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30 September 2009

THE WRITTEN WORD: Thoreau on Imagination

“The world is but a canvas to the imagination.”

—Henry David Thoreau

(1817-1862); philosopher, writer, naturalist


THE WRITTEN WORD: It can be done

“The world is moving so fast these days
that the man who says it can't be done
is generally interrupted by someone doing it.”
Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915), philosopher, author, publisher

And just in case you think this fast-paced world is new,
check out the date of this author's death.


29 September 2009

Discover yourself in "the wilderness of your intuition"

“The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you'll discover will be wonderful. What you'll discover is yourself.”

—Alan Alda (b.1936); actor, screenwriter, director

Dale Chihully glass installation at Desert Botanical Garden in Scottsdale, Arizona
Photo by Colleen Smith


25 September 2009

COLORADO COLLEEN: High Country Color

The aspens are changing! The aspens are changing!

But better hurry if you want to see some gold in them there hills because when I flew home from California on Wednesday, I saw plenty of snow on the mountains.

I took this photo last year, on a hike near Guanella Pass.

But if you're planning to drive the scenic byway over the pass, better check with the road service first. As of late August, a stretch of the pass road was closed due to the threat of a rock slide. The summer's abundant rainfall evidently loosened a section of rocks about the size of a football field, and the unstable rock mass posed danger to drivers.

If you want more details about aspens, here are several links to previously posted pieces on my blog or my Denver Flower and Gardening page.
• Aspens: Phoenix of the Forest. Click here now.
• Aspens on Vail: Click here now.
• Urban Aspens: Click here now.


14 September 2009

YUM: Roast Your Garden Vegetables

Are your garden vegetables ganging up on you? Did you get carried away at the farmer's market? Inherit the bounty of a generous gardening neighbor, friend or family member?

Time to fire up the oven and roast some root vegetables. Roasting is an easy and delicious way to process a lot of fresh vegetables without a lot of hassle.

Click here now for my entry on with simple instructions for roasting vegetables.

Photo by Quincy Benton


13 September 2009

THE ARTS: French-Canadian Circus Is In Town & TREBLE CLEF: Band Called Brother Brings Nouveau Celtic Music To Highlands

Humankind at our highest: We're so creative!

The arts support us when we support the arts.

Got my creative well filled over the weekend, and I'm still smiling over the innovation of the human spirit and the range of emotional expression found in the arts and cultures across the globe.

On Friday, Cirque de Soleil delighted us. If you ever have an opportunity to take in this lavish entertainment, treat yourself and somebody you love--somebody who needs to be reminded of the magic and delight of life. Cirque de Soleil is mind-bending, breath-taking, dreamscaping, myth-making magic.

This show, "Kooza," features an innocent and a kite, a trickster, a pickpocket, a misbehaving dog, a king and his fools.

Cirque de Soleil showcases live music, too: jamming bands and operatic vocalists.

I've seen a few of the shows in the big Vegas venues, but there's something sweet about the more intimate setting of the big top set up in one's town. All the seats are good seats. They do cost a pretty penny, but the return on investment is priceless joy and wonderment.

Yesterday, we headed to the hills for the Long's Peak Scottish Highlands festival. What a hoot! For me, the wearin' o' the plaid stirs ancestral memories. My father's people were all Irish, hailing from County Wicklow. Then there was the green Campbell plaid wool of my Catholic school uniform. My great-grandfather was an Irish fiddler, and I was weaned on Irish music at my Catholic school.

The pipes and fiddles give me happy feet and bouncy knees. The traditional tunes can cause my solar plexus to burn and my heart to rise in my throat. But what really brings a tear of joy to my eye is the new twist on traditions, the next generation's interpretations of Celtic music. In particular, we rocked with a band called Brother. Picture for the front man a shorter Michael Phelps with better teeth. Picture him in a leather kilt with funky, rugged black boots with lots of hardwear. Picture him rocking the bagpipes, a microphone affixed to the pipes--sort of a Jimi Hendrix approach to bagpiping. He also wailed on an electric guitar. Backup by primal drums and--get this--a diggerado (dunno how to spell it) which creates a wacky vibration. The crowd was up and dancing to this unusual blend. Are these guys Australian? Not even sure, yet, but snagged a CD after the show to learn more about their new take on the old traditions.

The highlands festival also featured other impressive marching bands: one a marine brass band and one a wowser pipe and drum band from Utah.

The British Isles excel and uniforms and pagaentry. The Scots seem a mix of testosterone and alcohol when you consider the archaic games they conduct. Jousting is plain and simply nuts--sort of like Medieval rodeo. The highlands games also include tossing a regular old boulder about the size of a few bowling balls melted together. Or single-handedly throwing what amounts to, basically, a telephone pole. Or a gigantic shotput on a chain. For the crowd, shots of whiskey or gin are available, and Guiness stout and other libations. People wander around with flasks of Drambuie. Dogs and horses are part of the highlands games, too.

The Celts enjoy a fascinating culture; and I'm proud to be part of it, druids and all. The highlands festival continues today if you want to get your ancestral tethers twanged.

Slainte'! (Cheers!)

