Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ranch Mission Poem by Marj Hahne

A while back I asked our poet laureate Marj Hahne to react to the Colorado Art Ranch mission statement with a poem. Our mission statement reads:

Many of us are looking for ways to understand and address previously unimagined challenges in the world. Colorado Art Ranch believes that the arts, in collaboration with the sciences, can help solve contemporary land and social issues. Our organization strives to nurture the development of literary, visual and performing artists who ask difficult questions through their work; stimulate interdisciplinary collaborations that help envision solution; and build the creative capital in towns throughout Colorado.

It took the board and me only about two months to draft that based on the old version.

Here is what Marj wrote:

Ranch Mission Poem

We are all of two

minds, two

halves of an earth spinning

on the axis of the spine.

When it’s winter, it’s always summer

somewhere else, the seasons a fourfold

way to know the whole

soul of a circle.

A dog chasing its tail.

Capitalism. Forest fires.

Global warming. Rain.

The food chain.

Every man may be an island,

but an island knows it’s part


a mountain knows it’s range;

a grain of sand, desert;

a wave, ocean.

And the ion that begins one thing

is the end of something else, say,

a word: question.

The end of a quest is a question.

Even Leonardo da Vinci knew

his mind wasn’t immutable.

Arte. Sciènza. Connessione. Curiosità.

To keep the feet moving.

To free the Q&A.

To see the Vitruvian Man

in a snow angel.

-Marj Hahne, 2009

A Visit to High Country News

The week before last I stopped at High Country News (HCN) in Paonia. It was a beautiful fall day with snow, rain, and plenty of sunshine–pretty much at the same time. I drove up over McClure Pass and down through bright yellow aspens and eastern cottonwoods. Paonia was quiet and I easily found parking in front of High Country’s offices.

High Country News is a great magazine that covers topics of import for people living in the inter-mountain west. Environmental articles are common (from different perspectives), but there is also a lot of writing about what it is to live in the west and why we like it.

Several years ago I noticed how the things HCN covers are topics that we like to explore at Colorado Art Ranch. (Did you notice how I made that a link incase you want to go to our website?) Issues like land use, water, wild and domestic critters, plants, ecosystems, people, mining and food. I made up my mind to talk to those folks and see where any synergies might lie.

I met with executive director/publisher, Paul Larmer, editor, Jonathon Thompson, and development associate, Alyssa Pinkerton. We had a very pleasant conversation about the magazine, water, land, food and other issues. I told them about our water-themed Artposium next May and other Artposia we’ve hosted on food, sexuality, land, mapping, humor and rivers. These people are very dialed into all these issues. Well, maybe not sexuality. I would really like to tie our explorations in with what High Country News does. We’ll see, they know about us now. The atmosphere was so congenial it made me wish I worked there, then I remembered I don’t like jobs.

Where’s the snow go?

We had a bit of snow here in Arvada since yesterday morning. They say we received about 21 inches. The scene is beautiful. The last 10 inches came without wind so fence posts are piled high and leaning like Marge Simpson’s hair-do. The trees haven’t dropped their leaves yet so they are feeling the burden and some branches are getting pruned.

I am ambivalent about shoveling the snow. I discovered in my Michigan youth that god brought the snow and god will take it away. A philosophy my parents found vexing and disrespectful. It will melt soon, as it always does in this part of Colorado. In two days it will be 60 degrees and the mounds of snow will fall like a high-altitude soufflé.

But where does it go? I have been thinking a lot about water as we plan for the Wade in the Water Artposium. If I were to shovel, I could pile snow on my yard or push it into the street. The yard snow will melt into the ground (and evaporate) before joining the aquifer. It will give our xeric plants a bit of moisture that they need in spite of the season.

The street snow will melt and run directly to Ralston Creek about 100 meters away. I have no idea what aquifer or what its properties are. I also have no idea where Ralston Creek goes, although I suspect it joins Clear Creek and then the Platte River.

I think I’ll ponder this until it all melts. No sense rushing out there and messing with a watershed.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Water Artist: Betsy Damon

We have been researching artists and scientists who are passionate about water issues for our upcoming Artposium, Wade in the Water, May 21-23, 2010. Last weekend I read Blue Gold by Maude Barlow and Tony Clarke. That is, I read about two thirds. I fell under the spell of despair that can accompany a close look at any environmental problem. The facts are overwhelming and it seems like it's almost too late to do anything–aquifers are depleted or polluted, surface water is contaminated, paving has lead to less water retention, and greed is rampant. Whew.

Then Peggy (co-founder of Colorado Art Ranch, researcher, volunteer, spousal-unit) found Betsy Damon. Betsy is an artist whose work and life are a model for the artist as an agent of change. Her work usually involves cleaning or preserving water. She and a team put together an amazing project that addressed the polluted waters of Chengdu China by creating a park/sculpture that cleans the water. "Polluted river water moves through a natural, and artistic treatment system of ponds, filters and flowforms, making the process of cleaning water visible."

