Edna Lewis and a Tradition Preserved

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As a child in Virginia, I thought all food tasted delicious. After growing up, I didn’t think food tasted the same, so it has been my lifelong effort to try and recapture those good flavors of the past.” — Edna Lewis

Edna Lewis (1916-2006) had a remarkable career as a chef and writer of several best-selling cookbooks. Perhaps her most lasting contribution was her lifelong celebration of traditional southern cooking. She kept the tradition alive, and along the way inspired the next generation of cooks to make fresh magic from the local foods of the south.

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As many of you know, the Land Library has a 3,000 volume Kids Nature Library in Waterton Canyon, southwest of metro-Denver. One of our most treasured books at the Kids Library is Robbin Gourley’s beautifully illustrated picture book, Bring Me Some Apples and I’ll Make You a Pie: A Story About Edna Lewis.

Edna was born on a small farm in Freetown, Virginia — a farm that had been granted to Edna’s grandfather, a freed slave. Robbin Gourley’s lyrical tale (and her lush and vibrant watercolors) follows Edna and her family throughout the growing season. Gathered fruits, vegetables, and nuts quickly make their way to the family’s table, with the surplus canned for the winter ahead. Every family member is involved, but it’s Edna who shows an early genius for making fun recipes from the simple foods at hand. The New York Times had this to say about Edna Lewis’ upbringing: Growing, gathering and preparing food was more than just sustenance for the family; it was a form of entertainment. Without fancy cooking equipment, the family improvised — measuring baking powder on coins and cooking everything over wood.

It was Robbin Gourley’s wonderful kids book that inspired us to learn more about Edna Lewis, and to slowly gather her cookbooks for the Land Library. After all, if she could give so much to preserving a precious regional tradition, we wanted to reciprocate a tiny bit by keeping her work alive on our shelves!

Somewhere along the way, we came across this inspiring documentary, Fried Chicken and Sweet Potato Pie: Keeping Traditions Alive, written, produced, and directed by Bailey Barash. There’s much more to Edna Lewis’ life than you might imagine. What a wonderful film!

In 1995, Edna Lewis was awarded the first ever James Beard Living Legend Award, for her creative years in the kitchen, and for books such as this classic:

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Food traditions have long been a happy obsession at the Land Library. There is such a rich intersection between people, land, and food!

Recently, the two co-founders of the Rocky Mountain Land Library were interviewed by Colorado Matters‘ Ryan Warner. We discussed this summer’s renovation of Buffalo Peaks Ranch’s Cooks House. By the end of that project, we will have room for the ranch’s first library. For a few years it will feature a broad sampling of the Land Library’s collection, but eventually the Cooks House Library will feature a particular theme. Ryan Warner casually remarked, wouldn’t it be fitting for the Cooks House Library to be dedicated to food and the land?

We think Ryan is definitely on to something!  We can’t wait to start organizing that special collection. Until that time we’ll have many more posts on some of our favorite food books. Classics such as these:

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John Edge writes glowingly about Edna Lewis in his new book, but we especially loved this simple sentence: “Her words were deeply grounded in place.” (John Edge is also featured in the 20 minute documentary film above).

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And of course what would a Cooks House Library be without Ramon Adams’ wonderful history!

Ways to Tell a Story

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Andrew Beckham, at work on his book The Lost Christmas Gift. photo by the Denver Post

A wide-ranging workshop at Buffalo Peaks Ranch:

Storytelling with Image and Text with Andrew Beckham

Join photographer and author Andrew Beckham for a day of literary and visual exploration. While the worlds of literature and visual art have traditionally been seen as discrete disciplines, Mr. Beckham’s dynamic approach to storytelling has long sought to bring text and image together as a unified aesthetic whole. This workshop will provide a wealth of ideas and approaches for combining your own text and image ideas, with time in the field to explore, photograph, write, and contemplate how our own stories arise from experiences in the natural world.

Saturday, July 8th, 10am to 4pm,  $50 class fee.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER!

A Vortex of Brambles — Andrew Beckham

Andrew Beckham serves as the Visual Arts Department Chair at St. Mary’s Academy in Englewood, Colorado, where he teaches aesthetics, photography, works on paper and the illustrated book. In recent years Andrew has devoted much of his creative practice to the design and construction of artist’s books, some of which have been placed in the Special Collections Departments at both the Penrose Library at the University of Denver and the Norlin Library at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Two of these books, The Lost Christmas Gift and Firmament, have been acquired by enthusiastic publishers (Princeton Architectural Press and GFT Publishing) who have helped to bring his work to a much wider audience.

