GOODBYE JOHN … About as unassuming a person as you can imagine. And as gentle. I remember first seeing John around town some years ago, never uttering a word, but kind of just hanging out, one of the habitués of main street … Somehow, at some point, we got to talking. And I found a most amazing and interesting man. A brilliant illustrator. I have a copy of his “Ophir Wall” proudly hanging up in my county commissioner office … Regularly, every couple months, after we became friends, he’d send me a meticulously hand-lettered envelope with clippings of pertinent political and ecological tidbits from a Norwegian-American newspaper, Western Viking (its Seattle roots coincided with John’s own roots) … He did that for years, maybe 10. I have a whole marvelous collection of his letters and the packet of clippings that always came with it. On the street, in town, we’d chat. I dragged him along to a Talking Gourds one year, and he seemed to love it … His tiny closet room in a condo on the edge of town was as meticulous as his script – clean, orderly, with giant maps on the wall of Norway, where he’d show you how he’d hiked all over that country … He bought me a copy of Charles Mann’s 1491:New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus and was disappointed, after my initial excitement, to find me siding with a scholarly critic that debunked the entire story as hoax … For years we decided to collaborate on a project – my poem “Hope” and the old bent tree on Dallas Divide that leans at a crazy angle. He took photos, and promised to sketch it. He’d even borrowed a snap I had of the late Dolores LaChapelle that he was going to use to compose her face in a painting he wanted to do of a party of folks picnicking under the tree. We talked about the project for years, but sadly it never quite came to fruition … I know many will feel it’s tragic, the way he died, lost in the whiteout of a storm in Norway. But I kind of take comfort in it. He was doing what he really loved. Hiking and skiing in the wild … Like George Gardner, over in Ridgway, John McLaughlin will be remembered as one who lived life dangerously, gloriously, and passed on into the mystery doing what he loved … I’m just sad we won’t get to see him again. Rest in peace, my friend.
RICO PEACE GARDEN … For the fifth year, Rico hosted a marvelous little family-friendly event focused around peace. There were Dances of Universal Peace, which I find I always enjoy. Slowing down enough to move deliberately and greet others and swing our bodies in joyful rhythms … There was great solo piano music by the talented Steve Snelling
DEANNA DREW … nee Belch was one of the prime movers behind the Rico Peace Garden this year. I was saddened to hear that Telski had let her (along with a number of long-time employees) go in one of the company’s internal maneuverings while I was gone this past summer … Deanna was the sparkplug enviro for the company, and helped keep the San Juan Fens Partnership alive for many years, along with the Nature Center, and other great projects. Telski’s Dave Riley assures me that the company’s commitment to both those projects has not wavered, but I’m going to miss Deanna on a personal level. She was always great to work with and one of the most naturally upbeat people I have ever known. Telluride’s loss is Rico’s gain … She and hubby Pat are expecting child number two, and no doubt it’s time for her to focus on her family with the same kind of joie de vivre that she applied to her work at Telski. But I have a hunch we’ll be hearing more from the mercurial Deanna before too long.
INTERGOVERNMENTAL … Once again, this regional work session proved a great venue for informing local governments about various issues of wider concern beyond our own boundaries … Mary Rubadeau brought great news that the school bond issue before the voters this election will build eight new classrooms and whole lot of remodel work AND lower the mill levy. That’s right, a bond issue that includes a tax decrease, as well as needed school expansion. I’m not sure who the miracle workers are over at the Telluride School, but it’s the best tax measure I’ve seen in a long time … Dr. David Homer and Dr. Peter Hackett made a very convincing plea for an oxygen delivery system as emergency preparedness for a future pandemic (that we all hope will never come). The price tag for the equipment is large (about $100,000), but in a pandemic the good docs estimated that dozens of lives could be saved if our isolated community had this equipment. Let’s hope we’re wise enough to invest in preparedness in these uncertain times … Greg Sparks kicked off a good discussion of the forest health issue given the various bug infestations attacking local trees. That led to a reminder that the County’s Community Wildfire Protection Plan is underway, which should put us in compliance with federal standards should any federal grant money ever become available (as this administration has promised and continuingly failed to deliver) … There were updates from Kris Holstrom on The New Community Coalition, from Mayor Stu Fraser on the Home Safe Program, from the wonderful Shirley Greve on the San Miguel Regional Housing Authority, from Scott McQuade on the Heritage Tourism Program, from David Riley on Telski and from Commissioner Elaine Fischer on the Childcare Task Force … It’s wonderful to see all significant local entities sitting down and talking to each other, because, as I see it, that’s the only way we’re going to have healthy (or sustainable) development as a community – by working together.
RASTA … That’s the playful acronym for a Regional Area Sustainability Transportation Authority that Stu Fraser and John Pryor came up with. The name may have its drawbacks, but it’s way past time we started to do what Commissioner Jim Craft was urging us to do 13 years ago – we need to form a regional transportation authority and get planning started for a comprehensive public transit system sooner rather than later … That’s clearly one of the big tasks before town and county governments in the next few years.
NEW MUSHROOM? … Folks in Norwood brought me an interesting specimen the other day they’d found in some profusion on the Cone. It looked like a yellow hawk’s wing, with large dark scabers on the cap, some twisted into odd shapes, but the flesh was yellow and the scabers sometimes ran decurrent down the thick stipe. And instead of a toothed underside, it looked more like a tiny pimpled Albatrellus … My verbal description led Telluride Mushfest Mycologist Gary Lincoff to hazard a guess as Albatrellus pes-capae, but none of the pictures on line looked like the mushrooms we saw … Another fungal mystery.
THE TALKING GOURD
Lush green flush of gambel oak
on way to Rico Peace fest.
Soon to be stripped
to a bare tease of skeletons
in winter’s deep freeze.