. A bald eagle in flight is stunning in size and strength; this one seemed to ride the breeze like a boat rides the waves, for I never saw it flap its wings as its prone body soared parallel to the ground, looking for small prey, its white head the telltale sign of its reign.

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We’re always happy to see the balds in our area, especially this frigid winter. I wonder how the flood has changed their habitat, since so many of the huge trees along the St Vrain were torn away by the surging water or have been cut down in the clean-up along the banks. I’ve noticed, too, that the red-tailed hawks are fluffier this year than I’ve observed previously, a sign, I think, of the frigid weather we’ve had so far—and probably of more cold to come.

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Since we’d just made mead from the past season’s honey, I wanted to check the beehives to see if any bees were buzzing in and out of the openings on this cold day. I didn’t see a single bee outside the hives, which are snuggled up for the winter, but I did startle a great-horned owl from a tree on the other side of the ditch.  John and I are always on the look-out for “our” owls, the pair that have lived at Stonebridge for over a decade now, but we haven’t seen much of them this year. Today’s sighting seems a magnificent omen for the year to come—and we’ll take every propitious omen we can get.

With the mead brewing in the basement and the owls and eagles flying overhead, I feel more confident about the future than I have for quite a while. Looking back at 2013, we can say, “We came through that and we’re stronger for it,” but the strength came at too high a cost. Let’s hope for peace in the new year, for homes rebullt and families resettled, for cooperation among our policy makers, and for the extension of the ethic of sharing from our small community to the wider world, an ethic that promotes prosperity not just for a few, but for all.

HNY14

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Much Needed Moisture

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Here on the Front Range of Colorado, we’re in our second day of a snowstorm that’s bringing much needed moisture—the farmers’ mantra–to our soil and water supply. Even the Huffington Post ran an AP story on our snowstorm, reporting the rise in our snowpack to 77% of normal. That might not sound like good news, but it’s better than it was a week ago. And when I checked the National Resource Conservation Service’s snowpack report this morning, I found even better news: statewide snowpack is 203% of last year (154% for our water basin) when we suffered drought and wildfires. The snow may be below normal but any improvement over last year is welcome.

April is a busy time of year for getting vegetables seeded and transplanted, work now delayed by the snow. Two Saturdays ago, we transplanted 7000 onion and leek starts into new beds. With the fields still moist from the smaller snows that followed, we haven’t quite finished that planting. But with a snow day, we can catch up on a few chores that we might not have gotten to otherwise. This morning, John’s repairing our solar lawn mower and I knit a long swatch in assorted yarns for an upcoming public art event (more on that in May). Best of all, this April storm has afforded us time to try our friend Deirdre’s delicious sponge bread, something we’ve been wanting to do for months. Deirdre was right: it’s easy and delicious. I’m glad to have a snow day to find that out.

The snow may not be convenient right now, especially for our loved ones who have to get to work, but we’ll be happy for the snow this summer when there’s water for the fields, and the mountains, we hope, won’t run the risk of wildfire like last summer. A lot will depend on summer heat and wise water use. But for now, the clouds have issued us a reprieve. So here’s a few pics of what “much needed moisture” looks like at Stonebridge.

Snow drifting between our back mudroom and the bunkhouse. Our farmmate Joe tried to sweep a path and broke the broom!

Snow drifting between our back mudroom and the bunkhouse. Our farmmate Joe tried to sweep a path and broke the broom!

The stone bridge in snow

The stone bridge in snow

Typical for a spring snow, the ditch isn't frozen.

Typical for a spring snow, the ditch isn’t frozen

John outside the shop

John outside the shop in the tractor barn where he’s fixing the mower

The curl of snow around the roof of the Sunflower Room porch

The curl of snow around the roof of the Sunflower Room porch

And there's more on the way

And there’s more on the way

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Making the West Our Own

In my first semester of college in 1977 at Colorado State University, I took a Women of the West literature class from Dr. Rosemary Whitaker that introduced me to powerful writers like Willa Cather, Mary Austin, Mari Sandoz, and Isabella Bird, writers who revealed a different picture of the West than the TV versions on which I’d been raised.

Last night I attended a reading by two novelists who continue that fine tradition. Barbara K. Richardson, author of Tributary, and Laura Pritchett, author of Sky Bridge, have created female protagonist that challenge, in Pritchett’s words, “the myth of the Western cowboy who needs a woman and minorities to help him out.” Set more than a century apart, these two works enlarge our portrait of the West by placing new stories and characters on top of the familiar ones.

Barbara Richardson’s Tributary, newly published by Torrey House Press, is the story of a young woman in Utah of the mid-1800s who refuses to participate in the Mormon church and its submissive roles for women. Tributary’s protagonist, Clair, is an orphan raised by Mormons during the church’s growing dominance of Utah’s social and economic order and its shift to polygamy, something not all Mormons favored.

As a young woman, Clair resists marriage as a third or fourth wife, choosing instead to live alone in a shack belonging to Ada, an older apostate woman. Moving to New Orleans and back to Utah to work on Ada’s son’s ranch, Clair learns to trust her own moral sense and to forge a life independent of marriage with a new model of family and love.

