between here and there


1 Comment

Speculating Place


Eighteen months ago, that’s my guess, the county roads of Bozeman Montana began to change in condition and quality. The quiet rural roads that we would drive as a back way in and out of town transitioned to the roads to the next neighborhood. And then the next. Today pastures and farms that were the wide open spaces that surrounded Bozeman are now covered over with homes and new roads that extend from “feeder” roads are no longer quiet country roads. Homes are made from over-night speculative structures presented as some version of Western style, ranch, ranch home, Dwell infused modern or modified craftsman….

I have heard that Bozeman is currently hovering at 105 percent occupancy. Which means to me that either families are waiting on the side of the road to move into their homes, or people are living in places beyond the capacity they were built for. I wonder what the interpreted occupancy of Manhattan would be if this ratio of habitation were considered. A big difference, one of many, between Manhattan and Bozeman is that one is an island with definite boundaries while the other is a large, flat valley floor open for modern speculation. Any thoughtful visions for the future of Bozeman are now run over by the madness that is brought from primarily using real estate as a mode for maximizing profit instead of understanding that what is built becomes the place, that is the town or city we live in. Without greater interest in what makes and becomes community we all lose the significance of the origin of the place we originally came to find. 

What is Bozeman to become? As I watch it quickly evolve from a unique western town to a suburban city, outweighed by its ill considered developments of homes and large company stores and franchised retail, I know I can no longer ignore the suburban development homes that were slowly accruing along the fringes a few years ago. 

The realtors report that the builders intend to build homes to an 80 percent occupancy before they stop building to maximize their profit in response to the multiple families that are arriving to Bozeman everyday as refugees who gave up hopefulness in their last place. Must we must accept that under considered speculation will mark the future that will be Bozeman? Are we to lose the organic quality of this place which emerged from a slowly brewed vision combined of thoughtful imagining of useful, inspired, integrated, grounded, heartfelt, responsive growth and development that made this small town unique, and often lauded as “one of the best small towns” to live in.
Is this my Not-In-My-Backyard rant? Maybe. The interpretation depends on your alignment with my concern. I am transplant who arrived almost twenty years ago. Bozeman was of course smaller then. There were many things and experiences I missed from larger cities, including those found in Manhattan (NYC). I am not against change, I am not against development or growth. I am against the growth of sameness that plagues so many smaller towns as they grown into small cities, or cities that expand into mega-environments of sameness. The sameness that comes directly from speculation and expansion of large planned retail developments that bring the same universally bland and consumptive exploits found everywhere. I am against the sameness that makes place disappear under commerce and greed. Sameness that makes where we live nowhere instead of somewhere.
Instead of bland speculation as the town of Bozeman takes its last breaths as a small town, can we instead aspire and require that what comes next springs from thoughtfulness, inventiveness, curiosity, inspiration, commitment, collaboration, and care; a place born of the diversity and richness of evolving culture and humanity that rests surrounded by the mountains and rivers and wildlife that brought most of us here in the first place.

Let it be a new Bozeman, not a lost Bozeman.


Leave a comment

Reading Leopold

Louisiana Wetlands

Louisiana Wetlands at Sunset

I fell in love with the wetlands of Louisiana in part because I read Aldo Leopold, and in part because the grasses that wave against the blue sky of the Gulf remind me of the grasslands of the Great Plains of North America, which brings me back to the legacy of Aldo Leopold. I don’t use the word LOVE as a simple term, but as a description for that deep feeling we have when someone, thing, or experience moves our soul. That sense that we have when we believe we have found meaning in our world where so little existed before.

But this takes me a bit off-course, and the course I intend to take you on is the ground breaking trajectory of Aldo Leopold. Actually we will explore, his words, thoughts, and the legacy of Aldo Leopold.

As every Remote Studio begins, so will this one in the summer of 2015, with the reading of Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac, with Essays on Conservation from Round River. Even if you don’t realize it today, in a a few weeks you will. You will understand the great debt you owe Leopold for the places we call wilderness today, for the endangered species that are protected, for the idea that poetry can be found and experienced on the land, and then written about, and shared with all of us. That the fast paced day you spent online, driving in traffic, and answering texts, can be slowed down and valued relative to the place you find yourself: with the experience of sun, wind, scent and birdsong.

