Centennial

"Sheltering the Creative Spirit"

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Taos, New Mexico USA

 

 

    

 

      Frank Waters Centennial:

    The Man and The Myth (1902-1995)

 

To View Centennial Photos --> CLICK HERE

 

A Seed of Light

by

John Nizalowski  

                        We live in a cynical, post-modern age, the apex of an era steeped in alienation and a deepening despair.  For many, especially in America, the lack of any spiritual or philosophical center has resulted in a frenzied and self-destructive materialism. Indeed, a friend recently remarked, “After all, it’s all about sex and money” – a statement which succinctly summarizes the contemporary view of our tired world.

                        And yet, as Lao-Tsu taught, there is always a seed of light in the shadow.  This is perhaps why over two hundred scholars and non-scholars alike recently gathered in Taos to celebrate the Centennial of Frank Waters’ birth. The author of nearly thirty books of fiction and non-fiction, Waters and his work have a central role in solving the crisis of our times. As Rudolfo Anaya, author of the seminal Southwestern novel Bless Me, Ultima, wrote, “We are living at the end of an age, and we look desperately around for men like Frank Waters to point the way into the new cycle of time.”

                        Beginning on July 25, the date of Waters’ birth, the Centennial attendees gathered under a tent next to the long portal of the adobe mansion built by Mabel Dodge Luhan in the ‘20s, where she founded the Taos version of her New York artistic salon.

                        Like the woman herself, the mansion stands with solid authority under spreading cottonwoods and towering blue spruces.  Waters had been a close friend to Tony Lujan, Mabel’s Taos Indian husband, and the two had drunk many a bottle and traveled many a mile together across the American and Mexican vastness. While listening to the presentations, I could easily imagine the pair setting off on an adventure, crossing the great flagstone walkways, perhaps joking about the plaster deer statue, or solemnly studying the massive boundary rock said to mark an Indian place of emergence, or delighting in the furious flight of a hummingbird under the blazing New Mexican sun.

                        Sixty years later, the distant descendant of that hummingbird darted through the sun-shot air, while below, John Nichols, his hair in a tight ponytail, his still handsome face lined from years of political struggle, acknowledged the influence of Waters’ People of the Valley on his own classic, The Milagro Beanfield War. Novelist Alexander Blackburn, tall and patrician in bearing, proposed that Waters’ work answers Joseph Campbell’s call for a new world mythology. Playwright Denise Chavez, a dark-haired literary matriarch, spoke passionately of Waters’ love for the desert and the people who dwell in it. Philosopher Vine Deloria, Jr., his broad, strong-featured face mysterious behind sunglasses and a cigarette, praised Waters’ ability to understand the Indian’s unique blend of realism and spirituality. Thin and elegant as a scholarly Dashiell Hammett, biographer Thomas Lyon presented some of the difficulties involved in unraveling the maze of Waters’ life. And the keynote speaker, Rudolfo Anaya, a dignified figure with graying hair and moustache, spoke of the mythic depth found in Waters’ books.

                        Others testified to Waters’ warmth and beauty as a man, including the bearded sculptor Mark Rossi, Waters’ surrogate son, and the slender, soft-spoken Tal Luther, businessman, book collector, and decades-long friend of Waters.

                        Over it all flowed the deeply caring, maternal energy of Barbara Waters – Frank Waters’ fourth and final wife – still beautiful with her fine features and flowing turquoise dresses. From a special chair under the portal’s shade, she smiled benignly on all the speakers, giving them her empathetic support.

                        On the Centennial’s first night, a thunderstorm passed over Taos, bringing rain to the drought-stricken earth. My partner, Barbara DeLosa, and I watched the lightning flash from our room in the Laughing Horse Inn, the rambling many-roomed structure said to be haunted by its original owner, Spud Johnson, the literary jester of the ‘20s and ‘30s who edited Laughing Horse, a literary magazine, and the Horse-Fly, a newspaper. In our imaginations, we could also sense the presence of Frank Waters, who for a summer lived in Johnson’s house.

                        The next morning, Barbara Waters confirmed that Frank Waters had indeed been present, at least in spirit, during the night, when she announced that he had always believed rain was a blessing, and that for her, the storm was a sign of his benediction on the Centennial.

                        Who was this man who has produced an almost mystical devotion to his readers and friends?

