Sunday, September 18, 2022

Goodbye Laurie James

Photo by Wendy Videlock

Ma Tana

Laurie James (1947-2022)

The last time I stopped at your Salida digs
jonesing for a Ma Tana hug
you were gone

As you are now
in a hospital’s ICU

Even as Dano, Wends & I made plans
for a lightning nomad poets’ lark
to hug & help you off into
that mystery 
that’s coming for us too

Denied a face-to-face
we can only call you up
in our dark hearts bright minds

A fearless gentle cantankerous kind
of mountain goddess
we held dear

Hold even dearer now
in death’s embrace


Sunday, September 4, 2022

Pandora's Amphora #3

 Ed Werner's Off the Wall Sculpture Show

OFF THE WALL ... Ed Werner was one of the first folks I met in Telluride. In fact, I held my first poetry reading in Telluride while house-sitting his and Lisa's rental in town on North Spruce Street. And later the old Telluride Writer's Guild put on a gala poetry event in Fall Creek at his home there ... 

But he moved to Ridgway when he and Lisa split up and has been living there for the last couple decades ... His sculptures have always been challenging pieces -- well made but full of irony and sometimes dark energies... 

His recent show at the Trace Gallery in Ridgway was no different. Less new pieces and more things he's pulled from his collection of pieces he's had in storage for many years. But nevertheless impressive.

I've always loved his work for his critique of American culture and his precision fabrication skills. For many years he did fine carpentry in Telluride and the region from his workshop in Fall Creek.  More photos from his show appear at the end of this column.

CHILE VOTES NO ... Itki was a sad day for progressives in Chile as the country overwhelmingly voted down a new Constitution to replace the one crafted by the dictator Gen. Pinochet and, unfortunately, still now in effect after this election. Read what the Guardian of Britain had to say about itki HERE.

QUOTABLE ... "My favorite definition of poetry has always been from Ezra Pound: 'language charged with meaning.' slightly repurposed from ABC of Reading; packing twice, maybe ten times as much into as many words as the party smalltalk line. A poet might use tropes and allusions to accomplish this, but ultimately the most powerful tool they can use is the musical sound of the words themselves" ... By Colorado poet Uche Ogbuji, from his newsletter, Loomiverse 

TALKING GOURD ... Found this lovely poem online at Silver Birch Press’s “How To Heal the Earth” series. Mistakes are how we learn and Mary McCarthy does both in a most moving way. We had a passionflower vine at one of the houses I lived at as a youth. It is a stunningly beautiful plant. Find out more about Silver Birch Press HERE.

Gulf Fritillary on Passionflowers (Photo by Gwillhickers).


When an army of hungry

orange and black caterpillars

stripped bare half

my passion flower vine

almost overnight

I saw nothing but

their ravenous appetite

their warning armor

of black spikes.

I pulled them off

one by one 

the way I would pluck

big green hornworms

from my tomato plants,

and crush them with

a booted foot.

Too late I learned

these were the larva

of the Gulf Fritillary

butterfly, a beauty,

and passion flower vine

not merely its favorite

but its only host.

How could I refuse them

their necessary food

after planting milkweed

for the monarchs,

shunning pesticides

and fertilizers,

learning to love

those humble plants

whose virtues go unnoticed

because they are not showy?

I had no excuse

for extermination,

doubly wrong

because even this hungry army

can only curb, not end

the rampant growth

of its chosen host

limiting its kudzu ambitions

enough to allow recovery–

While my murderous efficiency

could upset the essential

balance, worm and vine,

lives so absolutely


Mary McCarthy is a retired Registered Nurse who has always been a writer. Her work has appeared in many journals and anthologies, most recently in The Plague Papers, edited by Robbi Nester, The Ekphrastic World, edited by Lorette Luzajic, the latest issue of Earth’s Daughters and Third Wednesday. She has been a Best of the Net and a Pushcart nominee. Her digital chapbook is available as a free download from Praxis magazine.

Meredith Nemirov facing camera and her artist partner Jorge  Roberto Anchondo on the far right  were among the many attendees at the Trace Gallery for Ed Werner's show during Ridgway's First Friday Art Walk.

