Tag: nature

Consider a Holy Day

Consider a holy day,

the present full of grace,

born and broken for you.

Bear witness to

the flickering incarnation in a newborn squint and

the longing for resurrection

that huddles in the chair beside death’s mattress.


This is our day to love the forsaken earth,

not pretend to rise above it.

A day to smile at the sun and sleet that burn our eyes.

To numb our hands in glacier-fed rivers,

taste ocean salt, trudge deserts and mountains and

watch cloud-shadows race across the corn.

To bless this damaged place that holds us,

taking up our shovels and buckets of water,

replanting what green flourished

before we trampled here.


Our day to put down the flashing,

trilling toys of self-importance and

look into a child’s eyes until she shines and then

cuddle her while she

rhymes her way into being.


This is our day to accept the hard truth we can’t bear and then

dare to change our minds enough

to turn back

to refill the well we pumped dry.

To be content, unnoticed and unpraised.


This is my day to start the race I can’t win

and may not be strong enough to finish.

Then, falling short, to enfold myself with

all weary runners

in mercy’s blanket wool.


My day to offer the first hot serving and the last cookie.

To lose and applaud the winner until my hands sting

and her cheeks flush with joy.

As if I have all the time in the world,

to listen and sing someone else’s favorite song

in his hearing.


My day, set apart

to restore the window glass

or culture

or person I broke,

to learn to swing softly,

to trace and honor the curves next time.


A day for us to shatter the hinges, springs

and teeth on every trap,

to set the bones, staunch the blood and release.


This is our sacred opportunity

to soften our sharp,

hard-bordered countries into one sanctuary,

to fill the bowl, raise the rafters and

clasp the stranger.

To sanctify our here

and make eternal our today.


—  K. Lyn Wurth, December 16, 2015

Golden Women Writing the West

Go West, Woman Writer…

IMG_1498Women weren’t specifically encouraged to “Go West” as pioneers in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, but many did, nonetheless. They went as single women, wives, entrepreneurs, investors, farmers and ranchers, including and beyond the stereotypes of madams and soiled doves. (Hollywood’s John Wayne in his Western characters never met most of those women, but if he had, he may have been delighted and a bit intimidated by their strength and spirit.) Some of their genetic and spiritual great-granddaughters, Women Writing the West, gathered in mid-October in Golden, Colorado, at The Golden Hotel and The Table Mountain Inn. I was delighted to join them as a new member. We came not to pan gold or rope steers or run hotels, and not even to brew beer (a nod to Coors, at home in Golden), but to consider what it means to write the history and experience of the West.

WWW logoWomen Writing the West is a nonprofit association of publishers and writers who set down the Western North American experience via journalism, nonfiction articles and books, screenplays, mass media and children’s literature. They write contemporary, literary, historical and romance novels, short stories, and poems, but these categories only begin to describe their artistic ventures. This year was the twentieth anniversary of the organization, and many Founding Members were present for special honors.

This autumn, Golden beckoned farmers, scientists, ranchers, teachers, and even businesswomen, from Canada, Alaska, South Dakota, Virginia, California, Oregon, New York, Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, New Mexico…well, you get the idea. The West lives everywhere.

Key conference speakers included Sandra Dallas, Susan Wittig Albert and Corinne Brown. Panelists led us through sessions as varied as Writing the West for Kids, Women’s Fiction, Place as Character, Self-Publishing, Trends in Publishing, Social Media and Collaboration Strategies. Mystery series author Margaret Coel led an inspiring session, My Journey with the Arapahos, that I’ll never forget. I learned so much, and came away so inspired, it’s hard to sleep at night…but I keep a notepad on the bedside table, to catch ideas.

IMG_1524The Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum hosted the readings by, and reception for, this year’s WILLA/LAURA awards finalists. There were beautiful quilts on display, including the one WWW members made for this 20th Anniversary celebration.

CherokeeOn Friday Night, we met at the American Mountaineering Center to screen a new film, The Cherokee Word for Water, about Wilma Mankiller, the late Native American activist and modern Cherokee Chief. Her husband, producer and director, Charlie Soap, film producer Kristina Kiehl, and the young star who played Wilma in the film, Kimberly Guererro, met with us for a Q & A after the screening. View the film trailer and watch for this amazing story of how a community saved itself with hard work and “gadugi,” soon showing online or in a theater near you.