                        Frank Waters grew up in Colorado Springs in the waning days of the mining boom. From his part Indian father, he learned a deep love for the earth and its spirituality, while from his maternal grandfather, Joseph Dozier, who was a building contractor and mine operator, he gained an appreciation for the rational, scientific world-view. Waters healed this seeming tension by fusing both visions into a unified reality, a grand circle of life including the intuitive and the rational, the spiritual and the material, the yin and the yang. This merging of Indian and European philosophies would be a constant theme in his writing, along with the Hopi Indian Emergence myth – the belief that humanity is making a spiritual journey through successive worlds.

                        After dropping out of the engineering program at Colorado College, Waters landed a job troubleshooting at phone offices edging the Mojave Desert. This strange and harsh environment inspired his first novel, Fever Pitch (Lizard Woman), published in 1930.

                        During the ‘30s, Waters explored Mexico’s Sierra Madres on muleback, and then found his way to New Mexico, where he lived in Mora, Taos, and Arroyo Seco. These years resulted in some of Waters’ most enduring novels – Pike’s Peak, People of the Valley, and The Man Who Killed the Deer.

                        In the decades after World War II, Waters held jobs as varied as picking apples in Washington State to public relations writing for the Atomic Energy Commission. In the later position, Waters witnessed numerous atomic detonations, a soul-shaking experience that would help shape his novel about the nuclear weapon enterprise, The Woman at Otowi Crossing. It was also in the decades following the war that Waters wrote his most important non-fiction works, including The Colorado, Masked Gods, Book of the Hopi, and Pumpkin Seed Point.

                        By the ‘70s, Waters was able to settle into a life of full-time writing with his wife Barbara. Living in Arroyo Seco and Tucson, he continued to examine our time of global transition. In 1981 he wrote in Mountain Dialogues, “For this most pivotal hour of change since the beginning of the Christian era marks not only the death, but the transformative rebirth of our current limited beliefs. It will not come overnight nor even in a tragic century. Yet the change is already under way. We can sense its underground movements breaking surface in paranormal experiences of every kind, the receptivity of formal sciences to ancient doctrines, in the political and social revolutions throughout the world.”

                        Appropriately, the Centennial’s fourth and final day was held at Frank Waters’ home. In a small field near the adobe house, not far from the granite boulder that marks his grave, we listened to the Taos flute melodies of Ricky Aragon, the poetry of Imogene Bolls, and Joe Gordon’s talk on the centrality of mountains in Waters’ work. As the morning passed, the wind whipped the aspens that shelter the Waters’ house. Beyond their tall, white trunks loomed the great mound of Taos Mountain. Above its summit, the sky was blue, reaching to infinity.

                        For me, the Centennial’s finest moment arrived when Frank Samora, the inspiration for Martiniano, the protagonist of The Man Who Killed the Deer, gave his blessing to the gathering. This small, compact man, dressed in simple clothes and wearing his long, black hair in two braids, smiled like a benign Buddha as he chanted a Taos Indian prayer under the great wheel of the sun. At the prayer’s end, Samora sat down against an adobe wall next to Rudolfo Anaya, who was beside Tom Lyon.  

                        As I studied these three men – Indian, Chicano, and Anglo, I was sharply reminded of the moment that inspired Frank Waters to write The Man Who Killed the Deer. Waters had just come from Samora’s trial for shooting a deer out of season on federal land. Deciding to shave, Waters filled a basin, peered into it, and had a vision of three faces – one Indian, one Spanish, and one Anglo. Out of this moment came the passage in The Man Who Killed the Deer when the Governor of La Oreja Pueblo, National Forest district chief Sanchez, and Bureau of Indian Affairs lawyer Strophy meet after Martiniano’s trial – the first scene from the novel that Waters committed to paper.

                        In The Man Who Killed the Deer, this meeting dramatizes the tensions between three very different world-views. But Samora, Anaya, and Lyon – brought together to honor the memory of Frank Waters – symbolize his faith that someday we will realize the Pueblo Emergence into a planetary civilization unifying the intuitive and the rational, the Indian and the European.

                        In the posthumously published Of Time and Change, Waters asserts, “Reconciliation of these two modes of thought with the realization that matter and spirit comprise one undivided whole, has yet to come.” But as I recall the image of those three men of such different cultures resting harmoniously against an adobe wall between earth and sky, I believe that this reconciliation will some day arrive, and that the words of Frank Waters will be an important catalyst for humanity’s coming transformation.

