"Hands On Water"

Center for Humans and Nature
Monday, November 21st, 2016

"Hands On Water," my commentary on our moral and ethical responsibility to the planet's finite supply of fresh water is featured in the Center for Humans and Nature's website, and is the top story in the Center's recent newsletter. Here's how it begins:

When I was young and idealistic, I lived a back-to-the-land existence in a one-room log cabin in Wyoming. The cabin sat in a sea of sagebrush at the edge of town, its lone connection an electric wire. No phone, no natural gas, no running water.

I pumped water by hand from a well, carried it to the cabin, and heated it on a wood stove. When I was finished bathing or washing dishes, I carried the dishpan outside and carefully emptied it.

The essay, about returning rituals of mindfulness and gratitude to our everyday consumption of water as I return my dishwater to the earth and the cycle of water, evolved out of a shorter piece I originally wrote for High Country News. Its evolution reflects my relationship with the tiny urban creek I have lived alongside and worked to restore over the past two decades. And also deepening belief that spirituality must inform even our most quotidian actions, and especially our relationship with those resources we have come to take for granted, like clean water. 

Give "Hands on Water" a read and leave a comment!

Mother Tongues

Friday, July 1st, 2016

Mother Tongues is a conversation in two voices (Dawn Wink's and mine) on a topic and passion that drives our work: the essential relationship between biological diversity and cultural diversity. The personal essay is the very beginning of what we hope will someday grow into a book on how the health of Earth's landscapes and cultures is interwoven, and what each of us can do to help protect the resources of species and language that are so integral to human survival. 

The essay begins, as did the idea, with a conversation in a hotel room:

“When you talk about plants, I think languages.”

“When you talk languages, my mind goes to the land.”

We sat propped up against pillows in our hotel beds, laptops open, preparing for our conference workshop “Soul of the Land: Place as Character and Inspiration.” As we each scribbled presenter’s notes, our conversation returned again and again to plants and languages. 

("Mother Tongues" is on pages 31-34 in the PDF of the journal. Thanks to Langscape for allowing us to reproduce it.)

No Species Is An Island

Humans & Nature
Wednesday, November 4th, 2015

"No Species Is An Island," my commentary on the ethics of restoring species and the importance of community to all species is featured in the online journal Humans & Nature. Here's how it begins:

Out my window, an Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterfly, velvet wings striped with brilliant gold, flutters around a Rocky Mountain Beeplant, probing each pink blossom for nectar. Nearby, a male Lesser Goldfinch, its plumage a similar black-and-gold color scheme, pries tightly packed, fat-rich seeds out of the flower head of a native sunflower, pausing between mouthfuls to call in its sweet, chiming voice.

Give the essay a read, and leave a comment!

Rocky Mountain beeplant with Two-Tailed swallowtail butterfly. 

The Habitat Hero Project: Raising the Bar

Rocky Mountain Gardening
Sunday, May 10th, 2015

"We have the raise the bar on our landscapes," says entomology professor Douglas Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home, issuing a challenge to American gardeners in a New York Times article. "In the past, we have asked on thing of our gardens: that they be pretty. Now they have to support life, sequester carbon, feed pollinators and manage water."

Here in the Rockies, Be a Habitat Hero, a project of the Terra Foundation and Audubon Rockies, is working on raising that bar. The project's mission "asks more" of our gardens and human-tended landscapes: that they create a network of habitat for songbirds and pollinators across the Rocky Mountain region, be waterwise, and nurture all life--humans included--by restoring healthy nature where we live, work, and play. In return, the project offers gardeners the chance to be part of a positive solution to sometimes-overwhelming environmental problems including drought, pesticide overuse, habitat loss, and global climate change. 

Be a Habitat Hero works with gardeners, landscape designers, and managers of parks and other public landscapes throughout the region to encourage "wildscaping," landscaping that relies on native and regionally adapted plants to save water and dramatically reduce chemical use, and provide homes and food for wildlife. It's landscaping that "restores hope," says project founder Connie Holsinger, by having a positive impact on our surroundings. ...

Read the rest of my feature article on the Habitat Hero Project in the Summer 2015 issue of Rocky Mountain Gardening (formerly Zone 4 Magazine), available at nurseries and garden centers throughout the Rockies!


Restoring an Urban Creek and Its Monarchs

Humans & Nature
Monday, April 13th, 2015

One couple's "accidental" urban ecological restoration project yields not only a healthier creek and the return of monarch butterflies, but a sense of hope for the future and connection to the land. 


Eighteen years ago, my late husband and I bought a century-old brick industrial shop building along with its half a block of weedy, junk-strewn abandoned property. Our friends thought we were crazy. But we were in love, Richard with the decaying shop--which he could see as his studio, and the rare land in town where he could build us the passive solar house he dreamed of--me with the block of urban creek it fronted. Read more.

Deadly handouts, dependent deer

High Country News
Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

Op-ed essay for Writers on the Range syndicate, High Country News, March 22, 2012

Here’s how the essay opens:

My neighbor feeds deer. He says he’s actually feeding birds so that his disabled wife and her pre-teen daughter can enjoy watching them. But when he tosses chunks of stale white bread out in his front yard, it’s not just crows, ravens and starlings that come to call. (And why anyone would think it was a good idea to feed any wildlife a diet known to cause diabetes, heart disease, and obesity in humans is a whole other question.) Read the whole article.

Rays that Pay

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

Enticed by state and federal energy incentives, a utility rebate program, and falling prices for solar panels, a Colorado couple hooks their home up to the sun.


Tim Klco practically salivated when he first saw the large, south-facing expanse of roof on our modest house. Whipping out his tape measure, he made a bunch of measurements, had a look at the wiring in the attic and the garage, and then sat down to give us the news. “You guys have the perfect exposure for a photovoltaic array,” said Klco, of Peak Solar Designs in Salida, Colorado. “You can easily generate all the electricity you need year-round, and the incentives from the power company will make the system affordable.” Read the full article.

Water Across the Divide

High Country News
Thursday, October 1st, 2009

How the failure of an aged ditch got in the way of Wilderness

Before dawn on May 30, 2003, something breached the Grand Ditch, which slices across steep mountainsides in the backcountry on the western edge of Rocky Mountain National Park. An avalanche, perhaps, or a slope failure, abruptly sent the ditch's flow pouring downhill at some 70 cubic feet per second -- enough to fill one Olympic-sized swimming pool every 21 minutes. It quickly picked up soil, gravel and boulders, and uprooted entire trees.... Read the full article.