Interested in Irish arts and culture? Try your luck at this quiz. You might be surprised about the enormous cultural impact this little island has made. Just click here now.

10 September 2009

THE WRITTEN (and spoken) WORD: Get Well Soon, Garrison Keillor!

Garrison Keillor, 67, is recovering in a Rochester, Minnesota, hospital after suffering a minor stroke. Was it all that deep-fried food at the state fairs?
Reports indicate that the humorist is up and working at his laptop, thankfully. A national treasure, Keillor's radio program "A Prairie Home Companion" includes political satire, spoof, music and entertaining sound effects. It's a hoot and also oftentimes touching and thoughtful. If you've never heard PHC, tune it in on your local public radio station. It usually airs on Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings. I'm sure he'll have something to say about this stroke. And I'm sure his audience will welcome him back to the stage with an especially warm reception.

When Keillor's book "Pontoon" was released, I had the opportunity to interview him for The Denver Post. We conducted the interview over the Internet. I submitted questions. He sent me answers within a couple of hours. I never changed a word. Didn't have to. (This is a great interview technique for shy people, but of course, would only work with a top-shelf writer.) Here's a link to the story titled "Red-footed humorist."


09 September 2009

THE WRITTEN WORD: Annie Dillard from "Holy the Firm

I had the great good fortune of interviewing Annie Dillard--one of my literary heroes--circa 1994. If you do not know her work, I cannot recommend her strongly enough to you. Try "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek," for which she won the Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction (at the tender age of 29, I think she was.)

Photo by Quincy Benton

Over the years, I've returned to this passage again and again--succor for the uphill road.

by Annie Dillard

“Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place? There is no one but us. There is no one to send, nor a clean hand, nor a pure heart on the face of the earth, nor in the earth, but only us, a generation comforting ourselves with the notion that we have come at an awkward time, that our innocent fathers are all dead--as if innocence had ever been--and our children busy and troubled, and we ourselves unfit, not yet ready, having each of us chosen wrongly, made a false start, failed, yielded to impulse and the tangled comfort of pleasures, and grown exhausted, unable to seek the thread, weak, and involved. But there is no one but us. There never has been. There have been generations which remembered and generations which forgot; there has never been a generation of whole men and women who lived well for even one day. Yet some have imagined well, with honesty and art, the detail of such a life, and have described it with such grace, that we mistake vision for history, dream for description, and fancy that life has devolved. So. You learn this studying any history at all, especially the lives of artists and visionaries; you learn it from Emerson, who noticed that the meanness of our days is itself worth our thought; and you learn it, fitful in your pew, in church.”


WANDERLUST: Atlantic Memory

I'm still dreaming of the ocean
and the sound of the scrubbing waves
and the shrieks of seabirds
and the stink of briny mussels
washed ashore,
still feeling the grit of sand on my oiled belly skin,
and tasting Atlantic saline
and wondering why I live in landlocked Colorado.

But then,
ski season is just around the corner.


08 September 2009

NAMASTE': Happy Yoga Month: What's So Cool About Hot Yoga?

September is yoga month, or so I’ve heard.

Photo by James Baca

Interestingly, three friends have asked me recently about trying yoga—or trying hot yoga--so maybe the publicity will pay off with more practitioners.

I’m just beginning my 17th year of hatha yoga (the physical branch) —and I've practiced with a fair measure of devotion and discipline; and every hour I've invested on my mat has served me at least tenfold off my mat.

By good fortune, not my own wise planning, my asanas (or poses) rooted in the Iyengar tradition. And speaking of good fortune, I had the profound honor of meeting Mr. Iyengar once, and sitting with him, and posing some questions to the guru. (Maybe I’ll post about that later in yoga month.) I still admire Mr. Iyengar immensely; and I’m grateful for my solid instruction in his alignment and his props.

But I defected. For the last five years now, I’ve practiced hot yoga—specifically Bikram yoga and also Baron Baptiste Power vinyasa yoga. Yes, this is that insanely hot yoga you may have heard about: For Bikram classes, my school heats the studio to 105 degrees Fahrenheit (sometimes hotter!), with humidity as high as 50 percent. For Power classes, the studio is not as hot or humid, yet still warm. The heat serves various purposes, one of which is to render muscles more malleable and another of which is to detoxify the system through profuse sweating. Works for me.

What’s so cool about hot yoga?

I aim to tell you. Please tune in again: I’m writing an informative and, I hope, inspirational piece for my three inquisitive friends; and I’ll share it with you, here, too.

Meanwhile, remember this: Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not get bent out of shape!


• Please see the links below for my earlier posts on yoga.


Who is Friday Jones?



07 September 2009

Happy Labor Day!

“One must not always

think so much

about what one should do,

but rather what one should be.

Our works do not ennoble us;

but we must ennoble our works.”

--Meister Eckhart

Got a little extra time to read today? Check out these noble entries:

• Remember the importance of working--and playing--in your garden on Labor Day. Just click here now.

• Educate yourself about the plight of Florida farmworkers enslaved in tomato-picking--you'll likely look twice next time you're picking up tomatoes in your produce section. Just click here now.


