Archive for the ‘Lives to Inspire’ Category


By making Florissant a national monument in 1969, the United States guaranteed protection to an important natural place, a quiet place where we can think about our earthly roots. Looking up, we can watch the kestrels dive like blue angels in search of grasshoppers, while we stand in the graveyard of a great fallen community — the Florissant ecosystem of the Eocene. Here, with the wonder of a child, we can take the mental journey back through the geologic ages.” – Estella Leopold

In the summer of 1969, one of the world’s premier fossil beds nearly became an A-frame housing subdivision. Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument was saved by a grassroots group of scientists, conservationists, and local ranchers, along with a precedent-setting legal team. As Estella Leopold, one of the founding members of the Defenders of Florissant, once commented, “How can a group of citizens take on the real estate establishment? Well…it’s love and science and good lawyers.

This Saturday, the Rocky Mountain Land Series (in partnership with the Aldo Leopold Foundation) is honored to welcome Estella Leopold, co-author of Saved in Time: The Fight to Establish Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, Colorado — a first hand account of a classic environmental battle that has many lessons for today.

For details on Estella Leopold’s Land Series program, please click here!

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Estella Leopold’s co-author, Herbert W. Meyer, also wrote the classic work, The Fossils of Florissant — the subject of a truly memorable Land Series program in 2003.

If one of the pleasures in visiting Florissant is seeing the landscapes and imagining what they were like in outline 34 million years ago, what makes the experience so vivid is the incredible preservation of the fossil-bearing rocks themselves. It is a far different experience than looking at a set of hand-sized fossils on display in a glass cabinet.” — Estella Leopold

Forty years later, some of the early Defenders of Florissant return to what is now Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument — without an A-frame in sight:


Estella Leopold, Tom Lamm, former Governor Dick Lamm, Attorney Victor Yannacone, Jr., and Superintendent Keith Payne celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument.

The fight to save Florissant is one of Colorado’s greatest stories of conservation, grassroots activism, and devotion to the land. A land ethic that runs deep in the Leopold family, from Estella’s early days at her family’s Sand County shack:

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For much more on the Leopold’s ongoing legacy, be sure to visit the Aldo Leopold Foundation‘s website, which includes a special section on Estella Leopold.

See you all on Saturday!

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At the Sand County shack, 1939: rear: Aldo & Estella Leopold, Luna, Starker(kneeling); front: Nina, young Estella, and Gus, a treasured dog that has everyone’s attention.

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mcsorleys'Up in the Old Hotel

The New York Times just reported some truly exciting and unexpected news. The New Yorker‘s next issue will feature a new essay by the legendary author Joseph Mitchell. The newly discovered “Street Life” is the first published work by Mitchell since 1964.

Joseph Mitchell, who died in 1996, was the great wandering and listening soul of New York City. True, you won’t find any of his titles at local Nature Centers, but his sketches of the urban scene shows us a writer immersed in his home landscape. From Fulton Fish Market to McSorley’s Saloon, Joseph Mitchell observed his given plot of land keenly and compassionately, like the ideal naturalist that he was. Back in 1992, his work, long out of print, was resurrected in a wonderful anthology, Up in the Old Hotel.

There are too many to choose from, but here’s one of our favorite passages from that collection:

The Rivermen, from Joseph Mitchell’s The Bottom of the Harbor

I often feel drawn to the Hudson River, and I have spent a lot of time through the years poking around the part of it that flows past the city. I never get tired of looking at it; it hypnotizes me. I like to look at it in midsummer, when it is warm and dirty and drowsy, and I like to look at it in January, when it is carrying ice. I like to look at it when it is stirred up, when a northeast wind is blowing and a strong tide is running — a new-moon tide or a full-moon tide — and I like to look at it when it is slack. It is exciting to me on weekdays, when it is crowded with ocean craft, harbor craft, and river craft, but it is the river itself that draws me, and not the shipping, and I guess I like it best on Sundays, when there are lulls as long as a half an hour, during which, all the way from the Battery to the George Washington Bridge, nothing moves upon it, not even a ferry, not even a tug, and it becomes as hushed and dark and secret and remote and unreal as a river in a dream.

The success of Up in the Old Hotel led many publishers to reprint Mitchell’s earlier books:

My Ears Are Bent, a collection of Joseph Mitchell’s earliest (pre-New Yorker) pieces, mostly from the 1930’s. Old Mr. Flood, a slim volume centered on the comings and goings of Manhattan’s Fulton Fish Market.

And two of his all-time classic collections: The Bottom of the Harbor, and McSorley’s Wonderful Saloon.

The Rocky Mountain Land Library will always have these books on our shelves, for the simple fact that Joseph Mitchell is one of the greatest writers of people and place that we know!

In the last few days, New Yorker editor David Remnick commented on the exciting find of new writings from Mitchell’s pen: “What’s so poignant about [the excerpts] is the sadness of the incompletion but the brilliance of the voice. There’s an ambition in the voice; the voice is becoming more Joycean. He’s looking outward, but all of these pieces are very interior. He’s at the center of it.


When things get too much for me, I put a wild-flower book and a couple of sandwiches in my pockets and go down to the South Shore of Staten Island and wander around awhile in one of the old cemeteries down there.” the opening passage of the classic Mr. Hunter’s Grave, from The Bottom of the Harbor.

