Gratitude and Engagement


In photographer Robert Adams’ earlier collection of essays, Beauty in Photography he wrote one of our favorite phrases about the purpose of making art. Adams suggests that among the chief purposes is “to keep intact an affection for life”.

In his latest book, Art Can Help, Robert Adams continues to champion art that fights against disillusionment and despair. Instead of highlighting his own work, Adams writes over two dozen meditations on the work of photographers such as Julia Margaret Cameron, Dorothea Lange, Edward Ranney, and many more, including the painter Edward Hopper.


Robert Adams, photo by Kerstin Adams, 2004

“More than anything else, beauty is what distinguishes art. Beauty is never less than a mystery, but it has within it a promise.

In this way, art encourages us to gratitude and engagement, and is of both personal and civic consequence.” — Robert Adams

From Art Can Help:


Frank Gohlke, Abandoned Grain Elevator, Kansas, 1973

“Frank Gohlke’s photograph appears in his book Measure of Emptiness (1992), which records elevators short and tall, made of wood or metal or concrete, and located out by themselves or in town. At first the book seems almost taxonomic in purpose, but as one studies the pictures it becomes apparent that what energizes Gohlke’s photography is his hope that we will like the elevators. In common with every artist, Gohlke I’m sure felt that his subject was better than any picture he could make of it, but he kept trying because what he really wanted was to convince us to visit places like it. Go there, great pictures urge us.”


Eric Paddock, Cedarwood, Colorado, 1991

“I am asked with surprising frequency, ‘How do you know where to make pictures?’ To the extent there is a rule, the answer is that it is usually where you stop long enough. Eric has that discipline, and in consequence the freedom to explore a gift.”

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Emmet Gowin, Sedan Crater, Yucca Flat, Nevada Test Site, 1996

“Like many artists, Gowin feels a personal responsibility. ‘What we all want in our lives,’ he has written, is ‘a way to put ourselves into accord with the mystery out of which we came and into which we will return.”


Edward S. Curtis, The Blanket Weaver, Navajo, 1904

“Edward Curtis’s picture of a Navajo weaver is one that for years I have kept above my desk. It is the very image of home.”

Robert Adams has for over fifty years photographed the changing American West. He has produced many books over his career, including The Place We Live, a three-volume retrospective, published by the Yale University Art Gallery:


For more on Robert Adams’ work be sure to visit The Place We Live website!


Fun Tales of First Contact


From a cover that looks like a 1950’s B-movie poster, to Mark Moffett’s amazing photos and very entertaining text, Adventures Among Ants: A Global Safari with a Cast of Trillions is the box-office hit of the week at the Land Library.

Field biologist and author Bernd Heinrich had this to say about Mark’s book: “Think you know all about ants? Think again, and take it from Mark W. Moffett, who has traveled all over the world to study them. The world of ants seems to be a parallel universe to our own. It’s rife with warfare, terrorism, traffic jams, and highway infrastructure. A stimulating read, with stunning photography.”

To learn more about Mark’s work and the world of ants be sure to visit the Smithsonian Institution’s AntLab — it’s a great site.

Here’s one of our favorite passage from Mark W. Moffett’s Adventures Among Ants:

“My first memory is of ants.

I was down in the dirt in my backyard, watching a miniature metropolis. A hundred ants were enraptured with the bread crumbs I had given them, and they enraptured me as they ebbed and flowed, a blur of interactions. I marveled at how they sped into action when an entrance cone collapsed, or when one found a crumb or wrestled and killed an enemy worker. I could see that ants addressed problems through a social interplay, just as people did.

Years later, I met a group of Inuit children who had been brought by a special program to Washington D.C., from a remote village in Alaska. Expecting the kids to be awed by the wonders of modern civilization, the welcoming committee was taken aback when the children fell to their knees to gape at a gathering of pavement ants, Tetramorium caespitum, pouring from a crack in the sidewalk. Alaska teems with charismatic megafauna like bears, whales, wolves, and caribou, but these children had ever seen an ant. The awestruck boys and girls shrieked with delight as the ants circled and swarmed at their feet.”

