Thursday, February 26, 2015

Can anything better be said of any old animal, or any old man?





Tuesday, February 14, 1961 – Rocky Mountain News “… End for Velox,” 
___ By Jack Foster, Editor of the Rocky Mountain News
(A monologue with Velox, blind polar bear which is slowly dying of old age at the Denver Zoo.)
I know how it is, old gal. Back’s weary, joints ache, too tired to eat any more. Just want to lie down and sleep. Doze softly in the sun…a long, long time.
I’ve seen that look around the eyes before… of old animals and old men. Though lost to sight, they look a far, far way. Far from the crippling aches of age. Far from the bars of the cage of life. Deep into the gray distance where old men and old animals meet in common quietude.
I saw the look one winter’s morning in the eyes of an old Airedale. As the film closed in, they saw for the last time the precious corners of the neighborhood where he stopped on his morning rounds. They saw the sun-flaked mountains which once his strong, young legs had conquered. And he stretched out in the inevitable meeting place which you today are sensing.
It broke my heart. It breaks my heart this morning to see you bent under the burden of life which once was fresh and sweet.
But I should feel much better if I only knew. If I only knew, old gal, that you realize the joy you have given for 20 years to Denver’s children. And to men with the hearts of children who are growing old themselves.
Sam had his streets and mountains. But you have had a fairer picture. An endless panoply of children’s faces which you have made to shine. And I pray that in these latter hours you know that this is true. For, if you do, I shall feel much less the sense of guilt I’ve always had because of the cage’s bars.
I know that bars are never sweet. I know the misery of only walking back and forth, back and forth. Never able to turn around because as a cub you were forced to live in a narrow circus cage. More desirable by far would be the freedom of ice floes, of the arctic storms, of the winter’s midnight sun. I know all this in sorrow.
But, after all, old gal, none of us can fully shape the pattern of his life. And none of us, as years restrain our efforts, is completely free. What we come to prize most, as wiser we become, is the inner satisfaction that we have been useful to someone. That someone needed us. That someone was happier because he passed our presence.
And so, old gal, bear gallantly these aches and ills, for there are thousands of children who are bearing them with you.
Bend quietly under the burden of years, for there are other old animals and old men whose backs are likewise bent.
Gaze peacefully toward the final meeting place, for you will not be forgotten.
And, when the burden is ended, I hope they will bury you on the hill where other mirth-giving animals are covered. And on a headstone I hope will be written this paraphrase of the inscription above a grave in an early Colorado mining camp.
VELOX. She did what she could…

Can anything better be said of any old animal or any old man?

