Humpty-Dumpty

If you were raised in an Anglophone country and are of a certain age, chances are you became familiar with the Humpty-Dumpty nursery rhyme while growing up. As I grew up in Germany for the first two decades of my life I didn’t. When and where I first heard the poem I don’t recall, and I knew very little about it until I did a little reading in preparation for this post.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall;

All the king’s horses and all the king’s men

Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

According to several online sources, the quatrain started out as a riddle, to which the answer might or might not have been egg. It was only after Lewis Carroll’s 1871 Through the Looking Glass (the sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) that Humpty Dumpty became associated with an anthropomorphic egg. The nursery rhyme’s long and illustrious career includes being set to music, and countless online versions of the song exist, available to you at your leisure.

Colorado Springs’ civic, cultural, and economic interests are the concern of the Downtown Partnership. Its charitable nonprofit arm, Downtown Ventures, has been behind the popular annual Art on the Streets project which “celebrates the power of art in public places.” Each year since 1998, it has selected submissions from artists and displayed them downtown for 12 months.

A number of the exhibits have become permanent installations after the course of the year when purchased by an individual or organization. Such was the case with the 2003 submission, Hump D, fashioned by Minneapolis artist Kimber Fiebiger. Seated on a low wall adjacent to the Pikes Peak Center for the Performing Arts, the bronze was so popular that local businesses have since commissioned similar designs and placed them in various locations throughout the core of our city. It was only this summer that I happened across a few of them, and I can relate why new ones keep appearing in different places. One never tires of looking at these jovial, happy creations without feeling jovial and happy oneself.

To enlarge a photo, click on it.

PS: Some, but not all of the titles I found on the artist’s webpage. Incidentally, I also stumbled across a creation entitled “Trumpty-Dumpty.” While it represents the exact opposite of happy and jovial, it is very timely.

Flight 2020

Butterflies fly. As does time. Of these truths I was reminded when I realized that three years have lapsed since I first experienced a winged local late summer tradition. Contrary to countless canceled conventions worldwide, the Rotary Club of Colorado Springs’ annual gathering of famous lepidoptera was able to take place in 2020.

Some of you might remember my 2017 post Butterfly Fever, which celebrated the “Flight” event’s 10th anniversary. After having missed it in the intervening two years, earlier in September, on the lawn of Alamo Square Park which surrounds my favorite museum I recently introduced to you, I once again happily witnessed the delightful landing of 26 butterflies as well as dragonflies, which have also been part of the display since 2018.

To enlarge a photo, click on it. To read its caption, hover the cursor over it.

The artists selected by jury receive as their canvases empty metal insect shapes which they transform according to their fancy into creatures ranging from the slightly odd to the sublime. After being on display for nearly one month, they are sold in an art auction, whose proceeds “ensure children receive essential arts and science programs and also for community service projects throughout our city.”

Time and the fanciful insects have, indeed, flown, as this year’s virtual auction was held on September 26. The revenue will support worthy causes, and the generous patrons will be blessed with whimsical wings in their homes or gardens.

PS: The featured photo at the very top is “Flight of the Gods” by Diane Feller.

PPS: Dimensions of the artwork

Petite butterflies (not part of the al fresco exhibit) 7 x 9 inches

Medium butterflies 34 x 45 inches

Large butterflies 45 x 62 inches

Dragonflies 35 x 40 inches

Life at the Cemetery

Cemeteries throughout history have been called cities of the dead (necropolis), but one of the reasons I like to spend time in them while still moving and breathing is related to the fact that they abound with life.

As stated before, graveyards tend to be verdant oases that provide habitat for many animals, and Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs is no exception. I don’t want to belittle the sadness, sorrow, and longing we feel when we pay respect at the final resting places of our loved ones, but, at the same time, it’s a solace to be surrounded by signs that speak to us of aliveness.

The cycles of the seasons are echoed by the changing vegetation. Am I alone in finding consolation in the notion that my grave will, in turns, be covered with a soft blanket of snow in winter, a fragrant carpet of petals in spring, lush meadows in summer, and desiccating, crunchy leaves in autumn? That my limbs might grow into those of a tree and that those tree limbs will provide shelter and sustenance to countless creatures? That rabbits and deer will munch on the grasses I sprout and squirrels will play hide and seek in the canopy above me? That migratory birds will find rest and rations to fuel their journey? That the wind will whistle and the birds will serenade my eternal slumber?

Again, I harbor no death wish, but to know that our bodies are part of an intricate cycle and will be recycled into new life and energy might be a source of comfort. Mind you, I speak of our mortal shells only. What happens to our souls we have endeavored to comprehend ever since we have been endowed with the capacity for complex thought, but the mystery will remain until we find out—or not.

To enlarge a photo, click on it. To read its caption, hover the cursor over it.

Memento Mori

I don’t particularly harbor a death wish—far from it—and had planned this post long before current events unfolded and gave us more reminders of our mortality than we would ever want. Some people avoid cemeteries, but others gravitate toward them (even while still alive). One reason I like to spend time there is related to my favorite pastime: birding. As most graveyards are verdant oases and provide habitat for much avian life, it’s not unusual for birders to frequent them.