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Make America Normal Again



No one in Norwood, even in the clinic

(except the dentist & her whitecoats)

still wear masks, though probably itki’d be

safer if we all did that, but God forbid!

We’re mask-weary Americans, hardly be-

leaving the other end of the titter-tottering

urban bread & rural water. But ready to be

at least normal again, as if we ever could

be wise be wary be aware or not to wear the

questions that come tumbling down, circling

round & flooding our cautions. Thinking the Herd

Elections. Abortions. Nothing to hide us from

eye to eye, facing off

with each odd other


Saturday, August 27, 2022

Pandora's Amphora #2


SHROOMFEST42... A marvelous year. Everything came together ... The afternoon monsoons started in early July amidst a record drought and haven’t stopped yet. Warm days heated the soil at altitude ... Britt Bunyard gathered a wonderful group of presenters. Festival staffers (calling themselves Team Cooperation) Ashley Smith, Matt Guertin and Teal Stetson-Lee got operations under firm control for the smoothest production in years. The Telluride Institute’s Team Mushroom provided decision-making oversight. Over 500 people bought passes ... 

Sunny days alternating with late day rains made perfect foray weather. The lectures were extraordinary, particularly those of Mark Plotkin, Giuliana Furci, Tradd Cotter and Irene Dubin, as well as John Michelotti, Peter Hendricks, Lauren Czaplicki, and Bryn Dentinger, Louie Schwartzberg’s new film “Gratitude Revealed” had many of us crying in our seats, awed by the beauty. The MycoLicious MycoLuscious MycoLogical Poetry Show had itkis audience riveted to the performances. John Sir Jesse and Katrina Blair had very successful dinner specials. The vendors brought a whole new level of myco-surprises and delights. My favorite was PACT -- a toolkit for pooping in the woods: visit there website HERE...

Riitta Ikonen offered a delightful costume playground (aka “workshop”) pre-parade. The parade was spectacular and the djembe drum & dance circle in the Town Park was ecstatic thanks to West African master Etienne Tolno with Skyler Hollinbeck and his crew of locals ... And that’s just some highlights. The entire week was magical with many other wonderful people, events and interactions. Kudos to all.

PAUL STAMETS ... Our great Fungophile sent a wonderful video to this year's event from his home in British Columbia and honored me with this short segment.

TONY CORBIN ... is the son of the legendary John Corbin, entheogenic grower extraordinaire, who was a core of the festival in itkis early years. Here’s what he had to say about this year: 

“I can't express to you all how much it means to me that you keep the TMF alive (and thriving!) As Rick Hollinbeck said (and to paraphrase/mirror his words), to many of us, it is as much a giant family reunion as it is a festival. I am closer to so many people I see in Telluride once a year than I am to many people I see almost daily. There is some bitter sweet for the people who are no longer with us but their legacy that you all keep alive brings me literally to tears of emotion when I think about it (yes, my vision is blurry and my cheeks are wet as I write these comments). So from me, and so many others, to every one of you and your volunteers and everyone at the Telluride Institute, THANK YOU! from the bottom of my heart and soul.”

Photo by Heather Stella

SALZMAN AWARD ... The Salzman Award is given to those who’ve done so much to keep the Shroomfest alive for going on four decades now. This year we awarded the Hollinbeck family – Rick, Marty, Mesa, Amy, Sky – for all their work behind the scenes...

The kids have grown up with the festival and Rick & Marty have been with us since day one. Congratulations to my Norwood homies.
LINCOFF AWARD ... The Lincoff Award goes to someone who has contributed greatly to the world of mycology, and Laura Guzmán-Dávalos of Mexico certainly fits the bill. Her work and her graceful presence was a huge boost to the festival this year and the world of mycology internationally. 

