10 Chapters
Medium 9781607321507

SIGNATURES

Thomas P. Huber University Press of Colorado ePub

Hot lavender, mints, savory, marjoram;
The marigold, that goes to bed wi’ th’ sun,
And with him rises weeping; these are flow’rs
Of middle summer, and I think they are given
To men of middle age.

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, THE WINTER’S TALE

We are in the redemption business: healing the land,
healing the food, healing the economy, and healing the culture.

—JOE SALATIN, WEBSITE FOR POLYFACE FARMS

MUCH OF THIS BOOK looks at the many similarities that exist between the two valleys—nearly the same climate, nearly the same landscape, nearly the same cultural, social, and economic commitment to a place. But each of these places, and really every place on earth, has its own idiosyncratic qualities. I see these qualities as “signatures,” those things that are essentially unique to a person or a place. And like a person’s signature, some are easy to read and others are nearly incomprehensible. Because the two places have many signatures, I have chosen one from each of the valleys—they were the easy ones from a possible long list others could create.

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VILLAGES

Thomas P. Huber University Press of Colorado ePub

Every day or two I strolled to the village to hear some
of the gossip which is incessantly going on there . . . taken
in homeopathic doses, [it] was really as refreshing in its
way as the rustle of leaves and the peeping of the frog.

—HENRY DAVID THOREAU, WALDEN

THE PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY OF PLACE is the indisputable foundation upon which I have constructed the common vision of two like landscapes. But the human concentrations in the small towns and villages add a critical aspect to the two regions that is essential to our understanding and appreciation of their similarities and differences. The small towns of the North Fork are understandably dissimilar in many ways, although these differences are like a set of études on a single theme as opposed to individual works. The same can be said of the villages of the Coulon. Each French village is unique in detail, but the differences are only variations in degree. This discussion of the “urban” environments will cover nearly all of the towns loosely included in the North Fork region and a good representation of the villages in the Coulon (see the maps on pages 13–14 for the locations and distribution of these peopled places).

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PLACES

Thomas P. Huber University Press of Colorado ePub

The voyage of discovery is not in seeking
new landscapes but in having new eyes.

—MARCEL PROUST

Colorado men are we, from the peaks granite, from the
great sierras and the plateaus, from the mine and from the
gully, from the hunting trail we come. Pioneers! O Pioneers!

—WALT WHITMAN

BECAUSE I AM A GEOGRAPHER, I cannot stop looking at, thinking about, or visiting places. Perhaps some kind of genetic disorder compels me to go to places, to study places, to compare places. Other geographers appear to share my malady, and they tend to use the word place with a whole collection of meanings non-geographers might not appreciate. We geographers see place as the interaction of all of a location’s physical characteristics, including soils, vegetation, climate, and geology—much like an ecosystem except broader and of a much larger scale. We also think about place as the nexus of human occupation of and habitation on the land. In this context, as characterized by National Geographic and others, place is “space endowed with human meaning.” Place may even be mythical or spiritual or psychological. I, like my geographic colleagues, see place in all these ways in our attempt to make sense of the world.

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HIKING

Thomas P. Huber University Press of Colorado ePub

Walks. The body advances, while the
mind flutters around like a bird.

—JULES RENARD

I HAVE JUST BEEN LOOKING AT A HIKING MAP for the Grand Mesa—the big, flat-topped, volcanic mountain that defines the northern horizon of the North Fork Valley. The map was produced by one of the world’s great geographic organizations, and I have nothing but respect for all of their publications. But what struck me immediately after having spent a month living and hiking in Provence is the paternalistic tone the map’s information section takes. The map’s extensive legend section includes the “10 Essentials” for being prepared. Such things as bringing food, water, a map and compass, sunglasses, and matches are on the list. Then there are six suggested hints for planning ahead, such as preparing for emergencies and scheduling your trip during low-use times. On top of that, there is a list highlighting travel and camping details, a list on how to dispose of “waste” properly, a list telling you what not to take from the area, a list telling you how to minimize the impacts of campfires, and a list telling you how to respect other hikers. It is exhausting to memorize all the lists and their exhortations. I feel as though I need a list of lists to keep track of the lists I am supposed to adhere to. Whatever happened to the simple mantra “Take only pictures, leave only footprints?”

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LANDSCAPE MISCELLANEA

Thomas P. Huber University Press of Colorado ePub

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome,
dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May
your mountains rise into and above the clouds.

—EDWARD ABBEY

Everything ends this way in France—everything.
Weddings, christenings, duels, burials, swindlings, diplomatic
affairs—everything is a pretext for a good dinner.

—JEAN ANOUILH

WHEN A BOOK SUCH AS THIS IS WRITTEN, the big picture of a place usually stands out and is the dominant theme. That is invariably appropriate. But sometimes this larger view begs for some little-picture scenarios that give the text a more human inclination. It is not uncommon for these small, idiosyncratic miscellanea to help bring into sharper focus the intricacies of landscape. What follows is a collection of these small pictures that are not necessarily directly related to each other but that, taken together, give the book a fuller texture of the two valleys.

I have talked about luscious wines and succulent fruit and exquisite dinners. But there may be no more evocative experience of the two valleys than the smell of new-mown hay in the fields at dusk. If you closed your eyes, you could not tell if you were in Provence or the North Fork Valley. That sweet, earthy odor is part of the beauty of these places. But of course that beauty is a counterpoint to what happens when the sheep are moved down to nibble on the stubble left after the hay is cut. The calm bleating of the flock is accompanied by the annoying buzzing of thousands des mouches—the flies that are everywhere and that get into everything, including the exquisite dinner or charming glass of wine you are trying to enjoy while dining on the lovely outdoor terrace. You take the one with the other—a sort of Coulon or North Fork yin and yang.

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