Middle School Watercolor Paintings
A group of 6thgrade students from West Las Vegas Middle School visited Wind River Ranch Roots and Shoots to explore the outdoors, learn about bison and to practice skills of artistic observation with drawings and watercolor paintings. The central goal of the project was to allow students to develop a strong personal connection with the landscape. Many students loved the opportunity to draw and explore ecology with an artist’s eye, while simultaneously breathing fresh air, hiking and looking out at cliffs and clouds. Students learned to really see, not just look, at the land before them, to frame a landscape for a painting and explore color and emotion to create pieces of art.
Visiting writers have included:
- Jimmy Santiago Baca;
- Jason Yurcic,
- Marcelo Trillo;
- Nancy Hughes;
- Juliana Aragon Fatula
- Mary A. Miller;
- Paula Martin;
- Bill Zeedyk and Van Clothier;
- Michael Soulé
Jimmy Santiago Baca turned his life around while sentenced to five years in a maximum security prison. While in prison, he learned to read and began to write poetry. He has never stopped. Jimmy has been awarded the Pushcart Prize, the American Book Award, the International Hispanic Heritage Award, the Cornelius P. Turner Award, and the International Award for his autobiography, “A Place to Stand.” Jimmy has done more than write. He has devoted his life to helping others through hardship—helping people find a voice, and themselves, through writing. Jimmy does this by giving workshops on writing in prisons, community centers, libraries, and universities throughout the country. We are proud that he also holds these workshops at the Wind River Ranch. In 2005, Jimmy and Stacy James formed the non-profit Cedar Tree Inc. to facilitate the workshops. Cedar Tree provides free materials to students, holds writing workshops, and has an intern program (which included the next two writers on this page, Jason and Marcelo). See the website for Jimmy Santiago Baca to find more information, post your writing, or buy one of Jimmys’ books. The site is: http://www.jimmysantiagobaca.com/
Writer and poet Jason Yurcic was born in New Mexico while his father was in prison. Soon after release, his father was murdered in a street fight. Spending his childhood at his grandfather’s junkyard, he learned to be street-smart. Jason survived a tumultuous, lonely childhood to face, and then avoid, a 16-year jail sentence. A professional boxer at 23, he became disillusioned with violence. He met poet Jimmy Santiago Baca who mentored him on how to express himself through writing. Jason has published two books of poetry, Voice of My Heart (pictured above) and Word Son. He conducts writing workshops for prisons, schools and colleges. We are proud that Jason has helped teach workshops at the Wind River Ranch. A recent work, LITTLE GHOST, was presented by the Santa Fe Performing Arts (SFPA) in 2008. LITTLE GHOST is the compelling tale of one young man’s journey from gangs and drug abuse to poetry. It is about salvation, about the power of art and poetry,” said director W. Nicholas Sabato. “It’s not your traditional play. I call it an abstract theatrical event. There was a live poetry slam in the middle of every performance by poets from the area, and photographs of gang members and gang life. LITTLE GHOST is also about the power of mentors. The people that make a difference. Jason -who had a pretty tough life – was mentored by Jimmy Santiago Baca and now Jason mentors others. We have to pass it on.”