While human cacophony and chaos are ubiquitous, they tend to spare memorial parks, perhaps out of some underlying tacit acknowledgment that our dead deserve peace and quiet. Or because of an inherent human tendency to avoid reminders of our impermanence and finiteness. And while I’m not particularly fond of my own, I am attracted by the stillness and serenity that tend to shroud cemeteries.

My personal interest in history and desire to seek out the final resting places of persons whose life stories have touched me adds another motivation to visit. 220-acre Evergreen Cemetery was founded in 1871, and while young by European standards, its tangle of tombs tells ample tales.

Regardless of who we are, whether we end up in a pauper’s grave or a fancy mausoleum, whether we are believers in an afterlife or in complete oblivion, whether we are cremated or left to return to the elements out of which we were made, burial grounds remind me of our shared humanity and fate, a realization I find strangely consoling.

Because birds and other animals have no compunctions about spending time in necropolises, and populate them naturally and actively, and because the local vegetation reflects nature’s cycles and the passing of the seasons, I find comfort in the pulsating life force that is everywhere in evidence, some of which I will share with you next week.

To enlarge a photo, click on it.

America the Beautiful

Barr Trail is one of the Pikes Peak region’s most iconic hiking paths and whether one trains for the annual Pikes Peak Ascent or Marathon, or simply desires to hike it for its own merit, it packs a punch. Beginning at an elevation of approximately 6,800 feet in Manitou Springs, it climbs steadily to 14,115 feet, over a distance of about 12.5 miles. Even though various trails up our local 14er had existed since the early 1870s, Fred Barr surveyed the mountain in 1918, and supervised the construction of the route we still use today. In my mind, it is divided into four parts, each measuring roughly 3 miles, and each endowed with its own character.

The seemingly endless back and forth of the switchbacks right from the start presents the least welcoming aspect. Their repetitive nature is compounded by Incline return traffic which, depending on time of day and week, can result in the need to sidestep the narrow path nearly incessantly, to allow runners to pass. The nearby Incline, an old cable car track, spans 2000 vertical feet in just under a mile, and has become one of the premiere fitness challenges for athletes from near and far. Incidentally, it is visible as the oblique swath that transects the trees below Pikes Peak in the featured photo above.

Beyond the various Incline connections, the crowd lessens, and one’s view widens, including a first glimpse of the summit. At No Name Creek begins one of my favorite segments, by virtue of its profusion of wildflowers and avian activity. Who can fail to be cheered by the chirping of chickadees? Gradually, more expansive scenes of the mountaintop appear, even though, depending on one’s physical form of the day, this can be inspiring or demoralizing. IMG_6700 (43)

After 6. 5 miles, Barr Camp, 10,200 feet high, offers a welcome resting spot, if desired or needed. Also built by Fred Barr, it was used by the tourists he guided up from the top of the Incline, to catch a few hours’ sleep, before leaving for the peak at 1 AM, where they hoped to witness the sunrise on this purple mountain majesty. IMG_6700 (51)Now as then, one can gather strength there, before transitioning to the following section leading to the A-Frame, a wooden shelter. This stretch is steep, and somewhat tedious, but what sustains me here is the proximity of timberline and with it, the promise of the beguiling beauty of the tundra.

Once above the trees, boulders of varying size dot the slanting meadows, brilliant yellow cinquefoil and other colorful blossoms nestle in their shelter, and butterflies feast upon this delicate, yet tenacious alpine flora. Photogenic chubby yellow-bellied marmots, and furry pikas fast on foot keep guard, or hope for a morsel of nourishment. IMG_6700 (76)In the east, the velveteen foothills roll into the wide expanse of the Plains, with its amber waves of grain. The stony face of Pikes Peak looms large in the west. The last three miles zigzag across the façade of the mountain and terminate with the Sixteen Golden Stairs. My heavy breathing, and jelly-like legs convince me that this is a misnomer. Sixteen hundred must be closer to the truth…

Knowing firsthand how extraordinary the trip to Pikes Peak by automobile or cog train can be, reaching this pinnacle under one’s own power is even more gratifying. But all visitors seem united in a similar sense of elation, and I have yet to encounter anyone who is not enthralled by the panoramic view, under spacious Colorado skies. Surely, Katharine Lee Bates would agree. Even though she spent only a few months in Colorado Springs in 1893 to teach at Colorado College (she was an English teacher at Wellesley, as well as a published poet, lecturer, and suffragist), her one trip to the top of Pikes Peak in a horse- and mule-drawn carriage inspired the words of a poem which would later be set to music and become a beloved hymn.

IMG_4160 (24)

Katherine Lee Bates gazing at Pikes Peak from a rock in front of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum.

Addendum: This is only the 2nd post I have ever re-published (with a few alterations). It first appeared on WordPress on 08/17/2016, when I had very few readers. I thought the middle of August was a good time to share it with more of you, for the following two reasons.

This year’s Pikes Peak Marathon is scheduled to take place on August 23, while the Ascent on August 22 has been canceled.

If you have read my two previous posts about the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum, you will recognize the building in the photo behind Katherine Lee Bates, whose sculpture is one of many that grace Alamo Square Park. She was born August 12, 1859. If I had paid closer attention, I would have posted this a week earlier. Happy belated birthday, Katherine.

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

https://tanjaschimmel.wordpress.com/2016/09/01/wunder-der-bergwelt/