Saturday, September 29, 2007

Coming Attraction: Donna Druchunas and Ethnic Knitting

Join me next Wednesday, October 3rd, for a lively "chat" with knitter, award-winning author and blogger Donna Druchunas. Donna's new book, Ethnic Knitting Discovery: The Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and The Andes has just been released by Nomad Press. I've had a chance to read a pre-release copy, and I can attest that like her other books, Arctic Lace, which was a finalist for the 2006 Colorado Book Awards and which won Foreword Magazine's Book of the Year Award, and The Knitted Rug, this one is vintage Donna: an inspiring look at out-of-the-ordinary knitting, presented in a way that any knitter will want to pick it up and knit away! Better yet, she teaches us something about not just the craft of knitting, but the history of the art and how it's been used. I find that Donna's books always teach me something about humanity, and about myself as one particular example of the species.

Why is a knitting book author appearing on a blog called "The Community of the Land"? Because art and craft have at least as much to say about the places where we live and our relationship to them as do science, philosophy, history, or any other discipline. The designs we use in art and craft come from what we know about the world around us; what we make of them speaks of what we love, value and are inspired by.

So join me on Wednesday to hear what Donna's comments about Ethnic Knitting Discovery and the Community of the Land!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Silver "Eddie" Award!

This morning's email brought great news today from my editor at National Parks magazine: "The Refuge," the article I wrote on the crisis facing the nation's largest elk herd and the haven established nearly a century ago to protect it, was honored with a Silver "Eddie" Award in its category at the FOLIO Gala in New York City! (The Eddies, also called FOLIO Awards, are like the Oscars of national magazine publishing.) The Eddie goes to the magazine, but I am proud to have written a Silver-winning article.

Here's how the article opens:
Dawn comes late to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, on winter mornings. When the sun finally edges over the high ridges that crowd the town of Jackson and paints the Tetons pink, the huddled mounds studding the snow-covered meadows along Flat Creek finally come into focus as thousands of sleeping elk. They stir, shaking the hoarfrost from thick pelts with a clatter of antlers and flapping of ears. Plumes of breath rise from thousands of black nostrils, forming a shimmering cloud in the frigid air as the elk wait for breakfast to be served.

And soon it is: The growl of engines in low gear accompanies the sunlight as rubbertracked crawler tractors appear, pulling trailers loaded with 20 to 30 tons of alfalfa pellets across the snow. As a tractor approaches a group of elk, the driver opens a gate in the underside of the trailer, releasing a stream of green pellets.

The elk crowd flank to flank like so many dairy cows, lipping the pellets from the snow and pawing for more. When the pellets are eaten, some elk drift away to forage in the snow-covered landscape. Others hang out in groups, digesting their meal. As the first of the day's horse-drawn sleigh tours thread their way through the crowd of animals, a few bulls pick fights with each other, clashing racks while cameras record the scene.
Read more at "The Refuge". (Click on the title of the article.)

I don't write for the recognition, but it's surely a kick to get that kind of national accolade.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

On the road again

Tonight I'm home, with the bright crescent of a waxing moon setting in the southwestern sky. But my mind is on the road. Thanks to photographer Jim Steinberg (this is your fault, Jim), I'm starting a new book project: Colorado Scenic Byways: Taking the Other Road, a two-book set that Jim calls a "love poem" to the 25 designated routes that show off the state's diverse landscapes and cultures. From the open spaces of the Eastern Plains with their ancient dinosaur trackways, grain elevators and futuristic wind generators, to the abrupt rise of the Foothills and High Peaks cris-crossed with Jeep and hiking trails, pocked with mines and dotted with ski areas and starter castles, to the wide swaths of Mountain Parks that run the gamut from shrub desert and sand dunes to lazy rivers meandering through green hayfields, and the brilliantly colored rock layers that shape the western Plateaus, Colorado is one amazing place.

One part of Colorado Scenic Byways: Taking the Other Road, is a coffee table volume in the spirit of our previous collaboration Colorado Less Traveled, a finalist for the 2006 Colorado Book Award. In this new book though, we're paying homage to a uniquely American love: the open road. We'll weave the photos and words into a lyrical whole that evokes the spirit of each road, each scenic byway.

The second part of Colorado Scenic Byways is a take-along Atlas & Road Guide, a route-by-route map of each byway giving the down-and-dirty details you'd need to get the most out of the trip, including maps and altitude profiles, details of geology, geography and history, fun and fascinating facts, and traveler's tips from each of us.

The deadline for this whole glorious assignment: January 1 for the essays for the coffee table book, February 1 for the road guide narratives. Yup, it's crazy - but how could I turn something like this down?

