Friday, June 25, 2010

My left leg isn't shorter, my spine's crooked

Just back from the orthopedic doctor with a clean bill of health for my sciatica. He suggested I start cutting the anti-inflammatory I'm taking daily in half to wean myself from them. Every other time I've tried, I get a week into the weaning process and the sciatica starts to flare up again. I'm hoping that this time it's been long enough to keep the damned thing in check. Could be I'm a weanie? Al would say yes to that, but spell it differently. :-)
Also asked him about my left leg being shorter than the right. He remembered from the spinal X-ray he took that I have a slight curvature of the spine, a spinal obliquity he called it, that makes it appear that one leg is shorter than the other. Magic in every place we look. At least both feet reach the ground. 
This afternoon I'll trundle my way up to the Rocky Ridge Music Camp in Estes Park to hear Louis play a solo on his viola. Unfortunately, we just found out about the solo yesterday, and Kath has an appointment and won't be able to go. I am looking forward to hearing Louis and the drive up there. 
Once I pass Lyons, the drive is up the canyon that holds the south fork of the Poudre River, and it is beautiful. Just have to be careful not to hit the many bicyclists who train on that long climb. I only see them going up, never down. I wonder if there is a huge pile of bikes at the top of that climb? Or do they all crash into the river on the fast ride down?
I visited a poet friend's blog yesterday and noticed that she has written a haiku for each day she posts and adds it there. I think this is an excellent way to get the poetic juices flowing and think I'll try to write a haiku every day. I'll base it on something that I see or that happens to me that day. It would probably be best to write the haiku just as I sit down to work on my poetry. 
This morning as I woke, I noticed the light coming in the bedroom had a green cast to it because sunlight reflects off the leaves of the maples in front of the house. I was thinking about the haiku when I noticed the light, and this is what followed:
Soft green sunlight through 
   the windows of the bedroom. 
A wondrous day stirs.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A beautiful day on West Bijou Creek

"Bijou" is a French word for jewel, and the Plains Conservation Center holdings along West Bijou Creek in Arapahoe and Elbert Counties is just that, a natural jewel full of wonder and surprises. Yesterday afternoon, I helped the Plains Center director take a VIP group out to the site. We piled into one of the PCC suburbans, towing a trailer, and got to the site at about 2 in the afternoon.

We first visited a geologic structure that is one of the jewels, a place where the K/T Boundary is exposed. The K/T Boundary is a thin layer of claystone that marks the boundary between the Cretaceous (K) and Tertiary (T) geologic periods. The Cretaceous period was one of huge dinosaurs and very small, furry, burrowing mammals. The Tertiary is the beginning of the age of mammals. The K/T Boundary marks the end of the age of the dinosaurs.

The K/T Boundary was formed when a meteor the size of Denver crashed into the Yucatan. The collision spewed huge clouds of ash, dust, and debris into the air, first creating a firestorm that burned much of the vegetation around the world and then led to a "nuclear" winter that cooled the planet to the point that many cold-blooded animals didn't survive. Cool to see a thin layer, about an inch thick, of clay that marks the most recent of five major extinctions on our planet.

Then we drove over to our buffalo herd and pulled up in front of the herd. I was driving, so I sat in the truck while the others in the trailer tossed buffalo cookies to the animals to draw them closer. Here's the way the herd looked when we first pulled up.

They were about a hundred yards to our south, and they slowly ambled toward us. This herd is all cows and their calves. The three bulls were off by themselves staying clear of the grouchy cows and playful calves.

Here they come, and this one and her calf seemed intent on joining me in the truck.

Man these are huge animals. And the cows are only about two thirds the size of the bulls. I suspect these cows weigh around a thousand pounds. The calves are born a copper color and then "bleach out" to this brown color.

The cows are shedding their winter fur, and really look scruffy. Big hunks of hair fall off, littering the ground. Birds pick it up, particularly ground nesters, and use it to line their nests. Nothing goes to waste in nature.

Here's a good view of the scruffy winter coat of a cow. The calf seems to be unsure if she wants to come any closer, or is playing coy with me.

And here's another calf that looked for a minute like she was going to come up into the front seat with me. Check out her scruffy mom behind her.

No, Al and Les, you can't adopt this calf and bring it home to visit with Feo, Herman, Simon, Hobbes, Boogers, Odin, Orie, and Oz. Her mom is too big to argue with.

