Saturday, December 28, 2013

Ulysses S. Grant Peak - A Fiery Thirteener

U.S. Grant Peak

Colorado became the 38th state to join the Union on August 1, 1876. President Ulysses S. Grant issued the proclamation. Today, the massive U.S. Grant Peak forms a dramatic backdrop for glittering Ice Lake Basin. Mirrored in Island Lake, the rugged mountain reflects the personality of the man to whom it owes its name.

From unexceptional beginnings, General Grant moved up through the ranks during the Civil War. He eventually commanded all Union armies and accepted Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox, Virginia. Championed as a popular war hero, Grant easily won the presidency in 1868. His administration proved disappointing though, as his two terms were marred by scandals and substantial charges of corruption.

Late in life, Grant contracted throat cancer. Racing against time, he completed a two volume, tour de force of Personal Memoirs. Written in pencil on lined pads of writing paper, the work is considered one of the most resolute accounts of war in American Literature. Loyal friend, Mark Twain, published the memoirs which earned Grant's widow close to a half-million dollars.

Back in the northern San Juan Mountains near Silverton, the fiery thirteener, Ulysses S. Grant peak, promises unconditional surrender. The dangerous crag is composed of highly unstable, jagged-rock faces with steep, scree-ridden couloirs. Because there's only one safe route up the mountain, U.S. Grant is considered a brutal force of nature. Hopefully, I'll be able to return next summer and thoroughly explore the rocky battlefield.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas Time in the Rockies - Let it Snow

It's been frightfully cold in Evergreen

The wind won't stop howling,
the forest is cloaked in a mysterious light.
Somber foothills are set against,
majestic mountains of a ghostly white.

The weather in Evergeen can be scary,
that's what makes the seasons such a treat.
Especially the summers,
they're oh-so-sweet.

This December,
it's been frightfully cold.
Just look at the thermometer,
it says eighteen below.

The gusts blowing down through the meadow,
will make your bones ache.
Under gray clouds drifting,
old boots blaze a trail to the frozen lake.

Up here,
you learn to live with extreme weather.
The summers are short,
persistent winters seem to last forever.

Don't be afraid,
artistic storms paint with a thick impasto.
It's Christmas time in the Rockies,
let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

Painted with a thick impasto

Winters seem to last forever

Weather in Evergreen is unique

The wind is bone-chilling

The temperature was eighteen below

The forest is veiled in mysterious light

The mountains are ghostly white

Christmas time in the Rockies

Let it snow

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Eternal Mystery of the Human Heart

The human heart is a mystery

"When we understand every single secret of the universe, there will still be left the eternal mystery of the human heart." ~ Stephen Fry

Ancient Greek philosophers identified the human heart as the primary spiritual feature and most important organ of the human body. It was the source of intelligence, motion and sensation. From the heart alone, emotions like anger, passion, fear, terror, sadness, shame, delight and joy were derived.

Because the heart functions at the center of the blood delivery system, it's also central to life. The heart speeds up and slows down automatically in response to nerve signals from the brain. Each heartbeat fills the four chambers inside with a fresh round of blood.

The upper chamber on each side is called the atrium while the larger, more powerful lower chamber is the ventricle. They keep the body freshly supplied with oxygen and nutrients, as well as clearing away harmful waste.

More than just a mechanical pump, the heart is absolutely the wellspring from which a person's true character evolves. Recent scientific studies have shown that the heart contains neurons that can sense, feel, learn and remember.

Sometimes even one of God's masterpieces can become flawed. Arrhythmias are problems with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat. During an arrhythmia, the heart can beat too fast, too slow or with an irregular rhythm. So how do you mend a broken heart?

There are ingenious devices engineered by mortals that are designed to assist our most vital organ. An implanted machine uses electrical pulses to coordinate signaling between the upper and lower chambers, and prompt the fragile heart to beat at a normal rate.

Now that I've received my titanium gift from the Wonderful Wizard, I must set the record straight. When it comes to making a difficult decision that screams logic and common sense, forgive me for choosing instead, to go with my heart.

Delight and joy are derived from the heart

The heart has spiritual features

The human heart is a mystery

The heart is central to life

The heart is more than just a pump

The heart is a wellspring

The heart is a masterpiece

Arrhythmias are a problem

Some hearts beat too slow

How do you mend a broken heart?

