MOUNT BLANCA with UTE CREEK at DAWN
Colorado is the headwaters state, a land of rivers & peaks.
Ute Creek drains eastward, then reverses course and flows southwest, part of the
Rio Grande watershed, bringing nutrients to the Tewa-speaking pueblos of New Mexico.
Where Mt. Blanca sits was Mexico until 1848.
In Chinese, "mountains & rivers" means landscape, territory, or sometimes nation. In modern
terms, it might be watershed, drainage system, or bioregion.
The intersection of Art and Geology: first meeting ground of Art and Ecology.
The map in Tony Hillerman's detective novels locates Mt. Blanca on the right-hand margin. The
peak marks the eastern extent of the Navajo cosmography.
This is Maynard Dixon, the modern master of Southwest form & light. This is his cubist
three-panel screen with arroyos and cañados in dark heron blue; exposed sunlit ridges,
We are looking over Ute Creek from east to west, or dawn to nightfall. Out there lie
the San Juans, Southern Ute, Navajo, and Hopi. The state's last grizzly was killed over there.
Our American rivers and creeks have been dammed, dredged, diverted, channeled, paved,
redirected, bridged, polluted, & lit on fire. We have fished them, boated them, drowned in them,
thrown trash in them, and pissed in their waters. The artist Christo hopes to wrap one of them,
the Arkansas, just north, near Salida.
Painters fix objects onto their canvases. I've seen bottle caps, stones, animal fur, shreds of
newspaper, a paintbrush, a small skull. Painters scrawl messages on their work too. A blade of
jealousy sheers through me. Writers put only words on the page.
Letting your mind or mouth wander regarding religious matters may prove dangerous. Showing
off is also perilous, I mean about things you know, or your skill in mountains.
The gods are always watching for bright flamboyant figures, to carry off.
We are standing in the Huerfano Valley, named for a large cinder cone that rises
like a strict guardian where the highway enters. The huerfano or orphan—it has greeted visitors
Here is a photo of La Veta Pass.
In the dream, my grandmother Bertha had written Yertle the Turtle.
The Sangre de Christo Mountains, with Blanca as a great snowcap presence, were once
the home of penitentes who would flog themselves, carrying their Christ
past the adobe pueblos & cottonwoods.
Directly behind Mt. Lindsay a climbing formation, The Iron Nipple. It is
said that Turtle first brought clay from the ocean floor, so the earth could be made.
Little Bear & Twin Peaks.
Stories in some cultures are inanimate. They cannot wander about on their own. It is we,
the people, who carry them—through the years, across the territories. The Lorax, a
goofy trickster, why does he smile from the tee shirts of the women who sell tickets at Cinemart
A dangerous path your family left you on—amid divorce, financial trouble, and alcoholism—may
finally prove a place of refuge, even a kindly road.
My computer does not recognize Yertle or Lorax. It tries to change "and" into "Andrew."
Behind that southern ridge, restless, lifting & falling, are the Great Sand Dunes,
endlessly shifting with sediment blown in from the west. They are popular with
motorists. Sandhill cranes migrate through.
The buckskin fringe on my medicine bag stands for what I do not know, things I could
never lay hold of, various things, way too many to mention.
If you drive Rt. 17 past Mt. Blanca, you can visit an alligator farm, a memorial to an American
soldier killed in Iraq, and a platform for Flying Saucer viewing. Down in Antonito you can visit
Colorado's oldest church, and a fortress constructed of hubcaps, bottle caps, scrap metal, and soda
cans, dedicated to a deity whose sacrament is marijuana.
One climbing route to the summit is called Little Bear.
Wood, wolf fur, paint, cloth, cord, metal.
The Bear Dance held by the Southern Ute at Ignacio, may be the oldest dance in North America.
Two hunters learnt it from a grizzly that danced with a tree. My love & I danced it as moraches
growled in the cedar enclosure. Old ursine power changed our lives.
Clans of wolf, grizzly, Colorado lynx, fisher, and other large mammals have not been seen wild in
Colorado in decades. What animals and plants are likely to disappear this year
A name that has borne you through difficult times is a source of power. It keeps
you on a straight path. Now you may give it away. It could prove useful to others. Do not
The east & west flanks of Mt. Blanca are art & ecology.
Where they meet is a dance ground
for mountain sheep.
Andrew Schelling wrote this poem in response to an assignment by the Denver Art Museum to compose a poem inspired by a painting in their collection and then read and explicate the writing to members of the public invited for the occasion. He is a poet and translator, principally from Sanskrit and various contemporary Indian languages. His two most recent books are From the Arapaho Songbook, a collection of his own poems, and The Oxford Anthology of Bhakti Literature, that he edited. Schelling lives in the Southern Rocky Mountains; he has worked on land use in the American West, ecology, and wolf reintroduction.