A Much Celebrated Man

Not far from my childhood home in Germany’s region of Rhine Hesse, an epochal encounter sounded the final death knell of the Dark Ages: Martin Luther’s courageous, if foolhardy appearance before Charles V, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, in April 1521, at what was called the Diet of Worms. It had nothing to do with helminths, or their nourishment, but a diet referred to an assembly of all representatives of the Empire in what was then the Imperial Free City of Worms.

Luther, the Augustinian monk, who lived from 1483 until 1546, had been a thorn in the side of the Catholic Church since he affixed his 95 Theses to the church door of his diocese in Wittenberg in 1517, in which he questioned some of the basic tenets of the church, most famously indulgences. He was invited to Worms to recant his sacrilegious ideas. After he declared that he would do so only if proven wrong by the Bible, his benefactor, Prince Frederick III of Saxony, who had previously asked for a guarantee that Luther would be allowed to leave a free man, smuggled him out of town in disguise, as he feared for Luther’s life. The Edict of Worms from May 1521 proved him right, as it officially declared Luther a heretic and offered a bounty for his capture.

While Pope Leo X added insult to injury by excommunicating him, Martin Luther, secreted away at the Wartburg, did not waste any time and translated the New Testament from Ancient Greek into contemporary German in only ten weeks, in order to enable his fellow countrymen and -women to understand God’s word directly, without the interpretation of a cleric. Coincidentally, the recent introduction of moveable type by fellow German Johannes Gutenberg enabled the printing and widespread distribution of the bible, and resulted in the upheaval of the medieval world order: Reformation and the establishment of the Protestant Church ensued in the following years, leading to more turmoil and culminating in the devastating 30 Years’ War from 1618 to 1648.

Worms has long prided itself of the reformer. The famous Luther Monument erected in 1868 honors him and his preceding and fellow reformers, and I passed it often during my high school days in that city. I vaguely remember the festivities on occasion of the 500th anniversary of his birth in 1983. Last year, the city joined a number of German communities in commemorating 1517, the seminal year of the 95 Theses. It culminated in nationwide special proceedings on October 31, Reformation Day. As my stay in Germany started in the middle of November, I missed all celebrations, but I retraced some of Luther’s steps during his ten day sojourn in Worms.

As tradition has it, Luther arrived in the city through St. Martin’s Gate. The original was destroyed, but has been replaced. Modern buildings have supplanted the inn in which he spent what must have been restless nights. The site of the erstwhile episcopal palace in the shadow of the Romanesque Cathedral where Luther defied church leaders and Emperor alike by refusing to renounce his revolutionary concepts is now occupied by the beautiful park of the Museum Heylshof.

St. Martin’s Gate

Former site of the episcopal palace next to Cathedral of St. Peter

Commemorating the epochal encounter

Luther’s big shoes, a new bronze sculpture

One of the earliest, still surviving structures where sermons in Luther’s spirit were preached is St. Magnus Church. I did not make time to re-visit the former St. Andrew’s Collegiate Church which houses the local history museum and a copy of a Luther bible with his handwritten annotations. One obligatory stop during each trip to Worms is the 18th century Trinity Church at the central market place, as my paternal grandparents were joined in matrimony there. Following its near-destruction during World War II, the exterior walls were preserved, whereas the formerly Baroque interior was re-designed in a modern style. A mosaic depicting Martin Luther before Emperor Charles in 1521 graces the wall behind the organ.

St. Magnus Church

Trinity Church and Cathedral

New interior of Trinity Church

Wall mosaic

After almost an entire year of Luther festivities, a certain degree of Luther fatigue seemed to have descended upon Worms and the country, but I suspect they will recover, and conceive of another anniversary to commemorate the reformer in grand style. 2021 is not far off.

Click here for the German version/klicken Sie bitte hier für die deutsche Version:

https://tanjaschimmel.wordpress.com/2018/02/22/ein-vielgefeierter-mann/

Stratton Open Space

Near the former Stratton Park put onto the map by and named for the remarkable Winfield Scott Stratton after his death, Colorado Springs set aside precious land to preserve and protect from development. Surrounded by human habitation, Stratton Open Space was created in 1998 and represents one of nine open spaces under the city’s jurisdiction.

