Then we escape: Field trip to Denver

Comes a point when beating one’s head against a wall (or computer) loses its appeal and novelty value. There are times to stay in the chair and pursue possibilities, and times to get out of town.

A friend, colleague, and sometimes collaborator e-mailed a few days ago, just as the electronic spiral reached new speeds, and asked if I’d accompany her to Denver to look at two art exhibits that had been reviewed in the Rocky Mountain News. She’s working on an interpretive plan for a small science museum. One of the art exhibits features sculptures about relationships to nature and the other is composed of textile and sculptural works made from recycled materials. She’s gathering ideas to make the museum’s plan beautiful, as well as informative. Her background’s in science and she wanted the perspective of somebody grounded in the humanities. In lieu of a consultation fee, she offered to pay my expenses for the day.

It’s always good to know (1) that there is a door out of the current situation and (2) where it is. We settled on a date, and knowing I was going to be getting out of the office helped me stay in it for several days.

We planned our day, agreeing on activities, places to find food, and timing.

It started well, with lunch at Spicy Basil: peanut tofu for me. And an appropriate fortune:

Fortune

Galleries 1 and 2

Our next stop, at the first gallery, looked too much like a computer screen:

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It was 1 p.m.

Understandable that a small gallery might be closed unexpectedly, but unfortunate when you’ve driven an hour and a half to get there and the gallery’s supposed to be open from noon to 5 and you’ve planned a circle route in order to make the most of your day in the city. . . . We discussed the possibility of coming back later, while peering through the glass at what we could see of the exhibit.

And then we went to the second gallery. That big black-and-white sign out front says "open." Beautiful.

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As was the show.

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There wasn’t a piece in the place that wasn’t at least interesting, and I found several that I would have happily taken home if I’d had enough spare money and an appropriate place to put them.

There was a wee problem with the one piece that we’d most wanted to encounter: Betsy Blumenthal’s tapestry made from acrylic-painted Tyvek envelopes and an unraveled sweater.

Here’s its spot in the show:

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It was out on loan: "It will be back tomorrow." As an artist who has sometimes sold work through gallery shows, I was really glad for Betsy and the gallery. And I’m betting the work sold. That’s very, very good. But we didn’t get to see it in person.

Betsy is a wonderfully creative human and one of the co-authors of Hands On Dyeing,
which Interweave Press published early in my years there. I’d link to
Betsy’s web site, but I can’t find one for her. There’s a brief bio and
a photo at the bottom of this page for a show sponsored by the Pikes Peak Weavers Guild, for which she was the juror. Here’s another of Betsy’s weavings, also courtesy of the weavers’ guild.

We were extremely fortunate that the rest of the show and the pieces on exhibit by the gallery’s regular artists were worth the trip.

Here are a few of the Translations Gallery regulars whose work I especially enjoyed:

All of these works of art are substantially diminished by being changed into
photographs on the web. Call the linked images "something is better than
nothing."

As we left, my friend pointed out the following scene down the alley next to the gallery:

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That yellow door is the one that leads to all good things. The trick is getting to it.

And now for something completely different

We had just under two hours free. We discussed going back to the first gallery, but we’d enjoyed Translations Gallery so much that we didn’t feel the need to spend the time and gas in backtracking.

So we went to the zoo.

There are two enclosures of zebras at the Denver Zoo. Although there are three species of zebras in the world, I’m thinking that all the Denver ones are Grevy’s zebras, but I’m not certain. I didn’t have time to compare signage or stripes between the two groups.

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In the south zebra area (the photo above is the north one), we did see the new Grevy’s zebra foal, born in late June and already quite big.

Arctic wolves:

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Yes, this close:

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A wee giraffe:

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A sea lion named Gidget:

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The people at the zoo train the sea lions in much the same way that we train our dogs, using food rewards, and for intellectual stimulation, exercise, husbandry, and showmanship (or cross-species ambassadorial) purposes. The critters are trained to cooperate with health exams of their flippers and can do "down" and "swim around the whole pool really fast" and other things. WOW, they can move! I’ve seen sea lions both in zoos and in the wild, and I learned a lot more about them in this presentation than I’d known before.

Next came a collection of fiber-providers, like Bactrian camels:

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And dromedaries, which also yield fiber, but it’s obvious from the two photos why most spinnable camel fiber comes from Bactrians . . . they’re fuzzier:

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And, among the yaks, a young one:

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And moving out of the fiber area (we missed the musk oxen; it was hot, and many animals were inside where it was cooler), I jotted down that this was an eland, although the set of the horns doesn’t look like any of the other eland photos I found to cross-check myself. No links to yaks or elands on the zoo site. I did learn by browsing around that females’ horns are wider-set than males, and maybe that, plus the angle of the photo, is what’s going on here:

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And we got to watch the penguins get their afternoon fish:

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I’m pretty sure those were the African penguins. The zoo also is home to penguins from South America that look quite similar; we didn’t have time to visit both sets. There were three juveniles in the crew, although not in the photo above. The pair with the green bands are eating a lot more than the others right now because they have young chicks. The person who cares for the penguins regularly can tell them apart without the bands, by personality and physical differences, but they wear bracelets because he’s not always there.

We also visited the aviary. My photos aren’t any good. The birds were fine. I like to sit in aviaries and spend time looking. Our time was too short.

Rounding out the day

Determined to get the most out of our investment of travel time and gas money, we headed for supper at WaterCourse, which was open, despite appearances.

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And then we went to a book signing at the Tattered Cover.

Reggie Ray, of Dharma Ocean, has just released Touching Enlightenment (Sounds True).

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He’s also teaching a weekend intensive, but time and budgetary constraints argued that it was time for us to head back down the highway and take up the work at our desks.

However, we returned to the familiar with new eyes.

Sometimes it’s good to go away.

And now it’s time to get back to work. Here’s this morning’s teabag thought:

Teabag

"It is the mind that makes the body."—Sojourner Truth

But sometimes the body knows things the mind can’t grasp, as we rediscovered from a new perspective last night at the Tattered Cover.

It was extremely helpful to get away from the computer. I used to believe that I had to solve the problem before I could take a break, especially when my financial survival was on the line. I’ve learned better over the years. Toughing it out can only take me so far. Then I need—to use a phrase from computer jargon—to hit "refresh."

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