Being a man, I would never claim to understand the things a woman might have to go through in life. But in my short time on this earth, I have encountered a few ideas. 
First, I guess, is that it is hard.
“Being a woman is a terribly difficult task, since it consists principally in dealing with men,” according to Joseph Conrad. That, coming from a man, of course. 
“For most of history, Anonymous was a woman,” noted Virginia Woolf.
Again, I won't speak for them, but that could be true
Second, never patronize.
Third, you'll never figure it out.
But being human, I want tell a story about them anyway.  Maybe it is one woman. Perhaps it is several. Conceivably, it is every one I have ever known.
She didn't know what to think of me because I was afraid of her. I liked that she tried to keep me honest ... had trouble with that, though.
I tell stories. Not all of them are true.
You have to know how much I care, though. How hard I try to do the right thing. Even, how there is a little bit of truth in every story?
People always try to keep us separate. Men, Women, from an early age ... to the grave.
I remember in kindergarten, at nap time, after just a few days, the teacher wouldn't let me try to sleep on the same mat as one of the girls. "Quit messing around, Robby, or you will go out into the hall."
Later, I marveled about all the things they knew. Things I didn't understand.
They were just same, yet different.
By the time sixth or seventh grade rolls around, the difficulty is evident. We are speaking a different language.
"For most women, the language of conversation is primarily a language of rapport: a way of establishing connections and negotiating relationships ... For most men, talk is primarily a means to preserve independence and negotiate and maintain status in a hierarchical social order," writes sociolinguistic professor Deborah Tannen of Georgetown University.
Men often dominate conversations in public, even where they know less about a subject than a female interlocutor, because they use conversation to establish status. Women, on the other hand, often listen more because they have been socialized to be accommodating. These patterns, which begin in childhood, mean, for instance, that men are far more likely to interrupt another speaker, and not to take it personally when they are themselves interrupted, while women are more likely to finish each other's sentences, according to Tannen's book, "You Just Don't Understand."
I am trying create connections.  She doesn't think we live in the same world.
In high school, it is like many of the songs lay out.
We struggle to figure out who we are as people.
There is this study and that study. Women talk more than men. No they don't.
"Louann Brizendine, founder and director of the University of California, San Francisco's Women's Mood and Hormone Clinic, published The Female Brain. One of the most cited gems within its pages was a claim that women are chatterboxes, speaking an average of 20,000 words per day, nearly three times the mere 7,000 spoken by men," reported Scientific American in 2007.
"Seemed to make sense, given the rep of women as purveyors of gossip, not to mention creatures incapable of keeping their traps shut. Right? Wrong."
James Pennebaker, chair of the University of Texas at Austin's psychology department, says he was skeptical of the lopsided stats when he saw them quoted in an interview with Brizendine in The New York Times Magazine.
Pennebaker developed a device called EAR (for electronically activated recorder) which is a digital recorder that subjects can store in a sheath similar to a case for glasses in their purses or pockets. The EAR samples 30 seconds of ambient noise (including conversations) every 12.5 minutes; carriers cannot tamper with recordings.
"Researchers used this device to collect data on the chatter patterns of 396 university students (210 women and 186 men) at colleges in Texas, Arizona and Mexico. They estimated the total number of words that each volunteer spoke daily, assuming they were awake 17 of 24 hours. In most of the samples, the average number of words spoken by men and women were about the same. Men showed a slightly wider variability in words uttered, and boasted both the most economical speaker (roughly 500 words daily) and the most verbose yapping at a whopping 47,000 words a day," according to Scientific American.
But in the end, the magazine reported, the sexes came out just about even in the daily averages: women at 16,215 words and men at 15,669. In terms of statistical significance, Pennebaker says, "It's not even remotely close to different." 
But it is not just the talking. Is 'us' against 'them?' Are country songs correct?
Was it the "Wild Side of Life," as Hank Thompson noted. Or was Kitty Wells right about "It wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels?"
I can feel betrayed, too.
In your 20s and 30s, it seems you figured out enough to stay in the same room, for limited periods of time anyway.
I guess, as we get older, the real trouble starts.
In the language of the newspapers business, a Velox is a graphic image, reproduced on light-sensitive paper, that can then be photographically copied, scaled and manipulated before being transferred to a printing plate. It is also called a Photomechanical Transfer or PMT. They are no longer widely used as they have been replaced by other methods and technology.
Is that why they call it a mid-life crisis? Research does not support a normative midlife crisis. It is more accurate to refer to a transition that often involves a midlife review, which may be a psychological turning point. We are all headed one way or another, I guess.
"Narrative psychology describes identity development as a continuous process of constructing a life story," says "Human Development: Ninth Edition, by Paplia Olds Felman."
That is what I have been trying to tell you.
I tell stories. Most of them are true. But in my short time on this earth, I have encountered a few ideas about women.
None of us are completely free. We prize the idea we were useful to someone. We do what we can.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Her story to tell, first to the top