IMG_1508While the West is a physical region and encompasses an historic era, it truly lives, as one conference writer said, as a state of mind. In the West of the imagination, anything can happen. Fortunes can be won and lost, lives are wagered on a bright future and the wealth of our nation daily expands beyond our founders’ dreams, out where the tumbleweeds roll, the buffalo snort and the silicon harbors data.

418px-Baby_Doe_TaborBeing a woman in the West was always something special, yet usually untold. Many have heard of the Unsinkable Molly Brown, or even Baby Doe Tabor, Colorado’s Silver Queen, who lived in glitter and died in squalor. But if you want to know Grace Robertson, a teenage bride alone on the South Dakota Prairie, read Dawn Wink’s novel, Meadowlark. Karen Casey Fitzjerrell’s Forgiving Effie Beck, which just won the 2014 Will Rogers Gold Medallion Award, leads you through a mystery of a woman gone missing in 1930s Texas. To see frontier justice through a woman named Emilee, read Retribution, by Tammy Hinton, which garnered the 2014 Will Rogers Silver Medallion Award. To learn the secret of the Little House on the Prairie writing process, read Susan Wittig Albert’s A Wilder Rose, about Laura Ingalls Wilder’s daughter, Rose Wilder Lane. For heartwarming Women’s Fiction, try Journey to Sand Castle, by Leslee Breene. If you prefer nonfiction and want to consider health, ecology and the power of connection with the natural world for healing, begin with Susan Tweit’s Walking Nature Home: A Life’s Journey. I met each of these women, and I’m saving more to write about in future posts, as I experience their work.

IMG_1586The highlight of the conference was the women themselves, and I basked in their warm welcome. Their voices, their love of writing and their encouragement inspire me to both live and write more deeply. As Margaret Coel put it in plainspoken Western style, “People tell you all the time what you can’t do. Don’t listen to them.”

IMG_1564On Sunday morning, to send us off in high style, many of us gathered for a High Tea, featuring our best historical costumes. Corinne Brown presented an amazing array of Western women characters telling their stories, deepening my appreciation for our foremothers’ sacrifices and endurance.

The great beauty of the West is in its still-to-be-explored history, changeability and multicultural fabric, reflected in and by this happy gathering of writers and publishers. Among them, this writer has claimed a new homestead.

WWW 2015 CatalogFor a pdf catalog of more great books by and about the Great Plains and West, go to this link and click on the “View the 2015 Catalog” button at mid-page. Take a leisurely walk through wild country…no cowboy boots or turquoise jewelry is required… but then again, they might get you faster service.

Mysterious Mathematics, Beauty and Truth in Fractals

image from zoom sequence of a Mandelbrot set

Fractals fascinate the eye, but their beauty is more than skin deep. Their self-similar structure iterates, meaning it repeats a process where the result forms the starting point for the next step. Their structure originates in and develops out of their geometric, mathematical formulae. While only recently acquiring their name, in 1975 from Benoit Mandelbrot, mathematicians explored related concepts in the 17th century.

In 1918, Gaston Julia published a paper on the formula for the design we now know as Julia sets. Other contributors include Sierpinski, Koch, Menger, Harter and Heighway, Before the mathematical potential of computers, however, theorists were limited in following their formulae beyond one dimension to their macro- and microscopic potential.

a series illustration of a Koch snowflake

As in so many other areas of discovery, computers have liberated mathematicians to study formulae in greater depth. Computers also permit fractals to express their nature in colors and three dimensions, beyond imagination.

My son introduced me to fractals ten years ago. (As for the frontiers of mathematics, my son and daughter have both boldly gone where I’ve never dared to go.) My attraction to fractals is artistic but their underling logic appeals to me, as well; I recognize suggestions of fractals in nature in the patterns of blood vessels, tree branches and crystals, the coil of a snail’s shell, the fronds of a fern and even in a cluster of broccoli.

a Julia set

Link here to Wikipedia’s page on fractals. Far better than I might, this page gives a broad overview of the origins, evidence and characteristics of fractals in science, creative works and nature. It also provides an abundance of links to take you beyond that page, if you dare. This Wikipedia page illustrates and animates a zoom sequence of a Mandelbrot set as it repeats. The illustrations I’ve included are in the public domain, from Wikipedia, as well.