Support the book “Primera Pagina: Poetry from the Latino Heartland” by the Latino Writers Collective. Marcelo is part of this book. I’m at Wind River Ranch watching the sun go down past the sharp canyon surrounding the hidden gem of land. I’m sitting on top of a rock people call frog rock because of its shape. I can feel the wind lashing my body with cold chills. I feel like a flickering light bulb of pain. I can feel exhaustion entering my body vigorously fighting my strength. I’m lost and feel like I’ve been spinning in circles for weeks. I’m out here on a writing scholarship so this is my chance to work on my book. Jimmy told me that it sounded like I needed to get away when I told him I had just gotten separated from my wife. I’m panicking because out here I’ve been introduced to two people. One person looks like me but he’s badly abused by the wind of life. The wind here is different though. Its rough at times but shockingly clean. I can breathe here. Its not about the cleanliness of the air though. I can feel a sacredness here that I’ve never felt before, even throughout all the river beds I lingered at in Kansas. I’m terrified because I can tell I’ve gotten used to the city so right now I feel like the first day I drove in rush hour in Kansas City. But this is nature. I’m laughing at myself worrying about mildew, tetanus shots, and being too far away from a major hospital in case I get hurt. I don’t want to die here. Then there’s the other person that I can’t see yet. I can sense his presence, and sometimes I’ve seen him in the dancing shadows of the fireplace. I can sense his thirst to talk to me. He’s the boy before the plane crash, the fights, the gang and all the madness I had forsaken to live my so-called normal life. I know that he’s here. I can feel his presence, but the guy wearing gang clothes is fighting every inch of his body to rid that little boy from seeing light. Every night I can feel the little boy walking alongside a rabid lion. I can see the lion mauling the little boy. My demon isn’t always a lion, he takes on many forms changing and adhering to my fear of the day. I understand why its so hard to confront this monster because I prayed for him to enter my body for years; wishing, wanting him to take over my body and use it as a tool. I had to be this vicious person that people could feel safe around: The ultimate guardian. I used to imagine if there was a devil I would be the blood soldier he couldn’t keep too close. For fun, my demon would make the little boy tremble with haunting fear. All my life I saw how the lion would bring out new exciting ways to torture this boy. Then I look at the sorry excuse of a man I am with sorrow because I’m not what I wanted to see in myself at this age. I can feel the demon’s eyes piercing the boy with hate, trying to figure out how to keep him hidden. He wants to kill him to keep this secret he’s been hiding. He knows if the boys free to roam- he has to die. I walk down to the middle of the canyon by an old, brick-red, open garage with fire wood stacked about 15 feet. It’s cold so I walk along the gravel called a road to a house called a ranch house. I don’t know what I’m doing here but I need to get warm. I walk past an old dog that looks like a German Sheppard. His name is Rory and he’s been through a rough life. I can feel his mistrust in me. The dog stays away; he walks by me because this is his place. He’s not afraid of me because he can sense pain as he trots past me. Rory sensed tears days before they touched the dry skin surrounding my eyes. That day was hard. This guy named Boli asked me if I wanted to watch some movies. What is this, some kind of sick joke? I’m going through a divorce and he gives me a movie called 50 First Dates, Hitch and Bruce Almighty. I’m going crazy bawling like a baby watching these movies then Jimmy calls to see how I’m doing. I don’t say anything but I’m wanting to just hide in the cave with the bears like this documentary I saw about this guy who thinks he’s a damn bear. I’m pacing the ranch house about ten miles a day trying to figure out how I’m going to kill this warrior, how I’m going to exercise this demon from my body; so I start with writing. Writing begins to become a mirror that has the key for me to go farther, work harder, die, die is what I want to write to this person but something else comes out. Each story reveals a new rug that was covering my body and when each rug is written off it puts my body into a different frame of mind; strengthening my mind but depleting my energy. I see the child coming out of the room each night, at first he’s crying because he’s been afraid to enter the room with this madman. Then I see the blessing I had prayed for. I started to see the gang leader get weaker. It was like a baby fighting sleep but it was working. KEEP WRITING, KEEP WRITING is what I kept doing. I would spill my heart out on the recorder every night and then use my own words to help kill myself. I was making it happen. Then I was almost there but my strength dissipated like water into cool air. I didn’t think I could walk up the last steps to freedom, I was getting weak, I hadn’t been eating right because I was only allowing time for myself to eat sunflower seeds through my journey. I wasn’t associating with anyone and was about to just break and give up. Brian had noticed that I was in a desperate need to get out and he invited me to come up and have dinner with his family. Brian’s daughter Anabella gave me a friendship bracelet while I was there visiting. I took the old white Range Rover Down the hill and watched as Rory was running in front to guide me back. His hind legs move to the left and sometimes when he runs too fast his body actually shifts a little to the left and he ends up almost prancing because he’s off balance. I got down to the ranch and started my pacing. I cried the rest of the night looking up at the ceiling caressing the bracelet. The bracelet’s square knotted with black and white string, half the knots are black with white lines in the middle. About two inches of the center has white dots next to white squares. The next day I stepped out of bed and the boy I had missed for so long was me, the sun was brighter than it had been for years, and I felt as fragile as the infant I was when my mom held me for the first time. And I felt like I needed to do something. I knew I needed to finish the book but that could wait. I called Jimmy and told him I needed to leave and he told me that he had been reading my work and liked what he was reading. He then asked me if I was going to kill my wife. I told him that I wasn’t, then told him I needed to go back so I could find out what was going to go on with that part of my life so I could move on. I sat on the living room couch with my feet propped up on the wooden coffee table and thought about what he had said for a moment then took a walk… I walked up the hill fast because I wanted to get to the top to see the sunset from the top of the canyon as much as I could before I left. We ended up getting a divorce but I gained so much more. I got my life back. Jimmy told me I would remember the time I had at the ranch for the rest of my life and I know I’ll never forget the time I was given the chance to see myself through writing.
