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.Continue reading
We are sick and Nature is in charge. Is her wildness also our preservation?
It is not quite five in the morning and a rose colored light is starting to fill the room. I’m in Cooke City, Montana in early June 2013 with Torrey House Press publisher Kirsten Johanna Allen in bed beside me and THP author Susan Imhoff Bird asleep in the other room. The cabin is ancient and in poor repair, the bed is lumpy. We are in Yellowstone to start research on Susan’s book Howl, of Woman and Wolf and I am wide awake. I have a question on my mind. What the hell did Thoreau mean, exactly, when he said, “In wildness is the preservation of the world?”
Next door to the cabin is a coffee shop that makes its own baked goods. The proprietor opens the door at 5:00 because she is there with her ovens preparing for the day and I know they have internet. I get dressed, grab coat, hat and iPad and head over. There is still snow in the crevices of the craggy peaks surrounding the town, just visible in first light. Wispy clouds are pink and orange. The warm smells of hot coffee and bear claws great me along with the proprietor at the cafe. She’s my age with blonde hair pulled up loosely on top of her head, busy with her baking trays. A steaming cup next to the iPad and I log on, type in my question to the oracle that is Google Search. To connect to that question, in this place, with such comfort and beauty around me and a day of wolf watching ahead is vaguely thrilling. Continue reading
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Michael Branch completely had me at “Bug.” I too have a vivacious, curious, energetic daughter I raised in the Great Basin and that I nicknamed “Bug.” Although mine was raised not in the wild but in the suburbs of Salt Lake City on the east edge of the Basin with only frequent trips to the Wasatch Mountains and to a remote second home high in the center of the Colorado Plateau. That and she is 32 years old already. Continue reading
I was so smitten by the red rock canyons and high country of the central Colorado Plateau that in the late 1990’s I built a home there near Torrey, Utah. With the house underway and drawn to the landscape around it, I went for day hike on nearby Boulder Mountain. I hoped to spend a little time writing near Meeks Lake which I anticipated would be a pristine natural alpine lake perched on 11,000 foot high Boulder top. On the way up the mountain I noticed there were a lot of cows and that the grass was hammered everywhere. I hiked around barbed wire fences and cattle guards, all on U.S. National Forest lands. I was surprised that there were always cows on both sides of the cattle guards and that livestock gates were always open. When I arrived at the lake I found it inundated by cows. It looked and smelled like a stockyard. Continue reading
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
ALL THE WRONG PLACES is a hero’s journey and the story of the emergence of one of the best of the West’s new writers.
I had the pleasure of meeting Phil Connors at an Association for the Study of Literature and Environment writer’s conference where he was a speaker. Dave Foreman was there too and the three of us had lunch along with my wife and publisher at Torrey House Press, Kirsten Allen. Kirsten ended up sitting with three men who had lost their brothers by their brother’s own hand. It was a moving experience for me, one I still feel and am grateful for. Continue reading
Today in the New York Times, Timothy Egan posed the question, “Can Poets Save the Parks?” Nice concept! Terry Tempest Williams gets a plug for her new series on Parks callend “The Hour of Land” and Torrey House Press’s own Red Rock Testimony also gets mentioned and quoted from. Good job Kirsten Johanna Allen and Steve Trimble and all the contributors.
As luck would have it at this moment, Torrey House Press is laying low as the publisher AND we have a brand new website. We did not mention Red Rock Testimony on the old site and the new site perhaps has yet to be crawled by the search engines. The new site does have a lovely banner piece talking about the Red Rock Testimonies project and mission.
Egan is right, there is nothing like a book to promote conservation. All the great conservation movements were preceded and inspired by literature. Will a Bears Ears National Monument be granted by President Obama? Will Torrey House Press play a part? Will poets again, indeed, save the land?
Last night Kirsten and went to a lecture by Michael Soule’, father of the conservation biology movement. I credit Soule for adding value back to his science of ecology by doing something about it, including founding the Wildlands Network to create wildlife corridors that enable adequate migration to protect species’ necessary genetic diversity.
The fight to conserve the environment is a never ending battle but one Soule’, quoting the Dalai Lama, reminds us to never give up on. Soule’ mentioned it is tougher now because with the advent of smart phones people read less. Conservation can be a bit complex but it is hard to get such ideas across in a tweet. Yet he did have a success story. Our friend Mary Ellen Hannibal’s recent book, The Spine of the Continent, while not quite on best seller lists was nonetheless read by Jody Allen, billionaire Paul Allen’s sister and Ms. Allen is perhaps interested in pointing some money in the direction of Wildlands Network. Soule was obviously thrilled.
We fortuitously met Mary Ellen when she was researching the book, camping with her and other friends of the Grand Canyon Trust in the high forests of southern Utah. It will be fun to watch how any contribution Wildlands Network might get as a result of Mary Ellen’s book works out. I’ll keep an eye out.
I categorize each of my posts in one of the categories you see on the right. I don’t have one for curmudgeon, but perhaps I should. It takes one to know one and it’s a favorite of mine. Tom Wharton is turning 61 and as he takes personal inventory of the role of journalism and the state of politics and the environment he is none too happy. I know how he feels. . . . more>>
It’s the time of year ranchers bring their dwindling herds down from the mountain and green the road up. New West meets Old West as the cows come through town, a beautiful yoga instructor out Zens a stampede, a cowboy whomps a Cadillac and the boys at the cafe take it all in stride. . . . more>>
According to The Christian Science Monitor in a reader recommendation, psychiatrist, contemplative theologian, counselor, teacher, writer, and Shalem Institute fellow Gerald G. May wrote his last book, The Wisdom of Wilderness, as he was dying. We journey with him into the wilderness, which he says is “not just a place; [but] also a state of being.” He guides us to what is natural and wild in our own lives – and to the healing grace of nature. Sounds good, I haven’t read it yet, if anyone does, please let us know your thoughts.