The 306 acre parcel in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains is among my favorite spots for running, hiking, and birding. A maze of trails measuring a total of eight miles welcomes visitors on feet, paws, hooves, and wheels (though a few paths are off-limit for bikes). The relatively compact area encompasses five ecological zones: a riparian corridor and wetlands, prairie-like meadows and a scrub oak/juniper plant community, as well as a ponderosa pine/Douglas fir forest.

With the exception of rows of peaks rising in the west that are best seen from lower altitudes, the higher the vantage point, the broader the panorama. The hulk of Cheyenne Mountain dominates the south, beloved view and destination of Helen Hunt Jackson, one of my favorite historical personalities.

Cheyenne Mountain on a clear day

…and on a not so clear one…

The sonorous chimes of the Will Rogers Shrine on its flank divide each hour and might also rattle the remains of Spencer and Julie Penrose, who built the tower and chose it as their final resting place. Philanthropists and benefactors, they also founded the Broadmoor Hotel, easily visible from the park. It celebrates its centennial this year, having accommodated its first guests in 1918, and prides itself of having received a five-star Forbes rating for 57 consecutive years.

The Broadmoor Resort

Will Rogers Shrine

In the east the ever-expanding suburban space adjoins Colorado’s High Plains which eventually merge with those of our neighboring states, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma.

Eastern sunrise

Eastern balloonrise

As pleasing as the wonderful vistas are the local flora and fauna. Each season has its charms, and even when flowering plants are absent, the dormant vegetation creates color and contrast. At the height of summer, a multi-hued carpet of wildflowers provides a feast for the eyes, and golden tapestries of sunflowers persist well into autumn.

Penstemon

Indian Paintbrush

Mariposa Lily

Purple Prairie Clover

Avian activity abounds year-round, but other critters can commonly be seen as well.

House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)

Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)

Expected

Unexpected

For the last two to three decades, Colorado Springs has been in the throes of rapid, unchecked urban growth. The more buildings, people and traffic, the more indispensable and treasured are oases like Stratton Open Space where, despite a degree of human management, nature still has a chance to run wild.

A Quiet Champion

Soon after the founding of Colorado Springs in 1871, a young carpenter from Indiana moved to the bourgeoning town, attracted by the prospect of gainful employment – new home construction depended on woodworking skills. Wood was his professional life, but within a few years, precious metal filled his dreams. Starting in 1874, he took a yearly summer sabbatical and headed into the mountains to prospect for gold; in the ensuing years he attended college classes in assaying and metallurgy to better the chances at succeeding in his quest.

He had been too young for California’s gold rush of 1848/49, and for Colorado’s ten years later. The discovery of gold in the Cherry Creek area near the future site of Denver in 1858/59 had brought waves of hopefuls to Pikes Peak, but in those early years of exploitation, the region did not reveal its riches. Three decades later, the fortunes of Colorado Springs and many of its residents changed when veins of the shining ore were discovered on the southwest side of the mountain. After 1890, Victor and Cripple Creek arose from the rocky ground almost overnight and, ere long, tens of thousands of optimistic miners called these towns home.

One of the “fortunate” who possessed a claim was Winfield Scott Stratton (1848-1902), said carpenter – after 17 years of tireless exploration. His rich Independence Mine made him one of the richest citizens of Colorado Springs. Unlike other newly minted millionaires, he did not put on airs, or put up a new, ostentatious home for himself. Never forgetting his humble beginnings, he was content to live either in a small shack near his mine, or in relatively modest houses in Colorado Springs. And he was always willing to give to the needy.

Among his beneficiaries was Bob Womack. The old cowboy-turned-gold-seeker might have been the first to find gold in Cripple Creek, but he sold his claim for $500, did not benefit from the town’s bonanza, and remained poor to his end. Mr. Stratton also came to the rescue of the townspeople of Cripple Creek who suffered in the wake of a devastating fire in 1896, when he financed a train to haul necessities from Colorado Springs to the bereft victims. He developed the Colorado Springs & Interurban Railway Company, an electric trolley system that served the city, as well as an amusement park at one of the trolley’s terminals at the west end of town. He called it Cheyenne Park  but it was renamed Stratton Park after his death. Its bandstand was the location of a free concert each Sunday. He donated land for City Hall and the Post Office, financed the Mining Exchange Building, supported Colorado College and the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind. He gave away vast earnings in various philanthropic ventures, but when he sold his Independence Mine to an English company in 1900, he found himself with an additional 10 million dollars, the equivalent of about 240 million in today’s currency.

