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The Rocky Mountain Land Library is excited to host our first Buffalo Peaks Ranch Writer’s Workshop on August 1st. Poet Jodie Hollander (author of The Humane Society) will lead off with a workshop on Poetry, Memory and Childhood. Prepare yourself for a lively discussion, as you learn more about how to structure and develop poems, along with discovering writing prompts to get you going. Jodie will draw on her own work, along with the work of poets such as:

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Elizabeth Bishop, Seamus Heaney, and Audre Lorde (along with Robert Hayden and Theodore Roethke).

Join us on the banks of the South Platte River for a special day of exploring poetry in the high mountain grasslands of South Park! For much more on Jodie Hollander’s workshop, and how to register, please click here!

South Park's Buffalo Peaks Ranch, future home of the Rocky Mountain Land Library's collection of poetry books from across the globe.

Mark your calendar, August 1st: Poetry arrives at Buffalo Peaks Ranch!

At the end of Jodie’s workshop we’ll have lots of time to tour the ranch, for those who want to see more. And we’ll have plenty of books on hand, including a sampling of the Land Library’s collection of poetry from across the globe!

Touching Words

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Here are two inspiring books on absolutely brilliant projects that celebrate both words and nature. The Language of Nature : Poetry in Library and Zoo Collaborations sprang from a project conceived by the Poets House of New York City. In select cities across the country poetry installations were discreetly added to local zoos — all in the hopes of raising people’s awareness of the natural world.

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In Beauty May I Walk — Navajo

Or, in other words, poetry was being used as a catalyst for building vital communities, to borrow Sandra Alcosser’s phrase. Along with Alcosser, The Language of Conservation features essays from poets such as Joseph Bruchac, Alison Hawthorne Deming, Mark Doty, and Pattiann Rogers, along with many practical hints on how to launch similar projects in your own community.

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Elk Song — Linda Hogan

Lee Briccetti, Executive Director of Poets House, captured the true genius of this project:

“Millions of people throughout the country encountered the poems at zoos — fragments; full texts; poems in translation from all over the world, often from the place of origin of the animals. In exit interviews, we learned that visitors could remember many of the lines of poetry and that their conservation IQ was actually raised….but that they did not always know that what they liked was poetry.

This confirmed what Poets House had learned from years of work with public libraries and their communities: when people experience poetry, they are often surprised and delighted. But if you tell them that it is coming, they get nervous.” — from Lee Briccetti’s foreword to The Poetic Species : A Conversation with Edward O. Wilson and Robert Hass

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“The arts somehow remind us of our kinship with all other life, and with the mortality of other life — the ephemeral, precious nature of every other form of life.” — W.S. Merwin, foreword to The Language of Conservation
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Back in 2012, a kindred project began in England’s Pennine Mountains. Poet Simon Armitage was commissioned by the Ilkley Literary Festival to write six poems based on his Pennine walks. Simon didn’t realize it at the time, but that was the start of what would become the Stanza Stones Poetry Trail.

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Inspired by the ancient landscape, Simon Armitage (pictured above) would eventually collaborate with a master letter carver, Pip Hall, to create a trail of poems sited across the moors, and carved into existing or introduced stones. As Armitage explains, people have visited this region for many thousands of years “to offer their prayers and express their desires in the form of carved stones and man-made formations.” If done right, the chiseled poems should fit in to this storied landscape.

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“The stones could be thought of as sites in their own right, literal landmarks, places to visit. Or they could be marker posts along the invisible route of the watershed.” — Simon Armitage

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At first, the subject of the poems alluded Simon Armitage, but then the project gained a real focus. Armitage writes: “After another visit to the hills, this time in lashing rain, I came back with a different idea and a single purpose. To let water be the overall subject: the water that sculpted the valleys, the water that powered the industries, the water we take for granted.” And so, the Stanza Stones Poetry Trail is made up of six poems, and six sites spread over 47 miles of the Pennine highlands: Snow, Rain, Mist, Dew, Puddle, Beck (a mountain stream).

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“Streams, reservoirs and waterfalls punctuate the journey, reminding the walker of how water shapes and animates the whole South Pennines.” — Tom Lonsdale, landscape architect, and adviser to the Stanza Stones project
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“Especially surprising and delightful to me is the colour of the cut rock, and its contrast with the weathered surface, which varies from pale honey in peaty chocolate, and silver in mottled blue-grey, to a glowing rufous gold in purple umber.” — Pip Hall, master letter carver

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For more on the Stanza Stones Project, and to read all six of Simon Armitage’s poems, look for a copy of Stanza Stones (pictured at the top of this post). And, not to be missed, we hope you enjoy this short film clip!