She has since founded Keepers of the Waters to help others around the world create similar projects on their polluted waters. Take a look at what they are doing.

This is the sort of thing that makes me see the shining sun, frost on the leaves, in a beautiful world. Now, if we can just get Betsy to be a speaker at Wade in the Water.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Food Glorious Food….

I asked Katherine Leiner, who spoke at Dinner Stories, to write up here impression of the Artposium held in September 2009 in Delta County. Here is what she had to say:

Food Glorious Food….
Snob that I am about food, many years ago I promised myself that if I could help it I wouldn’t eat with anyone who didn’t fully appreciate food.

what an honor it was for me to be invited to be a presenter at the 2009 Colorado Art Ranch Symposium in Delta County. The weekend was called Dinner Stories. Three days of sublime 80 degree weather with workshops that centered on good food and culminated with the kind of communal spirit that felt like grace.

Our first stop that weekend was for cocktails in Hotchkiss at the Creamery Art Center where we were treated to an array of delicious hors d’oeuvres and art. We had our first taste of Surface Creek Wine and home made goodies from local faire. Then the three presenters were introduced in the order in which they would present the following afternoon, all of us coincidently from big cities. I was up first (from New York City and Durango, Colorado), followed by Howard Dubrovsky (Toronto, Canada) and Catherine Bouzide (Chicago).

The following morning we were all up early and a good number of us had breakfast together before we went off to our workshops, which were all over Delta County. We drove through areas that took us either down into the sensuous sand dunes of the Dominguez Canyon that emptied out into a fertile fruit orchard–New Leaf Fruit–next to the Gunnison River (some call it the Little Grand). There, we learned from the inside out about peach, pear, apricot and cherry fruit and the way growing it has influenced the poetry of Rosemary Trommer whose poetry to the ears is like her sweet pears to the mouth.
My roomie raved about the potatoes she dug at John Cooley’s Rivendell Farm, a biodynamic farm based on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner. From my own experience, I know that biodynamic is the next best step beyond organic and if one does a taste test –believe me, you can even tell the difference between the two. This great taste allows one to suspend disbelief at the complicated procedures of that kind of farming. Frankly, biodynamic food on a number of levels, is simply divine. For lunch, both groups dined on local food. The group I was in had listened to the poetry of James Wright, Wallace Stevens and Rosemary Trommer as we made our way through the orchard, so for lunch we sat down by the river and while we ate, wrote our own poems.

After Lunch we met at the Stolte Apple Shed where I was first up and spoke rapidly and nervously about my newest book, Young and Hungry: A Road Map to Sustainable Eating, A LOVE STORY. For four years I traveled across America, interviewing over 150 young people between the ages of 20-38 who are involved in some manner of sustainable eating. Fifty of them are profiled in the book with photos. I spoke of what I had learned, how it had given me the understanding I needed in order to allow my youngest child to individuate; how the people I had met had given me hope for the future of food in the United States and how I had ultimately fallen in love.
Howard Dubrovsky took us on a tour of a new kind of cuisine–really an extension of a cuisine we already know, called Molecular Gastronomy and how this new tilt and chemistry–which sometimes changes the way food appears, affects our smells and impacts our tastes. We were treated to examples of this fascinating new way to approach food. Catherine Bouzide calls herself “The Corn Lady” but she is much, much more than that. She is a fine artist who illuminates a deep sense of place through her work, which is as diverse as corn sculpture tables, weavings, high-fired plates, artist books along with a continuous string of story-telling that led us through the delights of her life and work.

For dinner Saturday night, hats off to Jim and Jeanne Durr who are Surface Creek Winery –where we were treated to their selected wine-paring with each course (including local goat cheeses to start), scrumptious food including local elk for the meat eaters, and local vegetables and tempeh for the vegetarians. The whole meal was delectable with dessert made by Nancy Gore from “Just Desserts.”

The next morning we divided up into groups: some going with Howard Dubrovsky to the old time Redlands Mesa Grange where we were carefully instructed by Howard and managed to put together 7 different parts of a perfect meal–beginning with carrot soup, celery slaw, spaetzle
colored by beet juice, onion tart with a pear compote, julienne beet salad over greens, lentils, and a fine grouper ceviche as the center piece. The others went off with either Nancy Gore to make our desserts or Jim and Jeanne Durr who apparently turned grapes into wine –although what we got for lunch was a delightful grape juice!

It was a weekend full of simple delights proving once again that food, glorious food, has a way of uniting us in the deepest manner. Good food and talk about food by its very nature extends into our psyches, making us family.
It was my dream group, and by the end of the weekend, if we hadn’t before, everyone had considered deeply where their food had come from and the life it had before it made its way to our plates. Amen.

By Katherine Leiner