Even though I have two pioneer-spirited daughters, I don't always think of how women in history seem to be neglected in a male-centric telling of the story. Besides that, breaking boundaries and being the first to do something seems somewhat more of a male obsession anyway. But you know my feelings about history, and telling stories.
Of course women have, and can tell stories of their own.
In 1766, Mary Katherine Goddard and her widowed mother became publishers of the Providence Gazette newspaper and the annual West's Almanack, making her the first woman publisher in America. That was a notable first for Goddard, but it wasn't really her last notable first.
In 1775, Goddard became the first woman postmaster in the country (in Baltimore), and in 1777 she became the first printer to offer copies of the Declaration of Independence that included the signers' names. In 1789 Goddard opened a Baltimore bookstore, probably the first woman in America to do so.
In 1767, Anne Catherine Hoof Green took over her late husband's printing and newspaper business, becoming the first American woman to run a print shop. The following year she is named the official printer for the colony of Maryland.
Locally, let's mark another important first. Certainly not the first to tell it, but here goes...
As James McChristal wrote in his 1999 book "Pikes Peak: Legends of America's Mountain," Anna Archibald Holmes was an ardent feminist and suffragette. "She and her husband, James, also accompanied the Lawrence party to the mountains (of Colorado in 1858)."
A companion of Anna Holmes described her as a "regular women's righter, wears the Bloomer, and was quite indignant when informed she was not allowed to stand on guard. She is young, handsome and intelligent."
As Holmes noted at first sight of the summit, after leaving Bent's Fort on the Arkansas, she decided to climb it. Even though "nearly everyone tried to discourage me from attempting it."
Aug. 1, 1858: "My husband and I adjusted our packs to our backs and started for the ascent of Pikes Peak. My own pack weighed 17 pounds; nine of which were bread, the remainder a quilt and clothing. We reached the wonderful Boiling Springs. We drank deep... in another mile were vigorously attacking the mountain. The first mile or so was sandy and extremely steep, over which we toiled slowly."
Aug. 2, 1858: "Two days of very hard climbing has brought me here," she wrote to her mother. "My strength and capacity for enduring fatigue have been very much increased by constant exercise in the open air."
Aug. 4, 1858: "Eastward, we can look on a landscape of Kansas plains, our view hemmed only by the blue haze of the atmosphere, and extending perhaps 200 miles. The beauty of this great picture is beyond my powers of description... We are on the east side of the Peak, whose summit looming above our head at an angle of 45 degrees, is yet 2 miles away — toward the sky."
Aug. 5, 1858: "We left... early this morning for the summit... Arriving within a few hundred yards of the top the surface changed into a huge pile of loose angular stones, so steep we found much difficulty in clambering up them... We stood upon a platform of near 100 acres of feldspathic granite rock and boulders. Occasionally a little cranny amount the rocks might be found in which had collected some coarse soil ... where ... we found a green tuft about the size of a teacup from which sprung dozens of tiny blue flowers most bewitchingly beautiful. The little ultra-marine colored leaves of the flower seemed covered with and infinitude of minute sparkling crystals — they seemed children of the sky and snow. It was cold and rather cloudy, with squalls of snow, consequently our view was not so extensive as we had anticipated. A portion only of the whitened back-bone of the Rocky Mountains ... could be seen, 50 miles to the west. We were now nearly 14,000 feet above the sea level. But we could not spend long in contemplating the grandeur of the scene for it was exceedingly cold."
When she reached the top, she finished the letter to her mother.
"I have accomplished the task which I marked out for myself, and now feel amply repaid for all my toil and fatigue ... In all probability I am the first woman who has ever stood upon the summit of this mountain and gazed upon this wondrous scene ... Extending as far as the eye can reach, lie the great level plains, stretched out in all their ... beauty, while the winding of the great Arkansas is is visible for many miles ... the almost endless succession of mountains... the broad blue sky over our heads, and seemingly so near... everything, on which the eye can rest, fills the mind with infinitude, and sends the soul to God."
Holmes was, in fact, the first woman recorded to have climbed a 14,000-feet peak in North America. She later became a reporter for the New York Herald Tribune, worked for the U.S. Bureau of Education and became the Secretary of the National Woman's Suffrage Association.