I choose to go with my heart

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Warrior Horsemanship - A Reconnection with Nature

Common Sense Horsemanship

"A horse is a thing of beauty... none will tire of looking at him as long as he displays himself in his splendor." ~ Xenophon circa 360 BC

Clinicians Bern and Kay Miller are traversing the panhandle of Nebraska sharing a common sense approach to horse care with all who will listen. Their well-received demonstrations about Warrior Horsemanship are a fascinating blend of art, history and natural horsemanship. A reconnection with nature is the most important aspect of their philosophy and the principles discussed apply not only to the equine but also humanity.

"The natural horse clinicians, they're all into working with horses in a natural kind of way: bitless riding, bridleless riding, a lot of ground work, liberty work - where you put the horse at liberty without a rope on him. They believe we need to get back into natural principles." ~ Bern Miller

A central theme running through the movement is the assertion that teaching through pain and fear do not result in a symbiotic relationship that satisfies both horse and teacher. The kinder, gentler handling techniques are in direct opposition to the cowboy tradition of the American west. The harsher methods used by bronco-busters often obtain faster but less gratifying results. The naturalists believe it's better to have minimal rein contact with the horses mouth and they consider bridleless work the pinnacle of their training.

"I started seeing these clinics, and I noticed there were a lot of really, really outstanding horsemen - very very good. But, I noticed something was lacking. That was they didn't have a very good knowledge of their history or their horse history." ~ Bern Miller

The truth is - the idea of working in harmony with a horse in order to obtain cooperation is not new. Hippike (On Horsemanship) is an ancient text written in 360 BC by the Greek cavalry officer Xenophon. The manual provides detailed information on the subject of training war horses and amongst other points emphasizes praise over punishment. His ideas on horse management and training are still influential today. The discipline of dressage can trace its origins back to Xenophon and his cavalry training methods which required horses to be both obedient and maneuverable.

"I think it's important for people to know how these things evolved. What we call Western reining evolved from dressage. Dressage evolved from warfare. And so what we think as a show thing now is actually an item of war." ~ Bern Miller

The first use of horses in warfare occurred over 5,000 years ago. Since the reign of Assyrian rulers until the second World War, an army's ability to command horses has often been the deciding factor in the outcome of war. The flexibility, size and shock effect of a charging cavalry transformed Eurasian tribes into some of the most unstoppable military forces the world has ever known. Muslim warriors, Mongols and the European armored knight used the horse's tremendous bulk and speed to intimidate and instill fear in the enemy.

"We try to make it fun for the horse, and natural. I'll go out in the hills and work my horse on circles, or find a cow and push it around in a circle. Don't drill them; work out on the trail and out on the pasture and get them doing natural things. Make something have a purpose. That's why I like mounted archery because I can do circles with a purpose. Pretty soon the horse, he likes that." ~ Bern Miller

One thing horses don't like is the noise, smell of blood, and confusion of a gory battlefield. Intense training was required to help the horse overcome its natural instinct to get the hell out of that awful scene. In most cultures, a war horse was trained to respond primarily to the rider's legs and weight shift. Developing balance and agility was crucial because a horse was more than just transport for their masters. They became powerful weapons in battle as they were taught to kick, strike and even bite both human and equine foes.

Miller's clinics include a unique mix of the warrior horsemanship and a natural riding style. "We're starting to get people interested in what we're doing simply because they see we're doing different things than anybody else is doing. We can teach mounted archery, the sport of liberty, groundwork, English riding and more." ~ Bern Miller

During this digital age, the world has become much smaller. People can connect internationally with a single touch of the keypad. There seems to be an insane lust for speed, technology and profit. Despite the demands of a modern lifestyle, we must continue to search for a healthy balance between the artificial and the organic. Working with an animal naturally can therapeutically restore your sanity. It requires patience, trust and sympathy. There is no shortcut home.

Those who would like to attend a clinic or want more information on Common Sense Horsemanship can call (308) 262-0181. Miller has an indoor facility and rides all year long. Individuals can also check out the Facebook page, Bern's Riding Shack, for photos and more info.

Natural horsemanship is kinder and gentler

Western Nebraska has a cowboy tradition

Working in harmony with a horse

"A horse is a thing of beauty..."