FASCINATING FACTOID ... According to the brilliant Dr. Bryn Dentiger of the University of Utah, what we have started calling Boletus rubiceps may be an incorrect name, and what we actually have is a variety of B. edulis after all. Taxonomy is perhaps the most confusing of all disciplines in the mycological world ... However, Bryn is no dogmatist and suggests we call mushrooms whatever we like, depending on the context we’re in. So, in the field, if not in the lab, I’m calling one of my favorite mushrooms the redhead, taxonomists notwithstanding.

77 ... Itki was my birthday during the fest (a lovely blessing) and I turned 77. That’s a very interesting number, besides being on the very cusp of old age (the body knows that, though the mind often forgets). 77 turns out to be the sum of the first eight prime numbers, the atomic number of Iridium, and the boiling point of nitrogen (in kelvins). During World War II in Sweden at the border with Norway, "77" was used as a shibboleth (password), because the tricky pronunciation in Swedish made it easy to instantly discern whether the speaker was native Swedish, Norwegian, or German.

HEATHER COX RICHARDSON ... I subscribe to this excellent historian’s daily reports on what’s happening politically in this country. Here’s a sample from a recent post: “Denying enslaved Black Americans access to education exiled them from a place in the nation. The Framers had quite explicitly organized the United States not on the principles of religion or tradition, but rather on the principles of the Enlightenment: the idea that, by applying knowledge and reasoning to the natural world, men could figure out the best way to order society. Someone excluded from access to education could not participate in that national project. Instead, that person was read out of society, doomed to be controlled by leaders who marshaled propaganda and religion to defend their dominance. Lincoln argued that workers were not simply drudges but rather were the heart of the economy. “The prudent, penniless beginner in the world, labors for wages awhile, saves a surplus with which to buy tools or land, for himself; then labors on his own account another while, and at length hires another new beginner to help him.” He tied the political vision of the Framers to this economic vision. In order to prosper, he argued, men needed 'book-learning,' and he called for universal education. An educated community, he said, will be alike independent of crowned-kings, money-kings, and land-kings.”

INDIGENOUS CRITIQUE ... Graeber & Wengrow’s The Dawn of Everything (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2021) – easily the most important historical treatise I’ve read since Dolores LaChapelle’s Sacred Land Sacred Sex Rapture of the Deep (Finn Hill Arts, out of print) – documents the fascinating argument that itki was the Indigenous North American critique of Western Civilization, as was encountered after Columbus, that led directly to the Enlightenment and the American and French revolutions. A must read ... If you don’t know the Wendat Philosopher-Statesman Kandiaronk as described by Louis Armand, Baron de Lahonton, in the early 1700s in New Voyages to North America, read Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass to learn what Indigenous Wisdom means.

[Ed. Note: Going back to the tradition of having a poem at the end of my column as I’ve done for decades. This one is about Hesiod’s story of Pandora by my dear friend, Arvada poet Cottonwood Kate]

Last One Out 

She was the last one out of the box 
(well, the jar, really; bad translations
aside boxes were not always square 
in ancient Greece. This one had a lid 
which Pandora screwed open). She 
lingered there beneath the lip, did Hope 
(real name: Elpis). 

Some say she stayed inside. Maybe that’s why 
we’re slow to take her in. She’s hard to see. 
Some don’t believe in her at all—brag that they 
never have. Though, examined more closely, 
their own lives might reveal her quiet presence 
in a dusty nook or unopened cupboard. She doesn’t 
boast, show pride of place or being. Her way is more 
like that of feather’s drift, or the river beginning in 
a snowstorm, or a four-hundred-year-old oak riding 
home as an acorn in the pocket of a child. Not that she 

is childlike necessarily. Older hearts, softened by all 
else unloosed by Pandora (yet another woman made 
from spare parts—a rib, flowers, clay, whatever’s close 
at hand) have learned to shelter her. Even those hardened against her can ignite by a spark, sometimes struck in a flame held close by another. I’ve seen her face, settled with 

the same look in the eyes of a newborn as in one leaving the world. She can delight with the deft touch of a dragonfly or sting us into her self-same praise. 
Forgotten? For her sake and ours, I hope not.

