Monday, December 23, 2013

Two months' of journal snippets.

Fall in the mountains: Woke with melting frost dripping on my head, dead leaves sifting through a tangle of willows, blue sky snapped tight like a sheet out to dry. The morning sun makes everything look more golden than it already is -- burnt, burnished, waiting for snow. The coffee in my tin cup gets cold before my fingers can warm up. ...

Tonight after work I went out to the small grocery store just as it was closing; the kids who work there having a last cigarette in the parking lot, pushing the carts in a train toward the door. The four-way stop in town was empty of traffic, moon rising over the hill, my bicycle creaking, rolling home through silent, dreaming streets...

I dreamt last night that I took Jesse to Vermont, that we went to a ski mountain and the drive in was beautiful, the mountains taller than they really are, hazy on the horizon, and Jesse exclaimed how beautiful it was, and lift tickets were only $4. Places that do not exist except in other dreams, places I do not know but that are real in the dreamworld I have built slowly, one night at a time, a few pebbles each night (except, sometimes, with a flash of lightning, one that brings a whole city into being in less than an hour) -- those places were there -- a house up a windy road on a hill, a restaurant, a collection of cabins under thick pines. Dirt roads, a friend's house. Jesse liked it all, and I was happy.

All day, I write, and yet time passes unmarked; the days slide by as stealthily as fog. Thanksgiving is past, autumn is past - winter blew in overnight, eight inches of sparkling snow, a fine sift of powder falling all day. In the evening, after a good day at work, I eat thin slices of elk, then go for a glittering starlight snowshoe above town, looking down at the houses with Christmas lights and up at the gathering stars, the dissipating clouds. Headlamp off, tramping over the blanket of snow, making tracks intersected only by those of deer, and perhaps the mountain lions that we know are here somewhere, out of sight... The trees and shrubs are strange, twisted lumps under the snow ... lungs burning, nose cold, heart full ... a burst of laughter, then home to a soft blanket, hot cocoa, and the last 20 pages of a book.

The days slide by like fog over the river, but sometimes the fog burns off and a day stands out, shining, clear.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Travis Oliver.

In a sharp departure from my usual blog topics, I've decided on a career change. Environmental journalism ain't what it used to be, but babies? Babies are huge. Especially in Hollywood. Everyone wants a baby. So I've decided to become a professional baby photographer. It's really fun. You get to dress them up in silly hats and pose them in all sorts of funny positions, and then when they wake up screaming at your base inconsideration, you simply hand them to their mamas and sip your coffee while waiting for them to fall back asleep. I could be the next Anne Geddes, come to think of it.

... Just kidding.

Shaming America into better Native justice

In 1881, a Brulé Lakota man in South Dakota who shot and killed another member of his tribe was sentenced to death by federal officials who thought the tribal punishment of eight horses, $600 and a blanket was too lenient. The case set a precedent that certain crimes committed on tribal lands are to be tried in federal, rather than state or local, courts.

One hundred and thirty years later, on the same reservation, 17-year-old Bryan Boneshirt, a Rosebud Sioux, pleaded guilty to homicide for beating and strangling MarQuita Walking Eagle. State courts are prohibited from sentencing juveniles to life in prison without parole, but because cases for certain crimes involving Native Americans on reservations go straight into the federal system, which has no such restrictions, Boneshirt was tried as an adult and sentenced to a 48-year sentence without parole. He’ll likely spend the rest of his life in jail.

Boneshirt’s crime was heinous, says Troy Eid, chairman of the national Indian Law and Order Commission, a non-partisan advisory group. Yet if the same crime had been committed off-reservation, say by a teenager in Denver, the defendant would have been tried in district or state court and received a significantly shorter sentence, even if he was tried as an adult. The fact that Boneshirt was subject to a different, harsher set of laws simply because he lived on a reservation is indicative of the “extraordinary dysfunction” of Native American criminal justice, Eid adds.

In a groundbreaking 324-page report on tribal safety released last month, Eid and his eight co-commissioners found that Native American juveniles serve sentences roughly twice as long as those served by any other racial or ethnic group, and that two-thirds of all juveniles serving time in federal prisons are Native. “It’s extraordinary,” says Eid, a law professor and private attorney. “(Current laws) create a systemic inequity that’s absolutely appalling.” ....

... Read the rest of the story (including the particularly staggering inequality in Alaska Native communities) at

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

snowy days and cold nights

San Juan mountains, Colorado

sledding + whiskey = not a good mix

The gypsy wagon, Avalanche Hot Springs, Colorado

Avalanche Hot Springs

McClure Pass, western Colorado
McClure Pass

Almost home... en route to Paonia, Colorado

Could the fight for Browns Canyon be over?

The struggle to protect Browns Canyon, a rugged stretch of the Arkansas River in central Colorado, has been waxing and waning since the area was first studied for wilderness designation in the 1970s. Several attempts to create a new federal wilderness have been floated since then, and though they’ve come tantalizingly close, none have yet passed.

Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., wants to change that. A former Outward Bound director, wilderness proponent and mountaineer (he’s climbed Denali, Aconcagua and 26,000 feet of Everest), Udall announced on Tuesday the culmination of a project he’s been working on for 18 months: a bill to create a brand new, 22,000-acre National Monument in Browns Canyon, including 10,500 acres of wilderness. After soliciting thousands of comments and holding several public meetings, Udall seems to have found a recipe for success – the support of local businesses, national monument designation (which offers more flexible management than pure wilderness), and unchanged access for hunters, ranchers, off-roaders and human-powered recreation such as rafting.

“There’s tremendous support on the ground,” says Matt Keller, the national monument campaign director for advocacy group The Wilderness Society. “Senator Udall and his staff have done a tremendous job listening to people’s concerns and addressing them.”

But noticeably absent from the discussion has been Rep. Doug Lamborn, the Republican who represents Chaffee County, where the Canyon is. Though he has yet to make an official statement, Lamborn’s spokesman told High Country News Wednesday that the Congressman does not support Udall’s bill, and still has “concerns over the lack of consensus … from certain residents.”...

... Intrigued? Read the rest at
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