High Country Speaker Series sheds light on the natural world | VailDaily.com

High Country Speaker Series sheds light on the natural world

Christine Ina Casillas

Add the plants and animals that live in the landscape, along with the rural lives of the people who also reside there, and you’ve got the theme for the High Country Speaker Series at the Avon Public Library.

Last year, the Eagle Valley Library District and the Gore Range Natural Science School partnered to bring speakers whose work shed light on the nature of the western landscape, said Kari Thorne, spokeswoman for the Eagle Valley Library District.

This second winter speaker series offers audiences a chance to hear a naturalist, a hydrologist, an animal ethnologist and a poet talk about the natural world, Thorne said.

“We were looking for a niche for ourselves by using western authors and western issues,” Thorne said. “We wanted to base our series on patron’s interests, and we thought a western theme would be an area we could address.”

The authors for the speaker series were first heard on the radio by the library district, Thorne said. That’s how they chose who would be invited to speak.

“We heard two authors on National Public Radio and thought they sounded interesting and reachable,” Thorne said. “That was part of the reason why we chose these authors, because they live so close to us. We’ve been keeping our ears glued to the radio, hoping to find someone interesting and within our reach.”

The next speaker will be Ellen Meloy, a nature writer and author of “The Anthropology of Turquoise” and “The Last Cheater’s Waltz,” from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., Feb. 10

“We thought (Meloy’s) book was interesting,” Thorne said. “And she’s an up and coming author, but we’re not limiting the series to authors. It’s nice if they are authors because we’re a library, but it’s not mandatory that they’re authors.”

Meloy will talk about the close connection between art and the conservation of wild places, Thorne said.

Meloy uses memoirs and natural history to guide her readers through the southwestern deserts. She lives in southern Utah.

“The Southwest is rich ground for the “literature of place’ narratives that illuminate the region’s geography through personal reflection and close observation of the natural world,” Meloy said.

Meloy said her new book was a mix of memoir, natural history and “eccentric adventure.”

“I use turquoise – the color and the gem – as a metaphor for the profound affinity between the human spirit and landscape,” she said.

The last author of this year’s series will be Teresa Jordan, scheduled to speak from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., March 9.

Jordan also was first heard on NPR, Thorne said. Her memoir, “Riding the White Horse Home,” is about the history of her family and the demise of a way of life in the American West. Jordan’s appearance on NPR touched some of the employees at the library district so much they asked her to join the speaker series, Thorne said.

An artist and historian, Jordan was among the fourth generation of her family raised on a cattle ranch in the Iron Mountain country of southeast Wyoming. She has written about Western rural life, culture and the environment over 20 years.

According to a biography on Jordan, Wallace Stegner wrote that “the guts of any significant fiction – or autobiography – is an anguished question. For Jordan, the question is “Why, if my people are so strong, were we not resilient?'”

Jordan, also author of “Field Notes from Yosemite: Apprentice to Place,” now divides her time between Salt Lake City and a small ranch in northeastern Nevada.

Christine Ina Casillas can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607, or at ccasillas@vaildaily.com.

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