-Kathleen Cain

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Pandora's Amphora #1

Fen study continues in prospect basin

World fen expert and study lead, Dr. David Cooper from Colorado State University, talks about San Miguel County's longitudinal fen study while standing in Prospect Basin's  Buckbean Fen last Saturday.

FEN TOUR ... Wonderful to see the Prospect Fen Study continuing thanks to Dr. David Cooper and the Telluride Institute (TI), 
in collaboration with Colorado State University (CSU), Patagonia Inc., the Telluride Ski Area, the Town of Mountain Village and Sheep Mountain Alliance ... Some 20 folks did a TI walkabout while listening to Dr. Cooper, Dr. John Hribljan from the University of Nebraska Omaha, his graduate student Kate Miller, and Peruvian researcher Eduardo Oyague Passuni working on his doctorate from CSU ... They did a presentation at the Wilkinson Public Library terrace on Friday, Aug. 11th, reviewing the on-going work on fen hydrologic processes in Prospect Basin in order to better understand the importance of winter snowpack and monsoon rains on fen water tables. The team also presented on fen carbon dynamics that illustrate the excellent current conditions of the fen complex’s peat accumulation processes ... They elaborated even more on the fen tour, as Miller's work will likely enable the team to measure the carbon sequestration happening in the Prospect Basin fens as well as identifying the small modifications that can make the difference between a net accumulation or a net release of carbon from the sites. That, in turn, has large ramifications for how we value fens as repositories for carbon sequestering and their ultimate importance as we walk down this rocky road of Climate Change. The library presentation should be available to see soon.

Dr. John Hribljan helping explain Kate Miller's work on measuring carbon dioxide from the fens  with new technology. Miller stands directly behind him.

Photo above of  Eduardo Oyague Passuni explaining figures from his research on his computer to tour participants.
Fen butterfly on Queen's Crown (Rhodiola rhodanthus). According to Dr. Cooper, the insect-fen plant associations have not been studied in the Prospect Basin Fens -- a future project for some enterprising entomologist.

Buckbean Fen (Photo courtesy of the Telluride Institute)

PANDORA'S AMPHORA ... I've been writing a column in Telluride newspapers for 40+ years (until let go by the recent out-of-the-area owners of the advertising-cash cow monopoly-publication that currently passes for a community newspaper) ... Itki* began as Pandora's Box, speaking to the historic town of Pandora wiped out by an avalanche that was located at the head of Telluride's box canyon near the millsite. Pandora's Box was an arts column when I was first appointed as director of the Telluride Council for the Arts & Humanities in 1981 ... Then, when I took over as editor of the old Telluride Times, itki* became an op-ed column that ran in the Telluride Mountain Journal, the San Miguel Journal and the Telluride Watch (while Pandora's Box had a second run in the Daily Planet). I also had a long-running column Looking South from Lone Cone in Cortez's Four Corners Free Press , as well as various short-lived columns in other regional publications (like my early historical column Mining the Gold in Telluride, Remembering Aztlán for the Montrose-based Whole Life Network, and The Slope for the Colorado Poets Center's Colorado Poet)... The Pandora's Box myth was Greek poet Hesiod's patriarchal reinterpretation of the ancient fertility goddess Pandora (παν δορα = all gifts). He suggested that a woman opened a container "left in the care of her husband" releasing all manner of emotional and physical curses, including death, on humankind. Only itki* wasn't a "box" but a "πιθος" -- originally a large clay jar containing a human body for burying and eventually used for storage of wine, oil, grain and other provisions. "Pithos" got mistranslated into "box" in English. And, because of the rhyme, I'm going to change pithos to amphora, which is also a large Greek clay vase used for the transport of wine, oil and grains, particularly by ship, where they have been found in many Mediterranean shipwrecks. Since I was first baptized at St. Paul of the Shipwreck in San Francisco, the correspondences were intriguing ... This will be an occasional column appearing here on by blogspot using my favorite San Francisco columnist Herb Caen's three-dot journalism style.