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Human lives are intimately entwined with plankton. Every breath we take is a gift of oxygen from the plankton. In fact photosynthetic bacteria and protists produce as much oxygen as all the forests and terrestrial plants combined. And for the last three billion years, phytoplankton have absorbed huge amounts of carbon dioxide. Plankton regulate the productivity and acidity of the ocean through the carbon cycle, and exert a major influence on climate.” — from Plankton: Wonders of the Drifting World

Fundamental to life on Earth, plankton are also eerily beautiful, and represent a virtually unknown cosmos in our midst. Christian Sardet’s Plankton: Wonders of the Drifting World is the most visually exciting book we have come across in a very long time. Go slowly, page by page, and a pure sense of wonder will fill you to the brim. Much like gazing at the stars — or viewing the astounding images from the Hubble Space Telescope. In the interest of both science and poetry, Plankton needs to be on the same Land Library shelf with the forthcoming The Hubble Cosmos: 25 Years of New Vistas in Space!

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Plankton Mandala: This image from Christian Sardet’s book depicts more than 200 different kinds of plankton. In the upper part of the mandala are the largest creatures of zooplankton: jellyfish, siphonophores, ctenophores, salps. In the center are a mix of chaetognaths, annelids, mollusks, and crustaceans. Also included are larvae and juveniles. The lower part of the image shows microscopic organisms (measuring less than 1mm), mostly single-cell protists: radiolarians, foraminifera, diatoms, and dinoflagellates.

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Just one of thousands of images from the Hubble Space Telescope: Supernova Remnant: SNR 0519.

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Planktonic Juveniles: including the red-blotched squid, Loligo vulgaris.

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From the chapter, Worms and Tadpoles: Arrows, Tubes and Nets.

John Steinbeck had this to say about tide pools. He could have been talking about the wide open ocean as well:

It is advisable to look from the tide pool to the stars and then back to the tide pool again.

For more on the Plankton Chronicles Project visit their photo-filled website, or view many short film clips on Christian Sardet’s YouTube channel!

Our wonderful immersion in the drifting world of plankton had us reaching for one of our favorite books to leaf through:

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For more on Ernst Haeckel and the patterns of nature, have a look at a book-filled post from a few years back:

The Smooth Feel of a Sea Shell

Water, so common on our lucky blue planet, will always remain a mysterious substance — one that inspires gratitude, wonder, conflict and concern. Given the global importance of this increasingly limited resource, the Land Library is always excited to add another important volume to its water collection. Books such as these:

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Enduring Acequias: Wisdom of the Land, Knowledge of the Water by Juan Esevan Arellano. The word acequia has its roots in the arid Middle East. This insightful work pays homage to like cultures across the globe, especially New Mexico’s time-honored irrigation system that balances the needs of community with the limits of water in the West.
Also pictured above: Kurt Fausch’s For the Love of Rivers: A Scientist’s Journey, with streamside reports from the Rocky Mountains to Japan’s Hokkaido Island. (“With deft storytelling and poetic prose, Kurt Fausch conveys the mystery and magic of flowing waters.” — Sandra Postel).

And just published, here’s two more good books on water in the West:

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Trout Culture: How Fly Fishing Forever Changed the Rocky Mountain West, a fascinating environmental history by Jen Corrinne Brown, and Rivers, Fish and the People: Tradition, Science, and Historical Ecology of Fisheries in the American West, a collection of Pacific Northwest studies, edited by Pei-Lin Yu, combining both traditional knowledge and recent scientific discoveries.

So there you have it, the most recent handful of essential books for a Western Watershed Library. One that we are planning to locate here:

The Lambing Barn at Buffalo Peaks Ranch, along the Middle Fork of the South Platte River. (photo by Berry Oliver)

The Lambing Barn at Buffalo Peaks Ranch, along the Middle Fork of the South Platte River. (photo by Berry Oliver)

With Buffalo Peaks Ranch lying so close to the South Platte River’s headwaters, water will always be a central theme to the Land Library’s resources and programs. Our planned River Hut will house a Watershed Library, full of books focused on one of the next century’s most critical natural resources.

We have been diligently gathering books on water in the American West, but we’ll also have water-related books from across the globe, including these two from Great Britain:

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Simon Cooper’s Life of a Chalkstream, a lyrical look at one of England’s natural treasures: over 150 streams flowing wide, shallow and clear, thanks to the natural filter of headwater chalk hills. Plus: a British natural history classic, H. E. Bates’ Down the River, a journey along the River Nene and the River Ouse, full of flora, fauna, not to mention the keenly observed life of villages along the way.

For more on Buffalo Peaks Ranch’s future Watershed Library, take a glance at one of our past posts — full of wonderful books that will soon find a home on the banks of the South Platte River!

Headwaters to Plains, and Across the Globe

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Jean Giono once wrote: “There are times in life when a person has to rush off in pursuit of hopefulness.” Well, whenever the Rocky Mountain Land Library rushes off it’s usually in pursuit of good land-inspired books to add to its 32,000 volume collection. After all, we have a hayloft to fill at Buffalo Peaks Ranch, along with plans for a book-lined space for inner-city Denver, part of our Headwaters to Plains Learning Network.

Here’s a glimpse at a few of the Land Library’s latest arrivals:

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Two Guides to Western Wildlands: David Gessner’s All the Wild That Remain: Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner, and the American West, plus George Constantz’s Ice, Fire, and Nutcrackers: A Rocky Mountain Ecology, a wonderful introduction to the spine of the continent.