And if you wonder why we would be reading a book written by an activist (although he may not have called himself such) in 1949 , you only need to read the book to learn. The obviousness of this request will appear as you understand how necessary words written sixty-six years ago are in 2015.

Aldo Leopold’s book, the whole book, will be discussed at the end of the first week of Remote Studio, a week of hiking and making, with very little time for sitting still. To give yourself the opportunity to savor his words, thoughts, and to commit to your future, I recommend that you start reading the book before Remote Studio begins. And to take notes, and to write notes to yourself and underline passages you value in the book.Live in the book.  And perhaps someday, if you pay attention you will have a place you love, too.

From this place that Leopold provides we begin our journey with Remote Studio, and the understanding of why architects so desperately need to know the world as he saw it.

 

 

 


2 Comments

The Distance Between

 

IMG_3304

I live in one of the wildest places that remain in North America. I did not say THE wildest, mind you. Its not Alaska, or the Yaak, or parts of Canada. But this place is Montana. Specifically up a canyon drainage and surrounded by Public Land, not far outside of Bozeman. I have had bears and mountain lion on the roof of my house. So of course they are walking the land around my house. But that does not mean I find their visits common. Nor am I so naive to believe that my 70 pound German Shepherd would be any match for one of these large creatures which is why she is not let out at night alone.

Tonight, just a few minutes before the curtain of night extinguished the remaining bit of light we took a walk around the house. Spring has arrived. Even early this year. But last night about two inches of snow fell on the ground. Nothing dramatic. But this is where it gets good, and where, no matter how many times I see the footprints in the snow around the house that are not hers, I am still impressed. Because the snow is new the tracks in the snow were distinguishable tonight, not the cacophony of prints that criss-crossed the land as the winter snow melted into the ground last week. As Noel followed whatever smells and tracks interested her I looked down to see some large melted spots not far from the entry of the house. The shape of the melt was not exactly recognizable, but it was not shaped like an Elk or Moose. I looked for others that were more distinct. And that is when I found them. There must have been a pair together in the early morning striding across the snow in front of the house. I checked the prints for size compared to Noel’s. My fist fits just nicely inside of hers. But these, these require two of my fists while the back pad of the foot that sits a bit up the leg was also impressed in the snow a good 4-5 inches behind the primary paw print. But the most amazing condition of the set of tracks was that there were four paw prints in a line very close to one another with a space of about four feet between each set of four. Each set of four taking about four feet, too.

If you cannot imagine this in your head, get out your sketch book and draw it. Two animals walking in-line, with one filling the gap between the first set of prints filling in the stride of the first animal for every other stride. The distance between a single stride being four feet, a large jump for me. I looked across the slope of the land where the prints emerged and then the other direction where they walked into Noel’s favorite place to visit when she was outside. Either a pack came across the land at one time, or this pair silently circumnavigated the land around the house making multiple passes and patterns. I will never know, but can only wonder and imagine.

Its dark now. Black outside, and we are inside. Until tomorrow. In the early morning we will again go check what remains of the snow for new stories, new reminders of the wildness I am lucky enough to live with.

 


Leave a comment

Winter Wolf


winterwolf

 

 

Years Ago, when I was still new to Montana and the Yellowstone Eco-system I had the opportunity to hear the wolves howl above us in the mountains while working on a Remote Studio project miles from a paved road. The experience was heartening, beautiful, and musical magic. Reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in 1995, the wolves have grown into families who expand across the Mountain West. They are a part of the West, this place is their home. They are the wildness that makes place for us and reminds us that we are a part of a larger community that we cannot always control, but simply honor. The wolves, like the bear and mountain lion are the creatures that bring alertness to our experiences in the wilderness. They are critical to the health of the eco-system, and bring magic and mystery to us everyday. This year I hope for peace and greater respect for all those that we do not quite understand, who challenge us, and may bring a bit of humility into our lives. Without them the World would be less beautiful.

 

“Winter Wolf” is the third piece in the Bear Canyon Series.