Horses respond to a rider's legs and weight shift

"We try to make it fun for the horse"

A blend of art, history and horsemanship

Riding bridleless is the pinnacle of training

There is no shortcut home

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Yellow-eyed Hawk - Colored Pencil Drawing

"Yellow-eyed Hawk" Colored Pencil

Finding your place in the world today can be a challenge but this bird of prey is more than well-equipped to thrive in the wild. An eastern red-tailed hawk stares confidently out of a blazing, autumn background. After two years of age, the extraordinary yellow eyes of this juvenile will transform into a dark brown.

Raptor vision has evolved to become the sharpest in the Animal Kingdom. The visual acuity of the hawk is legendary. Using its excellent eyesight to find and capture its prey, a red-tail can spot a rabbit from two miles away. Large eyes allow for maximum levels of light so the retinal picture is composed from a greater number of optical cells resulting in a higher resolution image.

The hawk has front facing eyes that give it binocular vision which is assisted by a double fovea. With binocular vision, the fields of view of the left and right eye overlap. This binocularity allows for stereoscopic vision, which in turn provides for spectacular long distance perception.

A fovea is a small area of acute vision in the retina where the concentration of visual cells is the most intense. We have one fovea while a hawk, with its wide binocular field of view, has both a central and lateral fovea. That's one reason why a hawk can see eight times more clearly than even the sharpest human eye.

The hawk's adaptations for intensified visual resolution has come at a cost though. The huge eyes occupy a substantial portion of the skull allowing only limited room for the brain. Also, it has a poor range of view in low light levels so the bird must roost at night.

My impression of the red-tailed hawk is that despite those limitations, the tradeoff appears to have worked out just fine. As you can plainly see, the future for the young raptor pictured above certainly appears to be bright.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Evergreen Sculpture Garden - A Sunday Stroll

A snowy morning surrounded by sculptures

"Sculpture is the art of the intelligence" ~ Pablo Picasso

Spent a snowy, Sunday morning surrounded by stunning sculptures. Just down the street is a natural amphitheater containing fertile soil. Here, art-in-the-round is grown from the seeds of creativity.

The Evergreen Fine Art's Sculpture Garden displays some incredible works by talented artists. Most of the pieces are Western-themed and express the spirit of the wild but some have a more modern feel.

A larger-than-life mountain lion overlooks the open-air gallery where a charming, gravel path leads the viewer between three-dimensional forms. The circuitous route ends in a hypnotic forest of kinetic sculptures.

On the plot you'll see wolves howl, river otters at play and a mischievous black bear. Canada geese glide through cattails below a golden bronze that sparkles in the sunlight. The dramatic conclusion is a pair of majestic eagles engaged mid-flight.

Situated in a rugged mountain setting, the visitor is allowed to examine the sculptures by contemplating their size, shape, subject matter and construction. You can also explore their texture, surface and seamless relationship with the local landscape.

My impression of the scene has led me to believe Picasso was right. I'm mostly a draughtsman but here I can appreciate sculpture as the art of the intelligence. It appears intelligent people work not only in science but in the arts as well.

Evergreen's sculpture garden is down the street

Canada geese glide through cattails

A mischievous black bear

Majestic eagles

Sculpture is the art of the intelligence

Wolves howl

There is a spirit of the wild

River otters play

A giant mountain lion overlooks the garden

Situated in an amphitheater

The hypnotic forest

Some of the sculptures are quite modern

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Rainbow Hill - A Golden Morning

Silvery aspen in a golden meadow

Most scientists believe Bigfoot doesn't exist, the universe wasn't made in seven days and there aren't really pots of gold at the end of rainbows but those legendary myths are unique metaphors that express a certain truthfulness not found in literal interpretations.

North out of Evergreen, we went up over Rainbow Hill where our Saturday morning search for gold came true. We discovered a land where bluebirds fly, red foxes hide and the goldeneye dive. It's a place where the Great Divide is forever white and skies are blue.

We followed the yellow rock road into a meadow of silvery aspen. Warm light filtered softly through the dark spruce and fir. An autumn breeze broke the silence and made waves for orange mallards dabbling in the cold, green lake.

People will tell you don't waste your time going after something impractical and foolish, but don't listen, just continue on your journey. Keep chasing rainbows and maybe the dreams that you dare to dream really will come true.

Warm, golden light

The Great Divide is forever white

Red foxes hide

There was an Autumn breeze

Orange mallards dabble

The common goldeneye is a diver

Continue on your journey

Keep chasing rainbows