Set more than 100 years later, young Libby also creates a new kind of family in Laura Pritchett’s Sky Bridge when she chooses to raise her younger sister’s baby. Like Clair, Libby finds support from others in her small, rural community whose lives have not followed a standard path. Libby is not educated but she is wise, learning more about the world outside her home but choosing to remain there on her own terms anyway.

Both Tributary and Sky Bridge prove that the people who settled the U.S West, as well as the people impacted and displaced by that settling, have important stories to share beyond cattle and sagebrush and white men driving one across the other. We can learn much from these novels about the history of the West: not all women in Utah were or are Mormon wives; not all young Colorado women leave their rural roots behind.And in both novels, the beauty of the land, however harsh and spare, offers what another Western writer, Gretel Ehrlich, calls “the solace of open spaces.”  Here even isolation can offer comfort to women when coupled with new opportunities for independence and growth.

When I asked Richardson and Pritchett if the creation of alternative family structures is part of the story of the West, they both agreed. Pritchett responded that in her own life and in other works like Kent Haruf’s Plainsong, the need for community in such a difficult landscape spontaneously inspires new definitions of family: “We just did that.” Richardson spoke of the obstacles faced by outsiders from the Mormon church. An audience member suggested that the West’s wide open spaces create the desire to overcome isolation in ways not experienced in more populated regions.

I agree and, having grown up here, find that the West’s iconoclasm goes beyond merely individual identities to the formation of unique groups coalescing around the urgency of survival.  Too, the West’s tolerance of difference—never guaranteed or complete but often at hand—allowed opportunities for parallel, if not inclusive, social structures to develop. This is not to discount the West’s brutality of exclusion and violence, but to remember that we now have the literary tradition to look for other stories alongside and in between the myths.

Following the auspicious legacy of Sandoz, Cather, Austin, Bird, and others, both Tributary and Sky Bridge would provide lively discussion for book clubs. Better yet, read them together to view new portraits of women’s roles here in the West.

 

To my readers: I’m excited to announce the publication of my book, A Bushel’s Worth: An Ecobiography, from Torrey House Press next August. I’ll share more in the coming months but, for now, click on the title for more information.

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When the Rain Came

The rainstorm last night brought much needed moisture to our area.

But that’s just the weather report. So let me start again.

When the rain came, I was playing old-time music on the back porch of our Sunflower Community Room. We gather there once a month to share three hours of old-time groove with a revolving group of dedicated experienced and aspiring musicians. I’m not much good on the mando yet, but I know when a song really moves, when the music seems to find itself in the rounds of repetition, part A following part B, whirling us away in merry abandon until someone lifts their foot to signal the last go-round.

We were playing on the screened porch to try to catch any breeze a breathless evening offered when we glanced an unanticipated flash of lightning strike west of the farm toward Long’s Peak. I hadn’t checked the weather report lately, having conceded the inevitability of many hot July days to come. Our June temps were the hottest on record since 1977 and May and April were similarly record-shattering in terms of warmth. We’d been so many weeks without a real rain here, even the possibility of rain had grown dim. With only a few slight showers in the last two weeks bringing little rain but many lightning strikes to start some of Colorado’s worst fires, any sign of lightning was sobering. I’ve lived here long enough to know that lightning near Long’s means a storm is on its way. Still, a real storm didn’t seem particularly imminent.

I don’t know which song we were playing when the rain came. John says it’s all the same song anyway, and he’s got a point. Old-time music draws on endless variations of melodies within a given key but the fact that each is named and remembered proves their distinction. The names themselves are part of the music; names like Bear Went Over the Mountain; Sally’s Got Mud; Sweet Milk and Peaches, Run Down Boot, and Squirrel Hunter portray the down-home feel-bad feel-good sense that playing old-time brings.

Perhaps we were playing Garfield’s Blackberry Blossom, a traditional song that pre-dates that president (a relatively newer “old-time” song, Nixon’s Farewell, commemorates another). And then the wind picked up, blowing one strong gust through the porch that sent me flying into the community room to shut doors and windows before the tablecloths were thrown askew or worse. Still, I didn’t think the storm would amount to much and went back to the circle to join another round.

When we were knee-deep in the next song, the rain began, barely a few drops falling before the thick clouds opened over Stonebridge, pounding the tin roof over our heads. When lightning cracked above us, we raised our eyebrows, glancing outside at the dimming light, but kept our groove as the rain poured down.

Which would finish first, the song or the storm? Another flash of lightning decided the point. The rain had more staying power than we did. As we finished the song, we turned to each other, surprised at what we’d come through. We brought the rain, we laughed. A real rain. A cloudburst. A thunderstorm that promised more to the fields than anything we’d seen in months.

The rain lasted 10 minutes and left puddles in the ruts of the driveway outside. A few people left to get home before dark and a few more arrived with umbrellas. As we began another song, the wind blew cold air across the porch. After so many weeks of heat, it felt good to be chilled. Until it didn’t and we moved inside to finish the evening with a few last old-time songs.

As we left the Sunflower Room with our instruments, the nearly full moon filled the puddles in the road with light. The night breeze hummed the storm’s exuberant passing, a melody of moisture replenished, crops revived, and farmers and musicians refreshed anew.

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