Stratton Springs in Manitou Springs, one terminus of Mr. Stratton’s trolley line

The former Mining Exchange, completely financed by Mr. Stratton, now a hotel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Money did not buy Mr. Stratton happiness. Once his quest for gold was fulfilled, life did not seem to hold many charms. It is said that he could not walk anywhere without being accosted by someone begging for money. The constant requests for slices of his pie were a heavy burden and the following words are ascribed to him: “Too much money is not good for any man. I have too much, and it’s not good for me. A hundred thousand dollars is as much money as the man of ordinary intelligence can take care of. Large wealth has been the ruin of many a young man.”

Always a recluse, he increasingly preferred a bottle to human company and died in 1902 of liver cirrhosis, at the age 54. A dozen women suddenly declared having been his lawfully wedded wives. He had married once, but the union had ended in divorce. His wife bore a son of questionable fatherhood, but now his purported offspring lay claim to his inheritance. Former mining partners remembered old promises. Aware of his approaching death, Mr. Stratton had willed vast sums to various individuals and institutions. But he had assigned the bulk of his capital to fund “a free home for poor persons who are without means of support and who are physically unable by reason of old age, youth, sickness or other infirmity to earn a livelihood.” It was to be named after his estranged father, Myron Stratton.

Mr. Stratton’s gravestone at Evergreen Cemetery, Colorado Springs

Back side of his gravestone

The uproar created by the opening of his testament could be heard across the country. It was contested by many, including real or imagined relatives, the city and even the state that went so far as to question his mental stability. In the end, after much frivolous litigation and many settlements, his steadfast trustees succeeded in having his wishes honored. With a 6 million dollar endowment, the Myron Stratton Home opened its doors in 1913. It has provided housing, education, and work to countless Colorado Springs residents, and continues to function as a home for seniors in need of assistance today. Many firsthand, inspirational accounts of individuals saved by this foundation speak to its enduring legacy. Winfield Scott Stratton might not have been content with his life’s work, but he would be overjoyed with the wide-reaching windfall his wealth created, for the greater good of mankind.

Mr. Stratton’s statue on the grounds of the Myron Stratton Home

The Joys of Birding

Hardly a day goes by without me birding, either by watching avian visitors at our feeders in the yard, or by setting out with binoculars and camera in tow. Non-birders can’t imagine why anybody might spend hours looking for and rejoicing over feathered beings. I sometimes wonder, too, why I don’t get bored spending vast stretches of time looking at animals I have seen countless times, but I never grow tired of them. Common representatives, such as sparrows, finches, and chickadees delight as much as rarer individuals, and observing the widespread varieties over and over provides the opportunity to learn about their daily, monthly, and yearly cycles and behaviors, and affords fascinating insights into their lives.

Many birders keep lists, mental or actual, of the species encountered and I would be lying if I claimed indifference to the thrill of adding a new kind, a so-called life-bird, or “lifer”. While this is not a prerequisite for the enjoyment of the avifauna, it contributes excitement and incentive to its exploration. Months may pass without the surprise of a novelty, then might be followed by unusually high numbers. The end of 2017 and beginning of 2018 represent such an unusually productive period for me – 10 lifers. I owe other observers and birding friends thanks who first found and documented these species on “eBird”, a reporting and monitoring website linked with the renowned Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The collaboration and support among fellow bird lovers is impressive.

While I generally attempt to capture these new birds with my camera I don’t always succeed, and frequently the quality of the photos leaves much to be desired. I am not showing the Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus), Red Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra), and White-winged Scoter(Melanitta fusca), but am sharing the remainder of the ten winged wonders who have brightened and enriched this otherwise dark and challenging period in my life. I hope they will bring cheer to you as well.

Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus)

Lapland Longspur (Calcarius lapponicus)

Northern Parula (Setophaga americana)

Prairie Warbler (Setophaga discolor)

Yellow-billed Loon (Gavia adamsii)

Red-breasted Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus ruber)

Varied Thrush (Ixoreus naevius)

Click here for the German version/klicken Sie bitte hier für die deutsche Version:

https://tanjaschimmel.wordpress.com/2018/02/01/die-freuden-der-vogelschau/