Isn’t it reassuring to think that somewhere on the globe, probably every minute of the day, there’s children crouched down, peering into the empire of the ants?



Apples of Uncommon Character

Thanks to over a thousand Kickstarter supporters, we’ll be completing renovation on Buffalo Peaks Ranch’s Cooks House (pictured above, in the center of Jay Halsey’s photo) next spring. Besides providing lodgings and the ranch’s first library, the Cooks House will also have a kitchen — one large enough for weekend cooking classes!

As we have gathered books over the past 30 years, food has always been an important theme for the Rocky Mountain Land Library. Food is such a vibrant intersection between people and the land.

We hope to highlight some of those favorite food books over the winter. With a nip in our autumn days, we thought we should begin with apples. Henry David Thoreau said it well in his essay Wild Apples: “It is remarkable how closely the history of the apple tree is connected with that of man.” Here’s one we love:


Rowan Jacobsen is one of our favorite writers on food, from Fruitless Fall, his wonderful book on bees & beekeeping, to American Terroir: Savoring the Flavors of our Woods, Waters and Fields. His recent Apples of Uncommon Character uncovers lost flavors and traditions while surveying over 120 apple varieties, including the Black Oxford, Knobbed Russet, D’Arcy Spice, Hidden Rose, Granite Beauty, and the Westfield Seek-No-Further. It’s such a wonderful and beautifully illustrated book that we keep picking up extra copies whenever possible!

The Land Library’s collection of apple-related books keeps growing —

including many books on apple trees & horticulture:


along with grafting:


and of course cooking:


and the fine art of cider-making:


learning from old traditions,


and new!

Over the years we have fallen in love with the work of Common Ground, an inspired English organization that seeks to preserve & celebrate the natural & cultural heritage of the United Kingdom. Local distinctiveness is at the heart of everything they do. For many years they’ve had a happy focus on apples & assorted native fruits, producing books that have always inspired us, far away in the Rocky Mountains:



Common Ground never rests, always coming up with imaginative ways to engage people in their local environment.


In 1990 they launched Apple Day. It has become a new calendar custom, every October 21st, celebrating the richness and diversity of local apples, flavors, and folk traditions.

Don’t let this season slip by — scout out some interesting apples and enjoy!


Tom Putt apples, from Rosie Sanders’ The Apple Book

“More than any other single trait, it’s the apple’s genetic variability — its ineluctable wildness — that accounts for its ability to make itself at home in places as different from one another as New England and New Zealand, Kazakhstan and California. Wherever the apple tree grows, its offspring propose so many different variations on what it means to be an apple…that a couple of these novelties are almost bound to have whatever qualities it takes to prosper in the tree’s adopted home.” — Michael Pollan, from The Botany of Desire.


When the Earth was Young


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 our favorite recent rock art books, 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 30-year collection of books devoted to prehistoric art. Starting in North America, with volumes such as these:




But before long, the universal themes mentioned above, led us to seek out rock art volumes that span the globe, such as these:


The Hunter’s Vision: The Prehistoric Art of Zimbabwe by Peter Garlake.



along with Jean Clottes’ classic, comprehensive World Rock 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!


portion of the Great Gallery, Horseshoe Canyon, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

George Schaller’s Remarkable Life in the Field


George Schaller, Brooks Range, Alaska 1956

George Schaller has been described as one of the finest wildlife biologists of all time. At the age of 26 he traveled to Central Africa to study and live with Mountain Gorillas, embarking on the first field study of those gentle giants. Over the next fifty years, George Schaller’s field work took him from Africa to the Tibetan Plateau. Most remarkably, Schaller’s dogged research continually inspired subsequent wildlife protection wherever he pitched his tent across the globe.


Many, many years ago the Land Library purchased our first Schaller book, somewhere along the 8-miles of books at New York City’s venerable Strand Book Store. The Serengeti Lion: A Study of Predator-Prey Relations (pictured above) was one of the first studies of the lion’s social life, and it set us on the path to gather all of George Schaller’s works….


including his memoir, A Naturalist and Other Beasts: Tales From a Life in the Field.

