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!

The Story of the Land, from Headwaters to Plains

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You can sense the change of season at Buffalo Peaks Ranch. But just as the summer winds down at the Land Library’s headwaters site, we have exciting news to report back here in Denver. The Rocky Mountain Land Library will soon be opening it’s third place-based learning center at Denver’s old Puritan Pie Factory, located in the historic Curtis Park neighborhood. This urban branch is designed to help connect people to nature — not the distant natural history of our nearest National Parks, but the nearby nature of the neighborhoods where we all live.

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The Puritan Pie Factory at 26th & Champa.

We have two city-inspired collections that we are anxious to share, namely a Kids Nature Library (with thousands of books on bugs, birds, bats, and more), along with (what we’re calling) an Urban Homestead Library, featuring books on nature in the city, with many volumes on green-living, including hundreds of titles on edible landscaping, urban farming, beekeeping, raising chickens, and much, much more.

With thousands of books as an inspiring resource, the Purtian Pie Factory will be home to workshops and classes, nature clubs and activities for kids, neighborhood gatherings, plus artist & craft studios. If the community has a creative need, we would love for the Pie Factory to help fill it.

For instance:

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Some of our favorite books are on seeds (really!). Along with seed books, we’ll be setting up a Free Seed Library, much like this wonderful photo from the Manitou, Colorado Seed Library.

 

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How about a Teaching Kitchen for both kids & adults? Over the years we have noticed that the intersection of food & land is a perfect place to feel those connections we all have to nature and the land! (This fun photo is from the Organic Teaching Kitchen in New York).

Thanks to the visionary owners of the Puritan Pie Factory, so much is possible! Over the next few weeks & months we’ll all be learning more about the Pie Factory and the Curtis Park neighborhood. Who knows what new ideas and programs will emerge as we explore this amazing opportunity together!

Many of us are especially excited that the Pie Factory is already part of Denver’s Beat Tour. Just next door to the factory is the site of Neal Cassady’s boyhood home.

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We’re already stacking up our Beat books, everything from Jack Kerouac’s On the Road to Gary Snyder’s Riprap Poems!

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Let there be Pie! From Headwaters to Plains, from South Park to Curtis Park:

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Take a Trip to Buffalo Peaks Ranch

Thanks to a planning grant from the Borgen Family Foundation, the Rocky Mountain Land Library has been working hard this winter on renovation plans for Buffalo Peaks Ranch. Soon we’ll be carefully adapting this historic ranch, and creating a residential library devoted to people and the land.

Here’s a terrific new video on what’s ahead. Thanks to Winton Media for telling the Land Library’s story so well!

Watch, enjoy, share, and HELP the Land Library grow!

For much more information, here’s Your Trail Guide to the Rocky Mountain Land Library, or write jeff@landlibrary.org!

 

Cultivator of Words, Planter of Trees

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It’s always a thrill to add one more volume of W.S. Merwin’s poetry to the Land Library’s shelves. Our latest addition, What is a Garden? is a wonderful collaboration between Merwin’s words, and the vivid tropical images from photographer Larry Cameron.

Poet and environmentalist W.S. Merwin moved to Hawaii in 1976 and has spent the last forty years planting nineteen acres with more than 800 species of palm, creating a lush garden on a ruined former pineapple plantation.

PBS correspondent (and fellow poet) Jeffrey Brown visited W.S. Merwin at his Hawaii home, and captured the inspirational work of one of America’s greatest poets (& conservationists!):

 

 

For more on W.S. Merwin work in Hawaii, be sure to visit The Merwin Conservancy’s excellent website. Their mission is to preserve the living legacy of W.S. Merwin, his home and palm forest, for future retreat and study for botanists and writers, and for the benefit of environmental advocacy and community education.

I hope to be able to go on planting palms on this land for a long time, and I regard what has been done here so far as just a beginning….I hope that a future head gardener will have something of the same desire that I have had: to try to grow as many species as possible of the world’s palms….That is the abiding part of our hope that a Conservancy will want and will be able to save this bit of the Peahi streambed — what we have made here for those who come after us.” — W.S.Merwin

 

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W.S. Merwin is a two-time recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry, winner of a National Book Award, and twice served as the United States Poet Laureate. Recently he was honored as the 2015 Champion of the Land by the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust.

The Poetry Foundation has much more on W.S. Merwin on their always informative website!

Your Trail Guide to the Rocky Mountain Land Library

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

The Power of a Book: What’s New on our Shelves

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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!

Last Few Shingles of a Memorable Month

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.

Cowboy Engineering at Buffalo Peaks Ranch

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!

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!