05 September 2009

3 Thoughts on and a quote for Labor Day Weekend

My overalls: well worn and well loved. Photo by Quincy Benton

Happy Labor Day weekend!

You work that you may keep pace with the earth
and the soul of the earth.
For to be idle is to become a stranger unto the seasons,
and to step out of life’s procession that marches in majesty
and proud submission towards the infinite.”

Kahlil Gibran

Everybody I know bemoans how fast the summer went. Perhaps because the weather seemed something other than summery. Here in Denver, I won't complain because we had plenty of rain: a benediction in these dry days that seem part of climate change.

Labor Day Weekend Thought #1: Just jumped into my well worn and well loved overalls and heading out to work in my garden--one of my favorite forms of labor. Writing seems in many ways the opposite of gardening in that my day job requires stretches of sitting still. Writing is mostly intellectual labor as opposed to physical--other than the fingers typing on the keyboard, it's a mental implosion. That doesn't make writing any less tiring, really, just a different sort of fatigue in the head more than in the body; tho' sitting too long hunched over a laptop can make my shoulders as sore as digging dirt does. Gardening, on the other hand, requires physical work, actions of the body to chop plants, carry water. And pull weeds and turn compost and on and on--activities suited for bib overalls. Of course, the intellect must come into play in the garden, too.

Labor Day Weekend Thought #2: Walked into Cherry Creek North last night for a bite of bbq at Q, where there's an open-air bar with a view to a stage offering live music--blues and jazz--seven nights a week. Under the full moon last night, the scene was particularly romantic. Since I was in grade school and infatuated with boys in bands--the Beatles, especially--it occurred to me that when musicians labor, we term it "playing." When musicians go to work, it's play. A guitarist's job is to "play" the guitar; we don't typically say a guitarist "works" the guitar. A pianist plays the piano. A drummer plays the drums. Interesting distinction! What do you play--if not an instrument?

Labor Day Weekend Thought #3: I don't normally read Gourmet magazine, but while staying at the Ritz-Carleton in Washington, D.C. last spring, I picked up a copy on my nightstand. Inside, in a department titled "Politics of the Plate," I read an appalling account of what amounts to slave labor right here in this country, in Florida. The situation involves farmer workers picking tomatoes. I finally figured out a way to help process this information that has stuck in my craw since reading the article. I posted entries on my Denver Flower and Garden Examiner page yesterday and today to help raise awareness about the plight of these people and why we should beware of tomatoes from Florida.

You think your job sucks?

Please click here to educate yourself about this woeful situation these farm workers face and what you can do to help. You'll find two posts--one introducing the issue and the second including an excerpt from the Gourmet story and more information. In short, vote with your pocketbook and make efforts to eat seasonally and locally.

Work hard. Play hard.
Enjoy the long weekend!


03 September 2009

GUEST BLOG: Chinese medicine sees the body as a garden

Josie Bouchier is my acupuncturist, and she has made such a difference in my well being.
Here's a guest post from Josie, who's also a neophyte gardener.

This afternoon I came home and saw the first cheerful bloom of our mini-sunflower patch. Nearly six feet tall, it looked me right in the eye. This seemed like nothing short of a miracle to me--not only because I planted it from seed, and it somehow turned sun and water into a gigantic flower perched on a human-sized stalk, but also because I planted these seeds weeks past the universally accepted "seed planting" date with no more green thumb strategy than my fingers crossed. But there it was--against all odds! My miracle sunflower! Staring me in the face.

Even though I wasn't sure my flowers would grow or even bloom, I kept watering and weeding. All summer. Even though my funky little flower bed looked a little pathetic and sparse, I kept at it. Some part of me had faith and hope. And then one day, they all started blooming like fireworks. One after the other--first my cosmos, then my zinnias, both also planted from seed.

Which got me thinking: Gardening is a powerful metaphor for healing the body.

Every time you think a thought, you plant a seed. When you focus on that thought--whether it is positive or negative--you are watering the seed. The more this thought is nurtured, the more it will grow, eventually into physical manifestation--whether positive or negative. Against all odds.

As a practitioner of Chinese medicine, I see many patients who are affecting their own health by the way they are tending to their "inner garden." Interestingly, the body and its state of health is likened to the garden in Between Heaven and Earth: A Guide to Chinese Medicine.
"Both the garden and the human body are microcosms of nature. The processes, cycles, and condition that exist in a garden can also be observed in the life of a human being."
-Harriet Beinfield, L.Ac. and Efrem Korngold, L.Ac., O.M.D
My advice as a novice gardener, as an acupuncturist, is to pay attention to the thoughts you are planting. Are they improving your health or diminishing it? Are you watering flowers or weeds?

Josie Bouchier L.Ac., M.S., Dipl. O.M. (NCCAOM)


02 September 2009

WANDERLUST: Atlantic Ocean

The Jersey Shore, Absecon Island, Margate
Photos by Colleen Smith

“The tides are in our veins,
We still mirror the stars,
Life is your child,
But there is in me older and harder than life and more impartial,
The eye that watched before there was an ocean.”

-- Robinson Jeffers

(Inscribed on a sundial on the California coast outside Santa Barbara)


Pass it on!