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28 November 2009

COLORADO COLLEEN: Alpine Skiing as Spiritual Exercise

Photo by Colleen Smith
Riding a chairlift in Vail's back bowls after a big snow in spring 2009

Skiing at its best is a spiritual exercise that takes us out of time and space and puts us up in the rarified air where-- according to many traditions--divinity resides.

Skiing has this restorative effect on me: Imagine one of those dry-erase boards. Imagine the board's surface riddled with writing and mathematical problems and lists of things to do and calendars with deadlines and shopping lists and packing lists and receipts and recipes and diagrammed sentences and notes-to-self and deadlines and worries and regrets and wonderings and musings and interview questions and passing thoughts and vocabulary words plus some random memories of dreams and welling insecurities and doubts and bothers and irritations and unanswered email and Facebook and posts I've been meaning to write for my blog and other demands. And did I mention deadlines?

Then, imagine that with every turn made on a ski run, an eraser wipes over that cluttered dry-erase board. Each turn wipes the slate cleaner and cleaner until all that's left is white. All that's left is the snow.

All that's left are the thoughts about when and where and how to turn, the sublime sight of jagged mountain peaks and the towering, fragrant forest and the ineffably blue sky, the thin air and the thick skin of my feet aware of snow and speed and fall line. All that's left is the feeling of flying, strafing the slopes, my season pass fluttering against my splashing heart working overtime at 11,000 feet above sea level. All that's left is gratitude for the experience and the ability and the opportunity and the exhilaration of the Alleluia sport and the heavensent snow.
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22 November 2009

Happy Feast of St. Cecilia, Patron Saint of Music & Poetry

"Go out and make a joyful sound."
-- Jackson Browne

Photo by Quincy Benton

Today, November 22, marks the Feast of St. Cecilia, patron saint of musicians and poets. To venerate this great saint of creative endeavors, here are links to a few pieces I've published in The Denver Post on some of my favorite musicians: a feature on Jackson Browne, a quiz on Bruce Springsteen and the E. Street Band, and recent Reverb reviews of Keb Mo, Karla Bonoff , Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers and The Denver Brass. Tune in some of your favorite tunes today.
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19 November 2009

THE WRITTEN WORD: Garrison Keillor on the Poet Sharon Olds

Photo by Quincy Benton

Some of last summer's secret garden blooms.


"I was a late bloomer.

But anyone who blooms at all, ever, is very lucky."

-- Sharon Olds

A literary and political friend forwarded to me Garrison Keillor’s A Writer’s Almanac today as “an antidote to Sarah Palin," but whatever your political persuasions, you’ll like Keillor’s keenly appreciative piece about the poet Sharon Olds. Her poems have appeared in 100-plus poetry anthologies. Just click here now. And if you like, sign up for a free subscription to A Writer's Almanac.

To read "Red-footed Humorist," my Q.&.A. with Garrison Keillor, published in The Denver Post, just click here now.

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18 November 2009

GARDEN GATE: Look at this post on lavender--nature's way of keeping holiday stress at bay

Photo by Quincy Benton
Lavender, the lovely herb, will help you handle holidaze.

Here come the holidays. If just the thought of all the stress sends a shiver up your spine, remember that a little vial of lavender essential oil goes along ways toward peace of mind at a time of year that for many of us seems to stimulate anything but. Find out about how lavender can make your days more merry and bright--or at least a bit more calm.
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15 November 2009

"From the serene heights of art": Thomas Mann on Truth, Reason, Freedom

Shot this photo recently at New Orleans Botanical Gardens.

“Truth and reason

may appear to be crushed

but in our hearts

they remain eternally free,

and from the serene heights of art

the intellect may laugh at the triumph of folly…

Secure in the bond relating it

to all that is best on earth.”

-- Thomas Mann

From DIESER FRIEDE, (THIS PEACE) published in 1938

Mann won the Novel Prize in Literature in 1929.

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14 November 2009

WANDERLUST: Old Friends in New Orleans

Did you know that Walt Disney modeled his Cinderella's castle
after the Catholic cathedral in New Orleans?
One you know, you can never see this iconic architectural feature of Jackson Square the same.
Take a romantic carriage ride through the French Quarter
and get a history lesson about New Orleans--
one of the most intriguing places in this nation.
In New Orleans, crime is down; hospitality is up.
And your vacation dollars help this uncommon city continue their recovery.

Enjoyed an enchanting week in New Orleans, including Halloween on raucous and jam-packed Bourbon Street, where--against every odd--we bumped into old friends who led us to the party on Frenchman, where we got swept up in a fascinating festivity reminiscent of Mardi Gras, conducted--literally--by a big blue mouse. We joined the parade, delighting in masks and costumes and general pandemonium. Surreal revelry, to say the least.
The Big Easy is easily my favorite U.S. city. The music (Blues, Jazz, Zydeco), the food, the architecture, the history, the Mississippi River, the festivities, all tempered by the sad insights gained while volunteering in St. Bernard Parish after Hurricane Katrina combine to make this a place for me like no other.
Planning a get-away within the lower 48? Go to NOLA, where you often feel like you've left the country and landed in Europe. Crime is down; hospitality is up. And your vacation dollars help this uncommon city continue their recovery. I must say that on the Monday night of the rivalrous NFL game between the New Orleans and Atlanta, hoards of people were walking around in the Saints jersey with the number and name of Bush. Shocked me to the core that anybody in this city would wear their name on their back!

Here's a link to an earlier post on New Orleans. Just click here. You'll see this post again--sorry--but if you continue to scroll down you'll find an essay I wrote for the opinion pages of The Denver Post, plus some photos of a garden a friend and I planted at a home destroyed by Katrina.
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09 November 2009

COLORADO COLLEEN: Introducing my Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer friend, Ken Papaleo


I met Ken Papaleo on assignment: Colorado Expression magazine had assigned me to do a profile on Ken, focusing on his hand-colored fine art photographs.

The photo above, titled "Nature's Window," is one example. Ken works from black and white photographs, painting in colored detail for a magic realism effect.

Ken's images stunned me. And when Ken and I met, we connected quickly, in part because we've both worked as journalists, and probably in larger part because we both ski. Ken had just come from buying new skis, in fact, and he was aglow like a kid with a shiny new bicycle.
Ken is a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner photographer, a seasoned veteran on the staff of the now defunct Rocky Mountain News. He paid a price for his Pulitzer Prizes because he was on the fronts covering both the Columbine High School massacre and Colorado wildfires.
Left to his own devices, Ken prefers to focus on beauty. Mother Nature's beauty, particularly.
I was so impressed with Ken's photography that I incorporated an image per month for a year of issues of a national newsletter than I write and art direct. You'll love his photos, too, I promise.

For more on Ken and for links to his gallery and new blog, please check out today's entry on my Examiner.com page.
I've provided links so you can see delightful photography that will take your breath away and renew your sense of awe. Just click here now.

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06 November 2009

COLORADO COLLEEN: Smiling in the Mountain Forest


Share/Save/Bookmark "You ask me why I make my home in the mountain forest, and I smile, and am silent, and even my soul remains quiet; it lives in the other world which no one owns." -- Li Po

Actually, I do not live in the mountain forest. I live in the urban jungle. But my head is in the clouds, anticipating ski season.

View from Vail Mountain
Photo by Colleen Smith

Pass it on!

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