One cow, a yearling, came right up to the window and put her nose on the door. She was so close I could have patted her head and felt her horns. Not wishing to encourage her, I just quietly asked her to go away and play with somebody else.

She did. She walked around to the other side of the suburban and jumped over the hitch between the truck and trailer, scaring everyone. The rest of the herd was well behaved and just munched on the cookies the group on the trailer pitched to them. The herd is self sufficient, eating only the grasses and forbs that nature provides, except for the few buffalo cookies they get from time to time.

The rancher who runs his buffalo herd will sell most of the calves in the fall after a roundup, leaving a couple behind. Our ultimate goal, and it will probably take ten to fifteen years, is to have the entire herd one that was born on the land. PCC is trying to reintroduce the fauna that was on the land 200 years ago.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Wyoming Writers Conference in Cody

This weekend was special because I attended the Wyoming Writers' conference in Cody. I drove from Denver to Casper, spent the night at Al's house, then on to Cody in the morning. Al told me to expect a spectacular drive through the Wind River Canyon, and he was right. What a beautiful, breathtaking drive, coming so unexpectedly after driving for hours on the high plains. And then you drop into the Big Horn Basin at Thermopolis for another beautiful drive. And the prairie is such a lush green after a wet spring.

On the drive between Casper and Shoshone, I spotted lots of antelope, including eight fawns. Then on the way back, I spotted nine fawns, almost all in pairs. Antelope usually give birth to twins. It is sad, in a way, to realize that half of those fawns probably won't make it through the fall. Coyotes and golden eagles will take many of them. But the coyotes and eagles have to make a living too.

The conference was wonderful, as it was last year. As a poet, I was particularly interested in Lea Ann Roripaugh's workshops. But also, she and her father, Robert Roripaugh, former poet laureate of Wyoming, made a wonderful presentation on Heart Mountain, the internment camp for Japanese during WW II which is 15 miles east of Cody.

Lea Ann had read all the archives of Heart Mountain, every piece of documentation available. From her research, she wrote a book of poetry, Beyond Heart Mountain, including ten poems, dramatic monologues, each reflecting differing conditions and emotions of people at Heart Mountain. Lea Ann read the monologues of female speakers and Robert read those of male speakers. It was a very powerful presentation. 

After their presentation, I talked with Lea Ann's mother, Yoshiko, who, as a child, endured the bombings in Japan during WW II. She told me how frightened she was during those bombings, not knowing what was happening but sensing how frightened her mother was. Yoshiko is a gentle, good natured woman who laughs often and who has raised a wonderful and talented daughter. Robert, Lea Ann's father, had served in the Army in Japan, where he met Yoshiko.

I heard one of the other attendees complain that she had expected a factual presentation about Heart Mountain and was disappointed in the readings. I felt the opposite; the poems for me opened a window into the daily life and emotions of those who were uprooted from their homes, businesses, and lives just because they were of Japanese descent. Ironically, many of the men from Heart Mountain were drafted and sent to Europe to fight.

Lea Ann's workshops were wonderful. She has a graceful yet energetic way of presenting material, often reading her poetry and that of others to demonstrate her points. In her first session she discussed writing dramatic monologues, which seemed particularly appropriate after listening to her and her father read those she had written about Heart Mountain.

In the second session she discussed writing collaborative poetry in which a poet writes a few lines and then passes them on to another poet who adds lines and passes it back. She suggested that the playfulness of the process often provides insights and new topics during the process. She pointed to Braided Creek by Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser, two well-known poets, as a book of collaborative poetry.

Lea Ann's third session was on the music of poetry. She pointed to how repetition, rhyme, the sound of words, the length of lines, and where the poet breaks lines contribute to the effectiveness of poetry. I have known about these techniques and use them, but Lea Ann's presentation reminded me of them and helped me better understand why they work. Great session, probably the best one for me of her three, although all three were wonderful.

I always come away from writing conferences ginned up to write more. I'm putting this on my blog as one way to continue the energy I received from the conference and the drive through beautiful Wyoming. I listened to Dvorak's New World Symphony for much of the drive, playing it several times. It seemed so appropriate to listen to that piece, inspired by Dvorak's visit to America, as I drove through the beauty of the high plains.