Gessner has come West again and this time with the intent to be an inspiring and effective conservationist. His was a brilliant idea to focus on Teddy Roosevelt as an example of getting things done in conservation. Somehow Gessner, a guy from the east coast, has a handle on our issues in Utah as well or better than anyone here. It is vaguely frustrating. Gessner’s acknowledgment of people I know who were involved in the work, like Kristen Johanna Allen, the publisher at Torrey House Press, THP author Steven Trimble, and THP board member Regina Whiteskunk Lopez, makes me think I am at least associated with getting things done via my board work with Torrey House Press and Western Watersheds Project.
THP is going to publish Gessner’s upcoming work, Quiet Desperation, Savage Delight: Sheltering with Thoreau in the Age of Crises. It is my privilege to read the galley next.
Jonathan P. Thompson is a son of the Four Corners. He is a journalist and writer, recently penning the book River of Lost Souls (non-fiction Torrey House 2018) and Behind the Slickrock Curtain (fiction Lost Souls Press Sept. 2020). I am co-founder of Torrey House Press and while I previously followed him as an extra savvy writer of the West, I got to know him personally when he published with us. In August of this year he and Torrey House are bringing out his next book, SAGEBRUSH EMPIRE: How a Remote Utah County Became the Battlefront of American Public Lands. I have had a look at a first draft and am thrilled that more of his writing and perspective will soon hit the stores.
Kirsten and I are in the banjo (a pop-up camper) heading to the Simpson Springs campground on the Pony Express road in the desert west of Salt Lake City. We need to get out and are eager to celebrate Solstice. As a double bonus, Saturn and Jupiter are going to be as visually close tonight as they have been for 400 years and will be again for another 400. Simpson Springs is remote and is typically empty. But the last time we went out this recent early summer, as this pandemic got going, the place was jammed. The whole west desert was crowded and covered in accumulating dust plumes from multitudes of RV’s and swarms of off road vehicles. As we settle in on the good dirt road heading west today we can’t see any other traffic and are hopeful the manic crowd does not have the same idea as us this time.
I used to downhill ski frequently. Not like a season pass holder, but 20 times a season or so. I’m in my 60’s now and have not skied for a year. But some of my long time ski buddies came to town, guys I first started skiing with in college, and I told them I would join them on the mountain today. They suggested we meet in the parking lot at Park City resort’s plaza at 7:15 AM and find a place for breakfast. They also needed to rent skis. When I asked why so early they said they were concerned about traffic. I thought, well, they are from California and don’t realize it is not as crowded here in Utah. I suggested I would meet them in the ticket line at 8:45, 15 minutes before the lifts open. Plans made.
If I was more into the Midwest I might have given this title yet another star. Even so, the perspective of the mid to late 19th century conversion of the Midwest from natural landscape to a completely extracted farm was enlightening. Excruciating, but enlightening. The prairies were plowed under on farms made possible by converting the great northern forests to lumber. Chicago markets and finance made it all possible.
The voraciousness of markets and the shortsighted lure of immediate profits spell doom and destruction for natural and wild landscapes. The 19th century mindset held no conception that the natural world was a limited resource. And one that is necessary to the maintenance of life.
How does the culture get changed to become aware and develop some reverence for the natural world? Books like this help.
Publisher Robert Underwood Johnson created Yosemite National Park
In the late 19th century a publisher named Robert Underwood Johnson set out from Boston by train to California in search of a new writer who could make an impact. When he arrived in San Francisco he began asking around for where he might find a man by the name of John Muir. He was directed toward a remote valley to the east in the Sierra Nevada mountains where he set out by horse and wagon. He found Muir in Yosemite Valley, camped with him and invited Muir to start writing articles for Johnson’s Century Magazine. Johnson was understandably inspired by both the valley and the man. A powerful and effective friendship ensued. Johnson was well connected, introducing Muir to such names as Theodore Roosevelt, John Burroughs, Nikola Tesla, Mark Twain, and Rudyard Kipling. Muir’s articles captured the nation’s thrilled attention and Johnson began to turn them into books. Johnson then took Muir to Washington D.C. were both men successfully lobbied Congress to create Yosemite National Park. Muir subsequently founded the Sierra Club. Continue reading →
I am revising the premise of Thots and Shots to the notion that cultural change brought about by adherence to the philosophy of Deep Ecology can save the planet-and expand our souls. I changed the tagline for the website to “Deep Ecology and the American West.” I even made a logo.
We are bulldozing our public lands for a few very privileged private ranchers.
Utah’s state symbol might as well be the cowpie. We turn ourselves inside out making sure they are everywhere, all the time. In campgrounds, in national parks and monuments, in the forests, on the steppes, in our streams, all down the roads, and right there, next to your favorite picnic table. Cowpies. One might wonder why.
On the longest night of the year, under a full super-moon, a ritual evolves in a small Utah town.
Bluff, Utah, December 21, 2018
A full super-moon rose as complete dark enveloped a crowd gathered in the December cold around campfires and torches to celebrate the longest night of the year with art, culture, and sculptural pyrotechnics.
For those like me who are not motivated by the Christian religious myth of Christmas, Winter Solstice is the natural time to celebrate the turn of the seasons. A ritual is called for and one is evolving in rural Bluff, Utah, with all the resulting tensions that come with change and growth.
Torrey House Press publisher, Kirsten Johanna Allen, in search of words from the land. 12/21/2018 in Bluff, Utah