Nancy Holley Hughes received a MDiv and MTS from Harvard University. Nancy is an award winning writer, producer and teacher who is proud to call Santa Fe home. She has devoted much of her professional life to researching and writing the many untold stories that focus on Black women in America. As a teacher, Nancy created curricula both for high schools and colleges that focus on anti-racism, social justice and women’s issues. In 1993, she was a co-producer and organizer for one of the largest global spirituality conferences for women. That conference was held in Albuquerque New Mexico. In 1997, Nancy worked in collaboration with other writers for Disney Imagineering on a project called “The California Story.” That same year, she worked as a writer and consultant for Disney Education where she wrote interactive projects for Whoopi Goldberg. In 2003, Nancy wrote and produced an original screenplay entitled: “The Wright Brother’s Revenge” to celebrate Orville and Wilbur Wright’s one-hundred year anniversary of flight. This screenplay was performed at the Boston Copley Library. She is a founding member of the Women’s Theological Center in Boston, Massachusetts. Nancy has performed her published stories “The Merlee Tales” throughout the country, which also exists on CD. She is a recent recipient of Governor Richardson’s New Visions Film Award for her feature length screenplay “The Resurrection of Honore Page.” We are proud that she came to the ranch to work on this screenplay. Nancy and Eileen Torpey form Black Cowgirl Productions. Black Cowgirl Productions produces films that celebrate and pay homage to a wide variety of untold stories. Their work is dedicated to creative expression and artistic freedom. As producers, artists and storytellers, they encourage experimentation and the development of strong, character- driven stories that display a passion and respect for the enrichment of the human spirit. They are committed to advancing the work of elders and ancestors who devoted their lives to equality, freedom, and the fulfillment of a just and unbiased society. They reflect a commitment to collaboration, integrity and the highest regard for ethical conduct in all matters. Please visit their website at: http://www.blackcowgirl.com.
Juliana, a Colorado native, descends from generations of healers and story tellers. Her poetry is published in Open Windows III, The Southern Colorado Women’s Poetry Series and CSU-Pueblo’s Hispanic Experience “http://www.colostate-pueblo.edu/hispanicexperience/index.htm”. She wrote this poem while visiting the Wind River Ranch with the Mujeres Unidas writing group. It will be published in her upcoming book of poetry, Crazy Chicana in Catholic City by Ghost Road Press.
At Wind River I learned religion of nature not man.
Energized by the sun, wind, rocks, trees
Turned childlike & youthful
Unafraid to make mistakes take risks
Became veracious & passionate about learning
Empathetic of others & less self-centered
Felt valuable & needed
Adventurous full of desire
Tender hearted willing to let go of ego & cry
Evolved into a more spiritual being less selfish
I picked up a stone & white quartz
Lying in the mud, made of
Minerals, water earth, created from
Heat of the sun, the cool nights
It sat on top of the muck
White on black. Its energy
Speaks to me. It is alive.
Part of the universe.
A part of God.
A part of me.
“Wind River Night” (Age 11)
I am the shapeless cloud in the sky
I am the flow of the turquoise river
I am the heart of the hot desert never drying out
I am the caller of the rain
I am the beat of the thunder
I am the hurricane’s sister who destroys everything my path
I am the red ghost of hell I am the devil’s black raven
But I am the blue horse for all Earth’s peace.
“Afternoon at Wind River”
But here where canyons open
The fractured is healed.
Where sparkling tranquil waters meet
Violet, scarlet, and burnt orange dawns
Conjure up more azure than we can foresee
Or imagine we lack
Green grass underfoot of purposeful toil
Though we have much to lose besides a foothold
Let us watch the skies go nowhere
Only flow azure to pillaring clouds creating an alter
If one would only look
Held in my hands and let you go
Ever precious lifeblood of these ancient lands
Nearly gone; never forgotten.
Sing the prairie song and hearken back
Pristine ground, cycles, souls
And the others who so belong but may have been
Discarded out of hand by times past
There is no timidity or pale here
Bold contrast diversity
That a fleeting prism reflected In the sunlight of afternoon rain
Can only say;
Reflect for a moment
And take comfort
That such change is the constant.