Saturday, February 7, 2015

Problems are historic, aim is for resilience





What many organizations and government agencies call the the Upper Monument Creek (UMC) landscape has been identified as a potential problem area for some time by several groups. Historically in fact, it has experienced increasingly severe and costly impacts from wildfire, including the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire that burned across the southern edge.
The Front Range Roundtable (a collaborative group that has been working on such initiatives since 2004) identified this area as a high priority treatment area to reduce the risk of large severe fires and to increase the function of the watersheds.
The UMC landscape is located on the U.S. Forest Service’s (USFS) Pike National Forest and participants in the UMC Landscape Restoration Initiative (the Initiative) worked together for more than a year to develop collaborative, science-based management recommendations aimed at restoring forest resilience and reducing wildfire risks to communities in the area.
Among those agencies and groups working on the initiative are: Coalition for the Upper South Platte, Colorado Forest Restoration Institute, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Colorado Springs Utilities, Colorado State Forest Service, Colorado State University, Rocky Mountain Tree Ring Research, The Nature Conservancy, The Wilderness Society, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service, West Range Reclamation LLC.
The Initiative submitted their report and recommendations to the USFS in early 2014. The Report provides background on the natural and human history of the UMC landscape, describes current forest conditions and challenges, and details the spatial and non-spatial analyses conducted by the group through their collaborative process.
Based on these analyses, the UMC Collaborative recommended that the USFS use a combination of mechanical, manual and prescribed fire treatments to manage conditions on approximately 18,000 acres within the 67,000 acre UMC landscape over the next 7-10 years. The estimated ten-year budget needed to implement these recommendations totals slightly over $10 million, or about $1 million average cost per year.
According to reports developed by the Roundtable and the organizations involved, the area's history is partially responsible for some of its challenges.
"The Upper Monument Creek (UMC) landscape was used seasonally by several indigenous groups, human settlement in the area did not begin in earnest until approximately 1860. Early settlers established and expanded timber operations in conjunction with mining activity. By 1867, several large-scale saw mills were operating in the area in response to the rapid pace of development. General William Jackson Palmer, anticipating railroad-driven economic growth, initiated development of the Colorado Springs area in 1871. A full-scale timber boom ensued as harvesters raced to meet the needs of the rapidly growing community and associated mining and railroad industries," according to the Roundtable's report, and they referred to other previous report examining the area.
"By the 1890s, much of the UMC landscape and surrounding area had been extensively logged and badly burned by both human and naturally ignited wildfires. A 1900 report by U.S. Geological Survey employee John G. Jack noted that at least 75% of the forests around Pike’s Peak had been logged, burned or both. While regular cycles of natural fire had occurred in lower-elevation forests for centuries, the increase in human activity led to larger, more severe and more frequent fires in all forest types," according info put together in early 2014.
"In his report, Jack described these forests as among the most damaged of any he had seen in the nation. A map accompanying the Jack report shows much of the UMC landscape occurring in areas designated as “badly burned” or “much burned over.”
Accordingly, concern about the condition of the forests and the potential negative impacts on water supply led President Benjamin Harrison to designate the Pikes Peak and Plum Creek Timberland Reserves in 1892. These reserves were consolidated, along with the South Platte Reserve, in 1907 to form the Pike National Forest, one of the first two National Forests in Colorado.
The federal government launched an aggressive reforestation initiative throughout the Pike National Forest shortly after its establishment. As a result, more than 2 million trees were planted in the area between 1912 and the early 1920s. The most significant planting in the UMC landscape occurred from 1924-1932 when the U.S. Forest Service’s now-defunct Monument Nursery oversaw the planting of seedlings across more than 7,000 acres. Current conditions in the UMC landscape reveal the lasting impact of these ambitious planters."
Though well-meaning, but probably misguided, federal policy of the last century mandating aggressive prevention and suppression of fire. This policy (it is now thought) led to the further disruption of natural fire cycles and promoted the growth of dense, even-aged forests that became stressed by competition for resources and vulnerable to unnaturally large-scale wildfires and insect and disease outbreaks.
No significant fires occurred in this particular area between 1916 and 1989, when the Berry Fire (aka Mount Herman Fire) burned 850 acres in proximity to the USFS’s Monument Fire Center.
In 2002, the Hayman Fire burned approximately 137,000 acres in an adjacent area Northwest of UMC, spreading 19 miles and growing by 62,000 acres in one day. In 2012, the Waldo Canyon Fire burned 18,247 acres northwest of Colorado Springs, destroying 346 homes and forcing 32,000 residents to evacuate.
"After a brief increase in logging during the 1950s, very little systematic timber harvest has occurred in the area surrounding the UMC landscape apart from smaller scale thinning and fuels reduction projects. Current forest management projects are complicated by the difficulty of operating in a largely urbanized environment, the relatively low value of products to be removed and the high cost of transportation due to a lack of local wood processing facilities," according to the UMC Collaborative Report.
"Rapid population growth and development in Colorado Springs, Woodland Park and surrounding communities has been a significant driver of conditions in the UMC landscape and, in fact, the entire Pike National Forest. The UMC landscape includes portions of El Paso and Douglas counties, two of Colorado’s fasting growing municipalities. The economic base of the area has shifted from one driven by resource extraction to one dominated by high tech businesses, higher education and the federal government. As a result, the UMC landscape is now highly valued for aesthetics and as a recreational outlet for urban dwellers," the report says.
"Hikers, cyclists, equestrians, hunters and anglers, wildlife enthusiasts and off-road vehicles all frequent these forests, placing increasing pressure and stress on the natural systems. Of particular concern are illegal shooting ranges, refuse dumping, and illegal creation of roads and trails. The USFS monitors these uses and periodically restricts access to the most heavily impacted areas to allow for revegetation and repair. Human use is particularly high on and around the Rampart Range Road and Mt. Herman Road. Unfortunately, due to staffing and resource constraints, resource degradation from illegal recreation use is not adequately addressed in some areas," the group working in collaboration noted.
"Of related concern is the expansion of homes, business and related infrastructure into previously wildland areas, a zone also known as the wildland-urban interface (WUI).
The presence of people and homes in the forest contributes to fragmentation of the landscape, dramatically increases the values at risk from wildfire, and adds to the difficulty and cost of wildfire risk reduction and other management efforts."
The project currently involves work related to Environmental Impact Statement which is expected to be release to the public later this year. Carin Vadala, NEPA Planner for the Forest Service is the lead for the Upper Monument Creek Initiative, and sees nearly a decade of before project completion. "Once the EIS is finalized it is anticipated that projects will continue for about 10 years,” Vadala said.
"The UMC Landscape Restoration Initiative is an ambitious and hopeful endeavor. It reflects the Collaborative’s belief that it is possible to change the trajectory of our high-risk forest landscapes – resulting in a brighter future for both people and nature. The development of these recommendations is a first step in that direction," according to the conclusion of the UMC Collaborative report.