ANDREW SCHELLING ... Got to hear Naropa scholar and Colorado poet Andrew Schelling of Boulder read poems of his own and translations from the Sanskrit at Lithic Books in Fruita. A brilliant researcher and teacher, Andrew has a raft of important books that he has authored. Check his bio and bibliography HERE ... I got an autographed copy of his new book of poems, The Facts at Dog Tank Springs (Dos Madres, Ohio, 2020) -- from a site he loves to visit on Cedar Mesa. Itki's* in memory of Dale Pendell, a Northern California poet, psychonaut and editor who published the influential Sixties/Seventies mag Kyoi/Kuksu, Among Pendell's many books are his three pharmacopeia volumes about sacred plants -- a hugely influential series for those of us interested in entheogens ... Like Pendell, Schelling is a very important figure in the ethnolinguistic movement in American poetics.
An excerpt from 'Third Party Mountain Dog":

Not hunter-gatherer
but scavenge-monger

O ancient western lineage 
your red pot designs...

out at the edge of Chaco
bent juniper baked clay



“Ki” is a grammatical neologism Indigenous science writer Robin Wall Kimmerer advocates for using in place of “it”, “its”, “it’s” or “itself” to help correct English’s objectification of phenomena. The neologist term is harvested from the last syllable of a longer word in Potawatomi for an “earth being.” 
As a pre-school teacher I learned that we humans learn best by going through the known to the unknown. Instead of substituting “ki” for “it”, I’ve chosen to add the Indigenous neologism to our neutral English pronoun as a suffix, changing the way we speak of things in English from inanimate to animate. Indeed, that syllable, “ki”, is a Potawatomi suffix meaning “from the living earth.” Thus, itki means that even gender-neutral objects are in some way alive.

Remembering Finn Thilo Trommer

Rosemerry, Finn's mother, has been writing through her loss and grief and helping us all understand the power of love to overcome even the most  devastating of tragedies. Many of you came join us for  this memorial to honor Finn and how he touched us. Here is one of the many poems Rosemerry has written in the wake of his passing:

The Unheard

 I do not hear his shrieks of laughter

escaping from his room.

I don’t hear his hand beating time against the table.

I don’t hear the luff of his breath

as I stand beside him while he sleeps.

I don’t hear the fear in his voice

when he begs me, please mom, please.


I hear the rain on the rooftop,

a morse code of love I don’t know how to translate

except in shades of green.

I hear cars on the highway,

and remember life is moving.

I hear the whir of the hummingbird wings

and the black notes of crows

and the silence where the boy

no longer grows.


If you ask me do I hear his voice,

I would tell you no.

But that is only partly true.

I do not hear his voice in words.

I don’t hear it the way perhaps I wish to.

But I hear him inside me, not a whisper,

but a voice that sounds startlingly like my own,

a voice that sounds like rain on the roof,

like cars on the highway, like hummingbird wings,

like crows, like the silence

where my love for the boy still grows.

Monday, August 1, 2022

Iris & Aurora Visit

My daughter Iris Willow and granddaughter Aurora "RoRo"  Willow Fan came for a visit to Norwood  this last week.  We had a wonderful time catching up on our lives, divergent as they are. They live in San Francisco's Glen Park neighborhood, enjoying all the amenities of a large city. Here's a slice of photos from our time together.

RoRo  at the AirBnB that we stayed at after picking my family up at the Grand Junction airport with itki's fairy stump in the driveway

We stopped at Gateway Canyon Resort taking the back way home from Grand Junction to Norwood and walked the grounds, finding this metal kaleidoscope on a manicured patio.

We had a late lunch at the restaurant that was open at Gateway Resort. 

RoRo did a show for us at the outdoor stage  in the Gateway Resort complex, dancing and displaying her papers

When we got to the Farmhouse in Norwood, Iris and RoRo got to play Tri-Ominos, a puzzle game I found in the Free Box in Telluride

We got to go up to Telluride for a nice dinner with Auntie Sara Friedberg where RoRo got to draw on the chalkboard walls of the bathroom

On the way to Montrose to rent a car for the second leg  of the journey, which took them to Glenwood Springs to see one of Iris's classmates at Colorado State University, RoRo fell asleep. 

And then Iris drove off for Glenwood