15013 … For years now I’ve been playing around with finding a suitable date in the past from which to begin a New World calendar. The modified Gregorian calendar that European and American society uses is based on the supposed birth of Jesus of Nazareth, Christos (“The Anointed”), in the Middle East. There are several other world calendars including Hindi, Jewish, and Arabic. But it seemed to me that in a secular nation we ought to find a calendar that isn’t beholden to one specific religious tradition, particularly one from the Old World … I thought to follow the poet and deep ecologist Gary Snyder in using some human metric as the start date. In one of essays, he espouses a calendar beginning 50,000 years ago, since that is roughly when anthropologists believe human culture began worldwide. Snyder figured to synch it with the Gregorian by using the last two digits of the current millennium, so as to easily transition from one calendar to the other. In his calendar scan today’s year is 50013 … I appreciate going back that far – it certainly makes for a more realistic start date for a calendar than a Semitic religious leader’s supposed birth 2000 years ago … But I’ve thought that since humans came late to the New World, and now one of the nations of that New World is the most powerful nation of all, why not do a New World calendar? Why not start with the millennium when humans first stepped on to the New World? … However, it’s proven not so simple to establish such a date scientifically. In fact, it’s been a moving target for a number of years. Physical archaeological finds that date back into the past first appear about 13,000 years ago, or just short of that. But many theories push the date much further back in time, even though they haven’t been proven. The Laurentian Ice Sheet only opened up about 14,000 years ago, if a land bridge crossing from Siberia were used. And recent findings about sea levels back then suggest the coastal areas were hundreds of feet lower than now, so that evidence of an earlier occupation may just be buried underwater … But, new evidence to base a preliminary New World calendar on has been accumulating. A coprolite in an Oregon cave that dates back to 14,340 years ago. And a Science News article that caught my eye this fall (Sept. 21st issue). An Italian study of mitochondrial DNA from living populations suggests that humans migrated into the Americas in three distinct waves – a coastal migratory wave from Siberia 15,000 to 18,000 Before the Present, an interior Rocky Mountain migration, using the Berengian land bridge from 10,000 to 14,000 BP with the melting of the Laurentian ice sheets, and a move of native peoples from Alaska into northern Canada and Greenland around 4,000 BP … I was tempted at first to use the highest estimate of migration, 18,000. But most evidence for now points to 15,000 years from the present date as the most likely. So, my new calendar date for this year is 15014 NW (New World calendar).
IRENE VISINTIN … When I came to Telluride, Vera Wunderlich and Irene Visintin were the grand old dames of the community. Nobody had been here as long or had been as involved in the community. Vera had a newsletter she send out to all the old timers who’d moved away. She was the glue that held the Telluride diaspora together. Irene was always the quieter one. But for that reason she was usually easier to talk to. Her kindness and humility belied a deep love of the mountains and an easygoing acceptance of the changes, which came rapidly once Telluride was discovered … I had the good fortune, since I took an early interest in local history and for many years wrote an historical column, “Mining the Gold,” for the Telluride Times and the San Miguel Journal, to befriend Vera and Irene. It was a wonderful gift. They were kind to me, a newcomer, and I learned a lot from them … It was sad when Vera passed, and now Irene has gone – taken care of for so long by her nephew, Gene Wunderlich. It’s truly the end of an era in Telluride. The old mining town is kaput, and the new resort town is ascendant. Goodbye, Sisters. We, who remember, miss you.
WEEKLY QUOTA … “Whatever the reason, poetry continues to flourish. It's a marvelous way to live and that's why most of us do it. Imagine noticing things for a living. Imagine taking language and standing it on end, turning it around, making it new. Imagine taking words and rinsing them off” – Grace Cavalieri
BROTHER AL … Nice to see his name invoked. Truly, one of Telluride’s legendary characters. As peace-loving and charitable a man as I’ve ever met … Thanks, Mark de Mist.
TALKING GOURDS … Don’t miss the scholarly wild performance poet, David Rothman, at Arroyo Telluride on Tuesday, Jan. 7. The theme is darkness and David will entertain you, darkly.
THE TALKING GOURD
My name now is open;
Is crossroads, is heart,
Is place where snakes shed,
The fierceness in me
Wants only teeth;
- Elle Metrick
San Miguel County Poet Laureate