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In the fall of 2013, Andrew Beckham’s first solo museum exhibition was installed in the Taylor Museum at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.

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Pleiades Rising — Andrew Beckham

 “Andrew Beckham is a lot of things, but I would consider him a visual poet, using language both written and visual to construct nuanced work that is compelling, fragile, and poignant.” — Aline Smithson, Lenscratch

For more on Andrew Beckham and his work, be sure to visit his website!

By the Light of a Coleman Lantern: The Alaskan Field Sketches of William D. Berry

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Bill’s field sketches were his record of what he saw. They were done in the field, but often finished hours later in the cabin, sometimes by the light of a Coleman lantern. — Elizabeth Berry

How much do we love this book? Well, every time we stumble across a copy of William D. Berry’s Alaskan Field Sketches in a secondhand bookstore, we let out a yelp, and then dutifully, and without question, purchase yet another copy for future generations of Land Library readers, naturalists, and visiting artists.

William D. Berry: 1954-1956 Alaskan Field Sketches (edited by Elizabeth Berry) preserves over 200 pages of Berry’s meticulous and faithful drawings from nature. A wide variety of Alaska’s wildlife is fully rendered by Berry, among them: beaver, lemming, moose, wolverine, Dall sheep, Willow ptarmigan, Arctic tern, Snowshoe hare, wolf, walrus, lynx, Arctic ground squirrel, Snow bunting — along with twenty-four pages devoted to caribou, that most iconic of arctic animals:

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Elizabeth Berry (William’s wife) provides commentary throughout, and we especially loved this insight into the artist as a young boy: “Bill completed his first book — on slugs — when he was five.”

William Berry (1929-1979) left relatively few finished works, but we should be satisfied with this classic collection containing a wealth of materials from his field sketches, notebooks, and letters.

Berry also wrote two of our all-time favorite children’s picture books:

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Two treasured volumes at the Land Library’s Waterton Canyon Kids Library are William Berry’s wonderful prairie book, Buffalo Land, and Deneki: An Alaskan Moose (pictured above). Plus, you guessed it, one of those used bookstore “eureka-finds” of William D. Berry: 1954-1956 Alaskan Field Sketches!

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Grizzly Bear Ursus arctos (2 of 11 pages devoted to Alaska’s bears).

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Bill’s fascination, and sometimes obsession, with recording the working processes of the natural world filled up most of his time….His joy in life came from observing and drawing living things; he saw amazing details in the most drab creature or place.  Elizabeth Berry

 

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For more on William D. Berry, be sure to visit the Berry Studio website!

Gary Snyder’s Practice of the Wild

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Lawrence Ferlinghetti called Gary Snyder the “Thoreau of the Beat Generation.” He’s that, and after a lifetime of poetry, prose, and teaching, he’s become much, much more. His poetry is steeped in the western landscape, but clearly has roots in the traditions of Buddhism, Chinese poetry, and haiku. His major works of prose (A Place in Space and The Practice of the Wild) celebrates the simple act of living in place, no matter where that might be.

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Some have called this poetry collection Gary Snyder’s most personal. It begins with the young poet ascending still dormant Mount St. Helens in 1945, a climb that coincided with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

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Mountains and Rivers Without End is a book-length poem weaving geology, prehistory, myth, and worldwide spiritual traditions.

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Riprap was Snyder’s first book of poetry, published in 1959. This volume also includes his classic translations of Han Shan’s Cold Mountain Poems. We never pass by a copy of this wonderful book!

Gary Snyder has also collaborated with artist Tom Killion on two classic studies focused on particular landscapes:

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If you would like to learn more about Gary Snyder visit the indispensable Poetry Foundation website (it’s great!), and if you’re looking for a grand overview of his work, take a look at The Gary Snyder Reader: Prose, Poetry, and Translations, 1952-1998.

For now, here’s one of our favorite poems — enjoy!

For the Children

The rising hills, the slopes,
of statistics
lie before us.
the steep climb
of everything, going up,
up, as we all
go down.

In the next century
or the one beyond that,
they say,
are valleys, pastures,
we can meet there in peace
if we make it.