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young Rachel Carsonrachel carson photo

Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature by Linda Lear
By age 11, Rachel Carson was a published author, with the appearance of A Battle in the Clouds in St. Nicholas Magazine. She always wanted to be a writer, though her subsequent life pulled her in many other directions. Linda Lear tells a compelling story of Rachel Carson’s early career as a marine biologist, and her sudden emergence as a bestselling author with the 1951 publication of The Sea Around Us.
But the most dramatic period lay ahead, culminating in the landmark book, Silent Spring, and her ensuing battles with the pesticide industry. She bore these responsibilities well, despite a series of health setbacks that made Silent Spring an excruciating labor. (Paul Brooks, Rachel’s editor, counted it as a miracle that the book was ever published).

Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature recounts the trials of Rachel Carson’s life, but also the great joys: her love of nature and the sea — and her constant sense of wonder (and obligation) that never diminished.

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Rachel Carson will always be an indispensable author for the Rocky Mountain Land Library. We have a complete set of her books, along with several biographies for readers of all ages!

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Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature by Linda Lear, Rachel: The Story of Rachel Carson by Amy Ehrlich & Wendell Minor, Rachel Carson: Preserving a Sense of Wonder by Thomas Locker & Joseph Bruchac

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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:

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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:

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Evening Glow of Yosemite Falls, 1930, Nature Art with Chiura Obata by Michael Elsohn Ross, Death’s Grave Pass & Tenaya Peak, 1930

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

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

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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.

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bring me some applesedna portrait

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.

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. This is 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 these:
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In Pursuit of Flavor, and The Taste of Country Cooking, of which, Craig Claiborne wrote that it “may well be the most entertaining regional cookbook in America“.

Food traditions have long been a happy obsession at the Land Library. Here’s two of our favorites volumes:

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High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey From Africa to America by Jessica B. Harris, and The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook, edited by Sara Roahen and John T. Edge.

Edna Lewis was the co-founder of the Society for the Revival and Preservation of Southern Food, a precursor to the Southern Foodways Alliance. For more on their ongoing work be sure to visit their website!

And for more on the great topic of food traditions, here are a few of our earlier posts!

Recalling Voices, Tastes, and Traditions (on the great variety of ethic kitchens)

From the Bronx Seedless Grape to the Paiute Tepary Bean: The Food Nations of North America (featuring one of the best books we know!)

The Taste of Place (Rowan Jacobsen’s American Terroir, and more)

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biblioburroboy & book burro

The latest addition to our Waterton Canyon Kids Library is Jeanette Winter’s Biblioburro: A True Story from Columbia, a picture book about one man’s never-say-never passion for sharing stories and books. Jeanette Winter has written and illustrated many books for children based on true-life stories, including Wangari’s Trees of Peace, and The Librarian of Basra. Here’s what she has to say about her latest book:

Biblioburro is based on the true story of Luis Soriano, who lives in La Gloria, a remote town in northern Columbia. An avid reader, Luis understood the transformative power of reading because of his experiences as a schoolteacher. He wanted to share his collection of books with the children and adults in the isolated villages in the distant hills, where books were scarce. Most houses had none.

Luis and his two burros began bringing books to the villages in 2000. He started with a collection of 70 books that has grown to over 4,800, mostly from donations. Now the Biblioburro travels to the hills every weekend. Three hundred people, more or less, look forward to borrowing the books Luis brings.

A small corner of the world is enriched.” — Jeanette Winter

People around here love stories. I’m trying to keep that spirit alive in my own way.Luis Soriano

And here’s another fun picture book, Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown and John Parra. For more information be sure to visit the Biblioburro blogspot!

Being the book-people (book-nuts?) that we are, we especially love the following three titles from our Waterton Canyon Kids Library — each one affirms the power and value of books across the world:

cut shincamellibrary book
Down Cut Shin Creek: The Pack Horse Librarians of Kentucky by Kathi Appelt & Jeanne Cannella Schmitzer, My Librarian is a Camel: How Books are Brought to Children Around the World by Margriet Ruurs, The Library Book: The Story of Libraries from Camels to Computers by Maureen Sawa & Bill Slavin

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encompassing nature

Although the Land Library has thousands of titles focused on the American West, we have long sought a global reach, believing that lessons of land and community knows no boundaries. The Land Library has especially strong collections of books focused on Africa, China, Tibet, Mongolia, Latin America, Canada and the boreal zone worldwide — along with all-things-Arctic.

We’ll continue to grow our global collections, and we hope to have more world-wide postings in the future. In the meanwhile, here’s an excellent book to start us on our journey!

Encompassing Nature: A Sourcebook, edited by Robert Torrance. This is a truly massive anthology (1,224 pages), as well as a sweeping history of the human response to nature from ancient times to the dawn of the Modern Age. Robert Torrance casts a wide net, including selections of children’s stories, tribal myths, sacred scriptures, poetry, philosophical and scientific writings. Gary Snyder writes, “What is encompassed, on a scale vaster than we could have imagined, are the many ways in which human beings have understood and represented the natural world. There are themes of gratitude, playfulness, and intimacy with the wild, running through most of it…”

Here’s a few more thought-provoking books that we’ll return to in the months ahead:
unbowedmountain hometuckertibetan steppe
Unbowed: A Memoir by Wangari Maathai, Mountain Home: The Wilderness Poetry of Ancient China, translated by David Hinton, Buddhism and Ecology by Mary Evelyn Tucker, et.al., Wildlife of the Tibetan Steppe by George Schaller
islam & ecologyann morrisancient futures
Islam and Ecology: A Bestowed Trust by Richard C. Foltz, et al, Houses and Homes by Ann Morris & Ken Heyman (from our Waterton Canyon Kids Library), Ancient Futures: Lessons from Ladakh for a Globalizing World by Helena Norberg-Hodge

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