  (John Nizalowski is a freelance writer and teaches literature at Mesa State College in Grand Junction. This article first appeared in the Silverton Standard & the Miner on November 29, 2002.)

                       

"A Glorious Celebration"

by Barbara Waters

We will not soon forget the Frank Waters Centennial.  Holly Reed, our professional photographer, has sent two exquisite albums blossoming with photographs from the celebration, which more than two hundred persons attended.  My pot of miniature pink roses from the Saturday night dinner table is another flourishing memento, besides the photos.  And bouquets of appreciative words keep arriving.

Rudolfo Anaya writes that he and his wife want to thank all “who worked so hard on what can only be called a glorious celebration!  Frank was proud of us!”

Beth Silbergleit, U of NM archivist, writes that she enjoyed hearing “an eclectic array of speakers [listed on our website under “Centennial”] and perspectives, and the opportunity to meet new people and renew friendships with others whom I had not seen for a while.”  Although she was unable to experience Sunday at our home in Arroyo Seco, Beth thought it was “a real treat” to spend the first three conference days at the Mabel Luhan House --“a perfect venue for the celebration.”

John Nichols with his personal reminiscences and Alex Blackburn with his literary criticism began an interwoven pattern for understanding the complete Frank Waters that balanced and re-enforced itself throughout the symposium.  Across the top of a July 19 photo of himself atop a favorite mountain, John later scrawls, “Frank should be clicking his heels over your love and support!”

Ann St. John Hawley’s hand-painted orange nasturtiums card, another bouquet, reads:

Thank you for the fantastic experience of being so close to the beautiful

existence of Frank Waters.  It was not only a historic occasion – but

such a tender event – so many people of like mind and filled with love

and admiration for him and for you.

I was grateful for Alexander Blackburn’s comments about Teilhard de

Chardin and Waters (their affinity of spirit).

I loved Vine Deloria and “Silence.”

Denise Chavez – a great and eloquent woman.

Tal Luther – his presentation absolutely exquisite in its detail – such

love for books – the collector’s spirit – such poetry!...

Writes musician Cynthia Stacey, who also spoke and recorded the speeches of others for us, “At the Centennial I received a lot of inspiration and clarity for my own writing...”

Lucy Bell says:

I enjoyed Tom Lyon and Patrick Burns addressing the issue of “truth” in

Frank’s writing.  My favorite statement regarding that, (similar to one

that Tom gave us) is: “All stories are true and some of  them really

happened.”  I loved the anecdote that Patrick gave regarding Peggy

Church’s book, where Frank ended by saying, “Mine is the true story.”

He of course was right because there is the objective factual truth and

then there is the mythic Truth.  One is the truth of the ego and the other

is the Truth of the Self.  Frank helps us connect with that deeper Truth,

which is what we all hunger for.

A bouquet of heartfelt thanks to devoted, volunteer committee members who worked so hard and self-sufficiently on our A Team with Tal Luther as chairman and Marilyn Luther as secretary.  They included super-saleswoman Elise Backinger and her husband Kent Strickland, Marty Meltzer, Margot Wieland, Irene Falk (the Fruit Salad Lady), webmaster Bill Farr, Mary Ann and Geoffrey Torrence, Holly and Mary Beth (the Raffle Ticket Sprite) Reed, Mark Rossi, and Al and Renate Collins.

And then there was the creativity of Mary and Howard Taylor, who distributed to speakers their 1983 photograph of Frank and myself; of video-taper Robert Callan, and his wife Marilyn, who thought up a “How Did You Get To Know Frank Waters and His Work?” project (call her at 719-686-1969); of Jerry Edelen’s hooked rug gift bearing Frank’s epitaph; of sculptor Mark Rossi’s bronze presents to Luthers and six volunteers; of Katie Woodall’s original poster portrait of Frank, auctioned off to Charles and Gayle Hodges for $1,000.  We’ll always remember Joe Gordon born again as Vine Deloria; the contra dancers (“a blast and a half,” writes Bill Farr) led by caller Jim Buechler; the musicians including familiar Jennie Vincent and Peggy Nelson; and Pueblo Governor Vicente Lujan and his wife, Beatrice, with the hit of the conference in tow – Frank Samora, the “Man Who Killed the Deer,” and his beautiful daughter Maria.

