When the Earth Was Young

pecked & pointed

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:

serpent sacred fireplains indianlegacy on stone
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:

dreamtimehunter's visionbahn
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!

Touching Words

languagestanza book

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.

grasshopper

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.

hogan

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

wendell

“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
byron

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.

stanza
“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

snow

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).

rain

“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

climbing

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!

The Ocean & the Stars

planktonhubble

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!

circle

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.

supernova

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

red

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

single

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:

haeckelhaeckel

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

New Life for an Old Corral

As many of you know, Buffalo Peaks Ranch, the Headwaters home of the Rocky Mountain Land Library, has been shuttered for almost twenty years now. With the help of the South Park National Heritage Area and the University of Colorado Denver’s School of Architecture, the ranch’s next chapter is being written. Here’s the latest news on one of our favorite corners of this historic South Park ranch:

The Horse Barn (soon the hayloft home for our natural history library), and the concrete corral stalls, a perfect site for art studios and maker spaces of all types

The Horse Barn (soon the hayloft home for our natural history library), and the concrete corral stalls, a perfect site for art studios and maker spaces of all types

On the farside of the Horse Barn is an old ranch complex, ready-made for today’s artists and craftspeople:

Eighteen spacious, rock-solid concrete corral stalls.

Eighteen spacious, rock-solid concrete corral stalls.

 
Here’s the plan: this sturdy line of concrete stalls will be converted into art studios, woodworking shops, a book-arts center & bindery, plus much more — including a large space for an Art Library. We already have hundreds of volumes (regrettably) in storage, including wonderful books on Western and Native American Art, landscape studies from across the globe, plus the works of artists as diverse as Emily Carr, Andy Goldsworthy, C.F. Tunnicliffe, Maynard Dixon, and Chiura Obata.

Besides books, the Art Library will also be lined with the work of contemporary artists inspired by nature and the land.

Looking out onto Reinecker Ridge, a landscape that has barely changed for the past 150 years.

Looking out onto Reinecker Ridge, a landscape that has barely changed for the past 150 years.

Each space will be a window upon the deep blue skies of South Park, its high mountain grasslands, and rich ranching history.

As you can see, the walls are strong, but there is still much work to do. We remain inspired by the support and help we have already received!

Graduate students from the University of Colorado Denver's School of Architecture, captured by the play of light in the first concrete stall

Graduate students from the University of Colorado Denver’s School of Architecture, captured by the play of light in the first concrete stall

Stay tuned for our next post, and learn how history repeats itself in one particular corral stall!

Special thanks to Berry Oliver Photography for the use of many of the photos above.

Dusty, Dull Books on a Land Library Shelf

fodder cover

Why did this book become the Land Library’s page-by-page preoccupation over the past week? It’s title might seem a bit dull: Fodder and Pasture Plants, written by George H. Clark and M. Oscar Malte, and published in 1913 by the Department of Agriculture, Canada.

But here is where our reading experience changed. Our sense of touch was engaged first. The 100-year old cloth cover gave us a tactile pleasure that no modern dust jacket can provide. As we delved into the text, there was much to learn from Clarke and Malte’s complete botanical description of each plant, unexpectedly enlivened by occasional quotes from the likes of Xenophon, Pliny, Virgil, Chaucer, and Shakespeare!

Books are built of chapters and parts. Here’s the part we love best from our century-old copy of Fodder and Pasture Plants: more than 25 full-color plates, from the brush of Norman Criddle. Here’s just two of Criddle’s beautiful depictions:

brome grass

Brome grass is extensively grown in Hungary, where the climate is much like that of the Canadian West…

grass

Red Top is indigenous to all European countries, Northern Africa, North and Central Asia, and North America.

from the preface:

It is, therefore, the purpose of this book to provide, in a form convenient for reference, fairly comprehensible information about those grasses, clovers, and other fodder and pasture plants that are generally to be of value in Canada.

Yes — and maybe something more!

Our thanks goes to the folks at Small Farmer’s Journal. Their recent feature led us to the Land Library’s most recent acquisition — Clarke & Malte’s Fodder and Pasture Plants!

When the Earth was Young

pecked & pointed

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 this year — 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 shone 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, and volumes such as these:

serpent sacred fireplains indianlegacy on stone
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:

dreamtimehunter's visionbahn
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

There will be a way, there will be a light

elder obataobata's yosemite

One of the most moving parts of Ken Burns’ recent PBS series on the National Parks, focused on the Japanese-American artist Chiura Obata, and his life long devotion to Yosemite and the High Sierra. Obata’s first trip to Yosemite in 1927 marked the rest of his life’s work. If you have five minutes to spare please take a look at the PBS clip posted below. It swept us up with feelings of hope and a real admiration for people who fall head-over-heels for a particular landscape.
Seeing Ken Burns’ sensitive portrait had us reaching for a few books off the Land Library’s shelves. For more on Chiura Obata, an excellent volume (full of his sumi ink paintings, watercolors, and woodblock prints) is Obata’s Yosemite: The Art and Letters of Chiura Obata from his trip to the High Sierra in 1927.

In some ways, perhaps even more remarkable is the following book, which tells the story of the Obata family’s internment during World War II. Not to be undone, Obata organized Art Schools in each camp he was sent to, and personally produced a remarkable body of work:

internmenttopaz moonutah desert & mts
Chiura Obata’s alien registration card, Topaz Moon: Chiura Obata’s Art of the Internment, edited by Kimi Kodani Hill, Moonlight over Topaz, 1942.

And here’s a very special book, from our Waterton Canyon Kids Library:

evening glownature art w/ obatawhite dome
Evening Glow of Yosemite Falls, 1930, Nature Art with Chiura Obata by Michael Elsohn Ross, Death’s Grave Pass & Tenaya Peak, 1930

obata teaching
Obata teaching a children’s art class, Tanforan Detention Center, California, August 1942.

treelake basin
Upper Lyell Fork, near Lyell Glacier, Lake Basin in the High Sierra.

tent sketchingyellow skysketching
Chiura Obata sketching in the High Sierra, along with untitled painting.

It’s hard not to be inspired by Obata’s life story, and the work he produced. We also love what he wrote in 1965: “You must always see with a big vision, and if you keep your mind calm there will be a way, there will be a light.

Please enjoy this wonderful clip!

Haruko & Chiura

Haruko & Chiura Obata, San Francisco, 1912.