No genius, I’m grateful for the mathematicians and computer scientists who materialize these beautiful truths for our eyes and minds to appreciate. It’s hard to look at fractals for very long without sensing that there’s something very important and true going on in their interplay of mathematics and matter. As literature is my preferred domain, for my tribute to the science, mystery and art of fractals, I quote John Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn.”

“‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty’—that is all

Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

7 Random Drops of Water: Poured, Dripped and Logged

Lake Michigan, Door County, Wisconsin

Water is the most taken-for-granted necessity of our lives, except perhaps for air. While much of the world pines for water, here in the U.S., we bottle it, spill it, spray it out of garden hoses and flush it down the drain. As long as it flows out of the tap and doesn’t back up through our sewer lines, we give it little thought.

Today, let’s change that. As a topic, water is as vast as its oceans, glaciers and atmospheric presence. I’ve spent a little time considering it as a metaphor, a scarce necessity, a molecular compound and a force of nature. Today, I present for you 7 random “drops” of water.

Gavins Point Dam, 2011

1. The Missouri River Flood of 2011, an impressive, unexpected deluge, devastated farmland, disrupted local economies and travel and destroyed many homes and barns. Fortunately, it wasn’t fatal, as were the hurricane-related floods of the South in recent years. As with most natural disasters, finding someone to blame for this one is still a priority. Some blame nature, while others lay it at the feet of bureaucrats. I believe nature can outsmart bureaucrats 99% of the time. Smart water wranglers assure us that this was a “500-year flood,” unlikely to recur soon. Smart people who rebuild on the flood plain are pouring very tall concrete foundations for their homes. See my video of Gavins Point Dam in 2011, when 160,000 cubic feet of water passed, per second.

Thales, out of the well

2. Thales of Miletus, whom Aristotle described in his Metaphysics as the founder of natural philosophy, is reported in myth to have fallen into a well while studying the stars. Aristotle also recorded that “Thales says that it is water”–meaning that according to Thales, water was the originating principle of matter.

3. A rarely-noted water behavior is sublimation, where H2O in its solid state bypasses liquidation to become a gas or vapor. During my childhood in Colorado, I learned about one such phenomenon: the Chinook wind. According to Dave Thurlow of the Mount Washington Observatory,

Chinook winds are westerlies from the Pacific whose moisture gets wrung out as it passes over the Rocky Mountains. Once these winds come down from the mountains onto the high plains, they can be quite mild and extremely dry-as warm as 60 or 70 degrees Fahrenheit — over 15 Celsius — with a relative humidity of 10% or less. The air is so dry that when it hits a snowpack, the frozen water evaporates, going directly from the ice to vapor and bypassing the liquid phase entirely.

This sublimation is not to be confused with Freud’s psychological equation: sublimation = sexual energy transformed into creative energy, which has little to do with drinking or bathing, but likely has everything to do with Freud’s mother…drinking or bathing.

Ogallala Aquifer

4. An aquifer is a soil and bedrock formation that percolates water into purity, filtering out minerals, organisms and some contaminants. Abandoned wells (Make sure you don’t have one at your place; children tend to fall into them.) bypass the aquifer and allow those bad things into the groundwater. Here is a map showing the Ogallala. It’s very shallow, but one of the largest in the world.

5. Digging a well by hand is very hard work and this video demonstrates how it’s done in most parts of the world. Thanks to ghost32, whatever your real name, for this video of hard, thirsty work in Mexico.

Beaver by Ilyes Laszlo

6. Not only is there a Beaver Crossing Nebraska, but this village has an impressive, watery history. I lived there for less than a year, leaving against my better judgment, but holding a neighbor’s recipe for the best oatmeal cookies I ever ate. First struck in his mercantile basement by Earl Eager in the late 1800s, a gusher of an artesian well system made this village better than the average watering hole. (Did anyone else notice the fortuitous “Eager” and “Beaver” juxtaposition in this text? Of course you did.) Learn more in Mary Lanik’s history of Beaver Crossing and its wonderful wells, as well as at the first link here, in #6.

7. To the best of my knowledge, since 1866, federal water law and policy has deferred to states in the allocation and administration of water within their boundaries. Please notify me if this has changed and I will assume all blame for the error.