To climb these coming crests
one word to you, to
you and your children:

stay together
learn the flowers
go light

Gary Snyder, from Turtle Island

 

Landscape, Emotion & Meaning at Buffalo Peaks Ranch

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We are excited to announce this summer’s first Writers Workshop:

Landscape, Emotion, and Meaning with William Haywood Henderson

presented in partnership with Lighthouse Writers Workshop

Kent Haruf said in West of Last Chance, “It seems to me nothing man has done or built on this land is an improvement over what was here before.

And here you are, setting your story in that original, natural world, the wild wilderness without a trace of man, or perhaps in the tamed edges of wilderness, somewhere like South Park’s Buffalo Peaks Ranch. The landscape you employ can be much more than just a backdrop; landscape can embody the emotion of your characters, the mood of your story, and the themes running through your art. In this workshop, we’ll study the works of some writers who use landscape expertly, then learn techniques to put landscape to its deepest, richest use in your own writing.

William Haywood Henderson earned a BA in English from the University of California at Berkeley, an MA in creative writing from Brown University, and attended Stanford University as a Wallace Stegner Fellow in Creative Writing. He is the author of three novels: Native, The Rest of the Earth, and Augusta Locke. He has taught creative writing at Brown, Harvard, the University of Denver, and the University of Colorado at Denver, and is currently on the MFA faculty at Ashland University in Ohio. At Lighthouse Writers Workshop, he directs the Book Project and teaches the Advanced Novel Workshop and the Novel Bootcamp. We are pleased to work with Lighthouse Writers Workshop in bringing William Haywood Henderson to Buffalo Peaks Ranch!

Saturday, July 1st, 10am to 4pm,  $50 class fee.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER!

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Three novels of William Haywood Henderson, along with a late morning photo taken on the front porch of Buffalo Peaks Ranch’s Main House.

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Buffalo Peaks Ranch: a rich landscape that we’ve only just begun to explore. Join us!

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The landscape you employ can be much more than just a backdrop; landscape can embody the emotion of your characters, the mood of your story, and the themes running through your art.” — from William Haywood Henderson’s workshop description.

A Book-filled Work Day at the Ranch

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Over Memorial Day weekend, Land Library volunteers met at Buffalo Peaks Ranch to gather some (260 to be exact) of our favorite books from the Ranch’s stored collection.

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Book plates were placed & pasted into the chosen books and photographed one by one. We will be finishing up the digital photo sorting and file labeling this week so we can send the photos to our Kickstarter Sponsored Book backers as soon as possible. Other backers can expect to see their sponsored books soon after.

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Each book was placed on an old Singer Sewing table and photographed.

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Another priceless volume from The New Naturalist series!

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A wonderful volume to add to our always growing collection of ranch histories.

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The bookplates will always remind us of the amazing support we’ve received!

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A perfect title for the Cooks House Library, wouldn’t you say?

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We pause a moment every time we see this favorite tome by John Muir.

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A Western classic finds a home at Buffalo Peaks Ranch!

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So many great books on the diverse cultures of the American Southwest.

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Cowboy up!

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We can never pass up a book by, or about, the great conservationist Aldo Leopold.

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A terrific new volume on raptors, or if you like, you can sit on the Main House’s front porch and watch the hawks & falcons soar.

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Raptor, a great title donated by the Gruening Middle School Library in Eagle River, Alaska.

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Ruxton — an early explorer who explored South Park, maybe even parts of the ranch?

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We had a wonderful day, unpacking books and getting them ready for the Cooks House Library’s shelves. THANKS to so many Kickstarter backers who made all of this possible!

 

 

 

The Authentic Underpinnings of Hope

Jean Giono 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 books. Here’s just a few of our latest arrivals. Somehow each volume answers Wendell Berry’s call: “A part of our obligation to our own being and to our descendents is to study life and our conditions, searching for the authentic underpinnings of hope.”

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The former Mayor of New York City, and the former Director of the Sierra Club team up to explore what a more local approach might mean in our age of climate change, along side Rachel Carson’s classic essay on the intimate joy of observing nature (now in a pocket-sized edition).

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We love David Montgomery’s earlier books, and we can never pass upa new book on soil — or the latest on water in the west!

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A slim volume on the joys of reading from one of our favorite writers, and a new collection of writings from the founding chief of the U.S. Forest Service, edited by Pinchot’s biographer, Char Miller.

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The Peregrine Returns: The Art and Architecture of an Urban Raptor Recovery, featuring the beautiful watercolor paintings of Peggy MacNamara.

Stay tuned for many more posts on great books at the Land Library!