Terraphilia

On Wednesday, Richard and I set off over the mountains for Denver, a
143-mile drive that we’ve taken dozens of times in the past six months
since we began this journey with his brain cancer. Our mission: visit
my folks and sort out some issues at their new apartment, pick up the
print work for our “Terraphilia” installation at Colorado Art Ranch’s
33 Ideas Art Show at Denver International Airport, get a night’s sleep,
see Dr. Klein for Richard’s monthly oncology consultation at the VA
Hospital, install our work in the show, and drive home again. That’s a
lot to cram into less than 24 hours in the Big City. 

Antero

(That’s Mount Antero, one of the 14eers that rise over our valley, a familiar landmark.)

We
managed, with only a few hiccups. One involved a last-minute detour to
the VA Hospital for another blood test for Richard, which complicated
our Wednesday afternoon itinerary. The other involved arriving at our
home for the night, Fisher House in Aurora, and finding we were
assigned the very same room we lived in for Richard’s six-plus weeks of
radiation and chemo. It was familiar and creepy all at once. In the
unexpected blessings category, we got to reunite with our favorite
Fisher House “cancer treatment cloister” housemates, Julia and John. So
we had a bit of a cancer class reunion, which is much sweeter than it
sounds.

Richard’s monthly oncology consult with Dr. Klein Thursday
morning was a good news, bad news situation. The good: he’s doing
really well. The bad: his lymphocyte count is, in Dr. Klein’s words “a
beat low.” Which means his immune system is feeling the effects of the
chemo, and he’s going to have to start on taking anti-viral and
anti-bacterial drugs to keep from succumbing to infections, and be
careful about who he hangs around with. (Except me, of course.) 

Next, off to Denver International Airport for the installation of our
“Terraphilia” collaboration. Installing art in an airport is not quite
like doing it in a gallery or museum. For one thing, there’s the
Transportation Security Agency, and they’re suspicious about people
carrying a whole package of single-edged razor blades in their pocket
(we need them to install our art–really!). For another, there are an
awful lot of people walking very fast, pulling rolling suitcases, and
texting, all without looking up. Maneuvering around them while carrying
a 32″ by 36″ installation board, a briefcase full of books, and a roll
of mylar banners–or a 35-pound basalt and steel sculpture–is kind of
like skiing a slalom course, only with moving gates. Still, we got in,
found our case in the show and started installing. (That’s Richard
below, placing the our exhibit statement between “Prosthesis,” one of
his sculptures, and a display of my books.)

Richardbegins
That was the easy part. The rest took another two hours. We didn’t
figure installation would take that long, but as always, Things Did Not
Go Entirely As Expected. The dowels holding the banners for the sides
of the case were an inch too long, and had to be cut off, which meant
we needed a saw. Fortunately, Amy Laugesen, DIA’s Art Program manager,
just happened to have one. (Those are the mylar banners stretched out
on brown paper on the walkway floor below, waiting for the coping saw.
Note other intriguing cases for the 33 Ideas Show across the walkway.)

Bannerswalkway

After
dowel-trimming, hanging the banners inside the cases presented a bit of
a challenge, but nothing that Richard and Bruce Marsden, who also works
for the DIA Art Program, couldn’t handle. (Both of them enjoy last
minute-design challenges.)

Bannershung

The
clips we thought would hold the big poster with a photo of Richard’s
gorgeous sculptural firepit (see below) weren’t strong enough, so we
needed the drill, which meant a trip out to the parking garage to
retrieve the cordless drill and two cases of bits–plus a canvas bag in
which to conceal them so that TSA wouldn’t mistake me for a
drill-wielding terrorist.

Poster
Finally, everything was trimmed, drilled, arranged, and hung in the
case. And it looked pretty great. (Sorry for the reflections. The
walkway is lined with windows with great views, but all that light
makes it hard to shoot photos of glass cases.)

Csbcase

We
posed for a photo next to our case (thank you, Bruce!) looked at some
of the other installations, including those of fellow artists and
writers Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, Roberta Smith, Laura Pritchett and Sherrie York; hugged Grant Pound, the executive director of Colorado Art Ranch,
the organization that put together this show, thanked Amy Laugesen,
Bruce Marsden, and Jacquelyn Connolly of the DIA Art Program, and hit
the road for home.

Happycollaborators
So what’s “Terraphilia”? It’s a word we coined to describe what too many of us are missing:

TERRAPHILIA: n.
An intrinsic affection for and connection to the Earth and its
community of lives. Without this connection, we are lonely, lacking, no
longer whole.

Our case uses images, sculpture and words to
explore what evokes terraphilia, and why it’s important. There’s an
audio component too: a beautiful natural soundscape of birdsong, insect
chorus and rainstorm recorded by the Natural Sounds Unit of the
National Park Service on prairie very like what exists around Denver
International Airport, and playing through the speakers all along the
walkway in alternation with music by David Tipton, who also produced the prairie soundscape for us from the NPS’s raw recordings.

So
if you’re in the area or passing through Denver Airport, take a stroll
through the walkway between the main terminal and Concourse A and check
out the 33 Ideas Show. (If you’re departing from DIA, you can often
avoid long lines for security in the main terminal by walking over the
walkway to the much smaller and less crowded security area for
Concourse A. If your gate is at another concourse, take the train on.)
Our case is on the west side–the mountain side–of the walkway, closer
to the Concourse A end. Stop long enough to listen for the meadowlark,
cricket chorus, nighthawk, and the whipporwill, the thunder and the
patter of prairie rain. You’ll be glad you did. That’s terraphilia.

Calligraphy
(And
that’s a shot from along our road home, where the natural calligraphy
of a warm creek traces a path through the frozen, snow-covered
grasslands of South Park, elevation 9,000 feet or so.
)

What place evokes your terraphilia?

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