574250For the last many years, George Schaller’s field studies have centered on China, Tibet, and the greater Himalayan region, captured in books such as these: Stones of Silence: Journeys in the Himalayas, Tibet’s Hidden Wilderness: Wildlife and Nomads of the Chang Tang Reserve, Wildlife of the Tibetan Steppe — and most recently, Tibet Wild:


“This is a remarkably close-up and revealing story from the world’s top field scientist. In Tibet Wild Schaller addresses such little known creatures as Marco Polo sheep, snow leopards, chiru antelope, horse-like kiang and the peoples that live with them. He writes penetratingly, but with a grace and sensitivity that touches the heart.” — William Conway, Senior Conservationist, Wildlife Conservation Society

Before the Himalayas, before Africa, came Alaska’s Brooks Range. In 1956, as a 23-year old graduate student, George Schaller joined an Alaskan wildlife expedition led by the legendary biologist Olaus Murie:


Brooks Range, Alaska 1956: Brina Kessel, George Schaller, Don MacLeod, Mardy & Olaus Murie

Olaus encouraged George’s wanderings. He believed a scientist should gather his or her data on foot, every sense alert, notebook and camera in hand….For George, the Murie expedition was to become the model for the rest of his career: exploration, rigorous science, passionate conservation, and a deep, heartfelt connection to wild places and wild animals.” — from A Life in the Wild by Pamela S. Turner.


“I learned long ago that conservation has no victories, that one must retain connections and remain involved with animals and places that have captured the heart, to prevent their destruction. I am sometimes asked why, given a world that is more wounded and scarred, I do no simple give up, burdened by pessimism. But conservation is my life, I must retain hope.” — George Schaller

Fields of Experience


“Frank Jarvis’ lovely volume of field sketches captures all the immediacy of being there and of knowing wildlife first hand. It is rich in feeling for nature. It is full of the intimacies that only come from a lifetime of observation.”
Mark Cocker, Author and Naturalist

It’s been a thrill paging through this wonderful book, all the while discovering the work of an exceptional artist naturalist. A Bird Guide to the Fields of Experience, Volume 1:  The Private Diaries of Passionate Birdwatcher preserves the field notes & minute observations of British naturalist Frank Jarvis. This volume focuses on his field work in Scotland and Norfolk from 1985 to 1993.


Frank Jarvis kept meticulous field notes; he never owned a camera. He would return from the field to sit in a cafe, bar or in his studio, to record what we had observed. He said that drawing is only a matter of really seeing. He developed his own “internal camera” through close observation.


Green woodpecker


Peregrine falcon


His illustrations were not intended as bird portraits or identification diagrams, rather they were attempts to catch his impression of specific field experiences, under varied conditions, and in different seasons.

“Frank’s diary pages not only capture beautifully his subjects but his words document a wonderful period in birdwatching – an era largely free of technology when binoculars, notebook and fieldcraft were the essentials for a day out in the field.”
James McCallum, Wildlife Artist

And, yes, we are anxious for future volumes of Frank Jarvis’ work!

Building the Collection One Book at a Time


One of our favorite parts of the Land Library’s collection is focused on the natural history of Central and South America. Over the past month we were thrilled to add this amazing tome: Visual Voyages: Images of Latin American Nature from Columbus to Darwin. Daniela Bleichmar’s beautiful and comprehensive book offers a visual exploration of the intertwined histories of art and science, bridging the old and new worlds.


Visual Voyages contains maps, paintings, and illustrated manuscripts, including this image of Chimboraso on the Papia Plateau,  from Alexander von Humboldt’s View of the cordilleras and monuments of the indigenous peoples of the Americas.


Botanical images abound, such as this page on the nopal plant from a 1600’s manuscript.


along with Jose Maria Carbonell painting of Loranthus.


and these wonderful pages on Mexican medicinal herbs (1577).


The map as art: Brazil in the Vallard Atlas, France, 1547.


Many landscape studies are included, including the work of Frederic Church, and Jose Maria Velasco (1840-1912), whose Valle de Mexico is above.

Of course, one great book always leads to others. Next up, we’ll be searching for Daniela Bleichmar’s first book!


Visible Empire: Botanical Expeditions & Visual Culture in the Hispanic Enlightenment.