Bill Zeedyk worked 34 years for the U.S. Forest Service, the last 14 as Staff Ditrector of Fisheries and Wildlife in the Southwestern Region. After retirement, Bill started Zeedyk Ecological Consulting where he focuses on simple, low tech methods for stabalizing and restoring incised stream channels and gullied wetlands in the Southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico. Bill runs his consulting from the Albuquerque area. Van Clothier was a graduate student of Bill’s, and Van runs an organization called Stream Dynamics dedicated to the same purposes. Van operates out of Silver City, and also works in the Southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico. Bill and Van will have a book on restoring degraded waterways and eroded grasslands coming out in December of 2009. It is discussed below: Let the Water do the Work: Induced Meandering: an Evolving Method for Restoring Incised Channels Incised streams and gullies, both perennial and ephemeral, are common throughout dryland regions of the American Southwest and the world. To what extent is the occurrence of incised channels related to human activity, what portion is natural? Downcutting can be unintended, deliberate or inadvertent as the direct or indirect result of human activity. Direct causes of downcutting include channelization and straightening for flood control, irrigation, agricultural and urban development, encroachment on river banks and floodplains by roads, railroads and pipelines, and by the concentration and acceleration of flows. Channel incision has also occurred throughout the southwest as the result of stream capture by low standard two-track roads, livestock trails and wagon roads. Induced meandering is, at once, a science, an art, and a philosophy of river restoration. It is an evolving method of converting incised channels occupying alluvial valley bottoms to a relatively non-incised condition by speeding up the natural process of channel evolution while removing some of the sporadic nature of the process. As a science, induced meandering relies on the disciplines of geology, hydrology, fluvial geomorphology, biology and ecology for knowledge and guidance. As an Art, it strives to assist the stream in its career, using the power of floods to shape the channel and banks over time. Not all channels are appropriate candidates for Induced Meandering techniques, but the Induced Meandering philosophy of “going with the flow,” can inform all stream restoration projects. As a philosophy, induced meandering strives to understand rivers as timeless entities governed by immutable rules serving their watersheds, setting their own timetables, coping with their own realities as they carry mountains grain by grain to the sea. Rivers are to be treasured and respected, never bullied or coerced. What would life be if there were no rivers to sustain us? This book will be presented in seven chapters, 160 pages and illustrated with more than 100 photos, drawings, diagrams and graphics. Examples of successful treatments will be described in sidebars to the main text. The book will contain annotated references, a glossary, an index and appendices that will include field forms, worksheets and other tools for collecting and interpreting information pertinent to river and wetland restoration issues. Chapter headings include: Rivers, Floodplains and Gullies; Stream Classification; Induced Meandering and Channel Evolution; Structures, Practices and Construction Techniques; Reading the Landscape, Project Design and Layout; and Monitoring, Modification and Maintenance.
Michael Soulé is Professor Emeritus in Environmental Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz. He was born, raised, and mostly educated in California. After spending much of his youth in the canyons, deserts, and intertidal of San Diego, and after graduating from San Diego State, Michael went to Stanford to study population biology and evolution under Paul Ehrlich. Upon receiving his Ph.D. at Stanford, Michael went to Africa to help found the first university in Malawi. Michael has taught in Samoa, the Universities of California (San Diego and Santa Cruz—where he was chair of Environmental Studies), and Michigan. He has done field work on lizards, birds, and mammals in Africa, Mexico, the Adriatic, the West Indies, and California, and Colorado. Michael was a founder of the Society for Conservation Biology and The Wildlands Project (http://www.twp.org) and has been the president of both. He has written and edited nine books on biology, conservation biology, and the social context of contemporary conservation. He has published more than 150 articles on various subjects including population and evolutionary biology, population genetics, island biogeography, environmental studies, biodiversity policy, nature conservation, and ethics, and continues to do research on the genetic basis of fitness and viability in natural populations, on the impacts of “keystone” species, and on the causes of the destruction of nature worldwide. Michael was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, is the sixth recipient of the Archie Carr Medal, was named by Audubon Magazine in 1998 as one of the 100 Champions of Conservation of the 20th Century, and is a recipient of the National Wildlife Federation’s 2001 National Conservation Achievement Award. Now living in Colorado, Michael restores wildlife habitat, serves on the boards of several conservation organizations, and consults internationally on nature protection. Currently, he is writing a book about diversity, self-realization, and compassion for all life called The Tigress and the Little Girl: An explanation of the tensions between anthropocentrism and ecocentrism in the conservation movement.