Richard and I managed to drive three of Colorado's scenic byways on our trip to Durango last weekend for Colorado Art Ranch's second Artposium, an event which was most appropriately focused on maps and creativity. What a weekend! We filled our minds with maps as metaphoric and literal aids to imagination and life, and filled our spirits with the starkly spectacular landscapes of southwestern Colorado and the stories of their millennia of human culture.

That's me in front of a nearly eight-foot-tall sagebrush at Lowry Ruin, an Ancestral Puebloan site perched on a hilltop off the Highway of the Ancients byway with a gorgeous view of the whole Four Corners region. If you're in southwestern Colorado, it's worth the trip on the dusty gravel road to visit Lowry. If you can get there at sunrise or sunset when the light colors the ruins golden and picks out the distant Henry Mountains to the west in Utah, Sleeping Ute Mountain to the south, the great tilted wedge of Mesa Verde to the southeast, and the high peaks of the Platas to the east, you can see why people settled in this now-isolated site. It's a view swells the soul.

(As a footnote to my traveling green entries, our Subaru Forester was a delight to drive. It's comfortable - I love the sunroof for skygazing!, averages 29 miles per gallon of gas, and its exhaust just smells like air, nothing more.)

Now I'm home with the brilliant silver moon setting as Cygnus, the Swan, flies down the Milky Way directly overhead. But my mind is very definitely on the road - on 25 scenic byway routes, in fact. Join me on the trip when Colorado Scenic Byways: Taking the Other Road is published next fall!

Monday, September 3, 2007

Traveling green, part II

When I first wrote about traveling green in June, I fully intended to say more about the subject in my next post. But when I got home, the garden was bursting and I had an article to write on green roofs for Audubon magazine, so I didn't get back to green travel.

It turns out that traveling "green" is both easier than I imagined and harder. Headed for a destination like Portland, where light rail lines cris-cross the metro area and buses are frequent, cheap, and convenient, it just required a change of habits. Instead of reserving a rental car and finding a road map of the city, I looked up the Max line map on the internet before leaving, and figured out how to get to our motel. Once there, we looked up the bus map and schedules and headed out with an itinerary in hand. (Also, we had our daughter, Molly, who lives in Portland as a guide. But even without her, it wouldn't have been difficult.)

I interviewed Tom Liptan, Portland's green roof guru from the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services and talked to Mace Vaughan, Conservation Director of the Xerces Society, a non-profit whose mission is the conservation of invertebrates, those zillions of creatures without backbones from starfish to butterflies. (Why does Xerces care about green roofs? Roofs carpeted with soil and plants are potential habitat for butterflies, native bees, spiders and other arthropods in cities where habitat for the smallest among us is often scarce.) Richard and Molly did Dad-daughter stuff, which involved looking at art and tasting coffee and beer. We all got around handily without a car using light rail and the bus system, and saved not just money and fossil fuel, but also avoided the hassle of navigating city traffic and finding parking.

(That's me in Washington - not at work on a magazine article!)

On the weekend, we headed to my brother's house in Olympia, Washington, normally a two- or more-hour drive via traffic-clogged Interstate 5. But this time we three boarded an Amtrak train and spent the time talking and watching the scenery go by. Even with the cost of the round-trip train tickets, we still saved money over the cost of a rental car for a week, plus gas. (We got a discount on the train tickets because we belong to Colorado AAA.)

Back in Portland, we stayed at a motel near the airport, and took a free shuttle to catch our morning flight home to Colorado. On the drive home from Denver, we talked about trading our commodious Toyota Sienna van for a smaller car to get better gas mileage.

Last weekend, we did just that: using AAA Autosource, a painless way to buy a car without the haggling and time-wasting dance at a dealership, we drove our Sienna to Denver, spent about 15 minutes with Heather Parrish, our Autosource sales person, and drove away in a brand-new 2008 Subaru Forester. (Thank you, Heather!) The great thing about our new car, besides the gas mileage (we got 28 mpg on the way home) and the price (we got the fleet price through AAA) is that it's a PZEV, partial zero emissions vehicle. That means its tailpipe emissions are not quite zero, but close enough to meet California's new emission standards, the strictest in the United States. According to the test results for the California Air Resources Board, our Forester's tailpipe emissions are at 0.09 (not quite zero) and the average new car in its class has a score of 0.38 - quite a difference.

One last green note about the Subaru Forester: the plant in Indiana where our car was made was the first auto plant in the US to achieve zero landfill status. Nothing from the plant goes to the landfill: it's all reused or recycled. (The plant is also a designated wildlife habitat, for whatever that's worth.)

Now that I've had some practice with greening my business travel, I'm aiming for an even smaller carbon footprint in upcoming trips. It's not easy to change habits and rethink how I travel, but it's worth the effort to ensure a future for all of us on this extraordinary blue planet.