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Wildlife Studies from Across the Globe: Wolves on the Hunt: The Behavior of Wolves Hunting Wild Prey, from three leading wolf biologists of our day, L.David Mech, Douglas Smith, and Daniel MacNulty. And from the forests of southeast Asia, William deBuys’ The Last Unicorn: A Search for One of the Earth’s Rarest Creatures (the saola, the first large land mammal discovered in over fifty years).

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Shepherd Tales from Across the World: With sheep being an important part of Buffalo Peaks Ranch’s history, we couldn’t pass up these two wonderful books: The Art & Science of Shepherding: Tapping the Wisdom of French Herders, edited by Michel Meuret & Fred Provenza, along with John Bezzant’s Shepherds and Their Dogs, a fascinating look at this age-old partnership — full of evocative black and white photographs.

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Books at the Heart of a Movement: In this case the importance of biodiversity as told through the Collected Papers of Michael E. Soule: Early Years in Modern Conservation Biology. And secondly, the latest book on the vital importance of connecting kids and nature: Scott Sampson’s How to Raise a Wild Child: The Art and Science of Falling in Love with Nature.

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And Here’s a Book All About Hope! Natasha Bowen’s The Color of Food: Stories of Race, Resilience and Farming is a beautiful and wonderfully conceived collection of portraits and stories highlighting an often forgotten agricultural story. Natasha Bowens’ quest to explore her own roots in the soil leads her to unearth a larger story of culture, resilience, and the reclaiming of traditions. For more on the work of Natasha Bowens (pictured above), be sure to visit her website The Color of Food.

A special day at Buffalo Peaks Ranch

A special day, with melons, at Buffalo Peaks Ranch

A part of our obligation to our own being and to our descendants is to study life and our conditions, searching for the authentic underpinnings of hope.Wendell Berry

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Just a short week ago, little did we know that a New York Times article on the Rocky Mountain Land Library would become one of the most shared Times’ articles of the week. The wave that came our way was mighty, as we received over 800 messages of support from across the country!

We have spent the last week getting back in touch with everyone, thanking them for their support, enthusiasm, and donations. We’ll spend the next many weeks incorporating the great ideas and practical advice we’ve received.

We’re also inspired by the knowledge that there are so many people, far and wide, who care deeply about the places where they live, and the power of books to connect people and the land.

So what’s next? Well, thanks to the funds raised in the last few days we are now able to fully funded HistoriCorps (A Workforce Saving Places) to complete the re-roofing of ALL the core buildings at Buffalo Peaks Ranch — a necessary step before people (and books!) arrive at this historic South Park ranch.

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There are a few more volunteer spaces for HistoriCorps July re-roofing, read more here!

With leaking roofs off our list, the Land Library will be hosting a very full summer of ranch tours, star parties (taking advantage of South Park’s dark skies!), along with programs, workshops, and field trips led by the likes of former State Geologist Vince Matthews, and artist Sherrie York! We’re finalizing our summer schedule right now, so stay tuned!

Thanks to you all for taking the time to reach out over this past week. Our highest hope is to keep in touch with all of you. There’s lots of hard work and exciting times are ahead. Please join us!

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And of course we are incredibly grateful to The New York Times for coming to Buffalo Peaks Ranch, Julie Turkewitz for her wonderful article, and Michael Ciaglo for taking photographs (two of which are gathered here) that made people from across the country yearn for the Rockies!

South Park's Buffalo Peaks Ranch, future home of the Rocky Mountain Land Library's global collection of books on people and the land -- from the Arctic to the African savannas.

South Park’s Buffalo Peaks Ranch, future home of the Rocky Mountain Land Library’s global collection of books on people and the land — from the Arctic to the African savannas.

We find our place in the world through land and stories, and the Rocky Mountain Land Library unites our passion for both.” — Mark Fiege, author of The Republic of Nature: An Environmental History of the United States

Books are the tools we love best. They have a way of connecting people across the globe, and over the centuries. Books help us discover and celebrate the beauty of our improbable blue world. And books provide us with the tools we all need to live lighter on the land.

Our webpages (listed above) describes the Land Library’s books, programs, and the emerging Headwaters to Plains Network — a series of book-lined spaces, encouraging discovery, quiet thought, creative pursuits, and active community involvement.

Over the years, our website has also featured posts on some of the books that excite us to no end. You’ll also see that we report on the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity we all have to restore a historic Colorado ranch. Set in the high mountain grasslands of South Park, Buffalo Peaks Ranch will soon be the headwater site of a residential library — a place where you can come and stay for as long as you like.

Read about concrete corral stalls given new life as artist studios, our plans for a Land Library for inner-city Denver, complete with its very own Seed Library.

But as you’ll see from many years of web posts, we are happiest when reporting on books inspired by a sense of wonder, and hopeful for an even brighter future ahead.

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Stay tuned for much more from the Land Library in the months ahead!

The Rocky Mountain Land Library is like a gene bank for words, it’s our way of saving the past for the future. — David Mas Masumoto, farmer and author.

For more information on the Rocky Mountain Land Library, please contact jeff@landlibrary.org, 2550 W. 39th Avenue, Denver, CO 80211 (office location), 303-321-3574

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