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“Historians looking back often recognize turning points, but ordinary people living through them rarely do. Sometimes, however, a book catalyzes thought into action. Uncle Tom’s Cabin did this, and so did Silent Spring: they called attention to facts that had long been known but upon which people had failed to act. Like those works, Pope Francis’s Encyclical is a call to action that insists we embrace the moral dimensions of problems that have heretofore been viewed primarily as scientific, technological, and economic.” Naomi Oreskes

Pope Francis’s Encyclical on Climate Change & Inequality has been called “the most astonishing and perhaps the most ambitious papal document of the past 100 years” (The Guardian). It is also addressed to every person living on the planet, urging us all to take up the challenge of caring for our common home.

Copies are arriving at bookstores in the next few days. Let the conversations begin!

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Rock painting was our species’ first artistic adventures, our first celebration of the natural world, maybe our first crucial step into reflective self-consciousness. Tony Hopkins’ extraordinary artistic project, to witness this art from the chalk-hills of England to the shaman caves of South Africa, and then paint the paintings himself, gives a uniquely sympathetic insight into this first flowering of the human imagination.” — Richard Mabey.

For over twenty years, British artist Tony Hopkins has traveled in pursuit of the globe’s most remarkable rock art sites. The result is one of the most intriguing books we’ve seen — Pecked and Painted: Rock Art, from Long Meg to Giant Wallaroo, a wonderfully rich volume full of the author’s photographs, field sketches, finished paintings, and extensive journal entries. Hopkins truly went far and wide in his rock art quest: Britain, Ireland, France, Italy, Scandinavia, Australia, South Africa, Namibia, Sudan, Egypt, and the American Southwest. No two sites were the same, but as Tony Hopkins describes, something universal shines through:

Whatever its meaning when the earth was young, rock art speaks to us now of a time when people lived their lives close to nature, in tune with the rhythm of the earth. It is no coincidence that most rock art is associated with what we think of today as wilderness areas, the far reaches of temporal and spiritual existence, wild landscapes where the past is still visible in the present, where what is most special has to do with the way we respond to nature.

Hopkins’ words perfectly describe why the Land Library has built a 20 year collection of books devoted to prehistoric art. Starting with North America, with volumes such as these:

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The Serpent and the Sacred Fire: Fertility Images in Southwest Rock Art by Dennis Slifer, Plains Indian Rock Art by James D. Keyser & Michael A. Klassen , Legacy on Stone: Rock Art of the Colorado Plateau and Four Corners Region by Sally J. Cole.

But before long, those universal themes mentioned above, led us to seek out volumes such as these:

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Rock Art of the Dreamtime by Josephine Flood, The Hunter’s Vision: The Prehistoric Art of Zimbabwe by Peter Garlake, Prehistoric Rock Art by Paul G. Bahn

along with Jean Clottes’ classic and comprehensive World Rock Art:

world rx art

We’ll have a special corner at Buffalo Peaks Ranch dedicated to rock art from across the world. What a shelving party that will be!

Click here for Harry Smith's Sunday Today Show story!

Click above for Harry Smith’s story on Buffalo Peaks Ranch!

The Sunday Today Show just aired NBC’s second report of this past week on the progress being made at Buffalo Peaks Ranch!

This morning’s piece perfectly described the Land Library’s plans to create a book-lined residential learning center on the banks of the Middle Fork of the South Platte River. Reporter Harry Smith (a true lover of Colorado’s wide open spaces) also sensitively captured the stark beauty of this historic high mountain ranch. It was a real pleasure having Harry and his NBC crew at Buffalo Peaks Ranch!

We hope you enjoy the video clip above. There’s more news to come from this exciting summer, but for now we’ll close with a few photos as the last few roof shingles were nailed into place. Thanks to HistoriCorps and all its remarkable volunteers for your hard work and dedication, and many thanks to our major funding partner for this summer’s roofing project, the South Park National Heritage Area!

Last touches: Steve Harris on the Bunkhouse's ridgeline

Final touches: Steve Harris finishing off the Bunkhouse’s ridgeline.

Such a great team! the last row of the Cook House's cedar shingles fall into place

The last rows of cedar shingles fall into place on the Cook’s House.

Harry Smith and his NBC Cameraman learn more about “cowboy engineering” from two HistoriCorps volunteers.

Last Friday, the second week of HistoriCorps’ Buffalo Peaks Ranch re-roofing project came to an end with some very special visitors. Harry Smith and his NBC Nightly News crew flew into Denver on Thursday, and by early Friday morning we all met up at the ranch for a glorious blue-sky day in South Park.
HistoriCorps hardly missed a beat in its workday, and as you can see from the photo above, Harry Smith was determined to keep up.

HistoriCorps -- a Work Force for Saving Places. Learn more about what they do!

HistoriCorps — a Work Force for Saving Places. Learn more about what they do!

Each week brings a fresh new crew of HistoriCorps volunteers. They’ve come from across the country, and as far away as Portsmouth, England. How do you thank amazing people such as these? We’ll definitely find a way — and we hope everyone will return to the ranch when there’s a warm light in the windows, and books on the shelves!

The Bunkhouse gets a long-awaited new roof!

The Bunkhouse gets a long-awaited new roof!

The work has been slowed a bit by afternoon rains, but every day brings progress, and always something new. The volunteers have loved the ranch for its natural surroundings and its impressive accumulated history. There’s lots of examples of classic cowboy engineering in all the buildings — those simple, practical solutions to keeping the warmth in and the water out.

And next time you see the Cook's House it watertight with fresh cedar shingles! (photo by Marilyn Hunt)

The next time you see the Cook’s House it will be watertight, with fresh cedar shingles! (photo by Marilyn Hunt)

Our thanks goes to HistoriCorps, its volunteers, and the South Park National Heritage Area for the funds that made this summer’s three week re-roofing project such a success. And thanks to Harry Smith & the NBC crew for coming so far to cover a story about bringing new life to an old ranch!

Stay tuned to NBC Nightly News!

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Grab your pack, and dust off your boots! On Saturday, August 8th, Colorado’s former State Geologist Vince Matthews will lead the Land Library’s very first geology field trip. We’ll all meet at Buffalo Peaks Ranch, and then it’s off to explore the western front of South Park. Along the way, we’ll look for tracks of ancient glaciers, find ample evidence of volcanic activity, and discover why the Mosquito Range is one of the richest sections of the famed Colorado Mineral Belt.

Vince Matthews is also the author of the award-winning book Messages in Stone: Colorado’s Colorful Geology, and frequently posts on high mountain geology on his Leadville Geology facebook page.


Image from: Panoramic Aerial Maps of the American West — a bird’s-eye view from the north, centered on South Park’s vast high mountain basin, surrounded by ranges on almost all sides. Buffalo Peaks Ranch is located virtually in the center of South Park. (A further navigational aid: Pikes Peak is the snow-covered outlier in the center of the top left quadrant of the above image).

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Join us on August 8th, and learn something new about the always surprising landscape of South Park! For much more on Vince Matthew’s field trip, Reading South Park’s Landscape, and how to register, please click here.


For a larger image of this handy South Park cross-section, be sure to click on the image above.


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.


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.


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


“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

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.

trail guidesimon

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.

“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


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).


“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
pip hall

“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


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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