At our place that last day Frank was closest to us, speaking through his favorite talking aspen leaves.  Time ran out on us so that I couldn’t give my speech.  Instead, I presented my copy to Frank’s old friend Quay Grigg.  He writes, “I strongly regret that you didn’t wrap up the conference with your wonderful piece.  Hearing it there while we listened to the trees would have been magical.”  Instead people can read my uprooted “Rooted” speech on our website.

At the same place, also be sure to catch John Nizalowski’s fine review of the Centennial.  That man can write!

Mark Rossi’s bronze paperweight medallion, a rare Centennial souvenir, is now available for $55, shipping included.  It features Frank’s profile on one side, aspens on the other.  To order, call us here at 505-776-2356 or write.  Thanks also to Mark, along with Peggy Andrews, for promoting Waters centennial discussions, readings, and a library exhibit last fall in Tucson.

The other lovely souvenir available for $50 is a limited edition broadside created by Tom Leech at Santa Fe’s Press at the Palace of the Governors.  On handmade white paper, it features a delicate-looking stone imprinted with Frank’s long “life is a great white stone” quotation from People of the Valley.

The Centennial, too, remains “a complete, rounded moment, which contains all.”

   

  Rooted

      by Barbara Waters

 

If there be grief, let it be the rain

And this but silver grief, for grieving’s sake,

And these green woods be dreaming here to

wake

Within my heart, If I should rouse again.

But I shall sleep, for where is any death

While in these blue hills slumbrous overhead

I’m rooted like a tree?  Though I be dead

This soil that holds me fast will find me

breath.

William Faulkner -- “A Green Bough”

As the spirit of William Faulkner lives on through certain trees of the South, -- probably rowan trees -- so the spirit of Frank Waters lives on in the native Southwestern trees surrounding us here today -- particularly in our aspen trees.  He looked like an aspen tree: tall, slim, and white, with all-knowing eyes.  And Artist Michio Takayama called him “Aspen-san,” which I adapted to Aspen Son.  His voice seems still to resonate through the quaking of these leaves, another example of the talking tree, which device has been so popular in literature that it is recognized as an aspect of the collective unconscious shared by humanity since our beginning.  The oracle in Zeus’s sacred oaks of Dodona spoke through their rustling leaves and creaking boughs.  King David listened to murmuring mulberry leaves to hear the voice of God.  In India, legendary trees foretold the approaching doom of Alexander the Great.  Among other authors, Virgil, Dante, Spenser, and Tolkien utilized this motif.  Listen, they all teach, when the tree speaks.

Poet Imogene Bolls is one who listens; thus her poem “The Walk to the Upper Pasture,” a message to me personally, states in part:

...All round us the trees are talking

you had said, listening

to the cottonwoods,

the grove of sacred aspen.

 

 

Especially the old oak -- our goal

in the upper pasture where

the ashes, two weeks without rain,

encircle the trunk in a formal act

of completion -- is eloquent.  

 

 

It says: Listen.  I am here

I am rooted.  I will last for as long

as you will need me.  

 

 

 It says: Listen to me.  Give

 up your pain to the wind...  

 

 

In 1947 when he bought the Arroyo Seco property, neither Frank nor its aspens were deeply rooted in the literal sense.  Frank moved around the country a lot -- he said he had the “itching foot,” and just seven spindly aspens stood beside the driveway here.  Since then they have multiplied and spread out to form what I call the Sacred Aspen Grove beside our house.  They have infiltrated the back yard as what Frank called a reflection of the Pleiades representing his lucky number seven.  They’ve ducked under our home, and are popping up all over the yard next door.  Two of them are thrusting their merry ways through the roofs of our main house and our studio.

Yet from the start Frank had been irresistibly drawn to the magnificent old cottonwoods already here, he told me many times in later years.  Los Alamos is Spanish for “the cottonwoods;” and, ironically, it is also the rational place of destruction from which he was to draw inspiration for The Woman at Otowi Crossing, one of his most complex novels.  The pull went deep.  About the strange magnetic power of this tumbledown house and jungled trees, thickets, and bushes here in Arroyo Seco, he wrote in Mountain Dialogues:

There is no accounting for the mysterious magnetism that draws

and holds us to that one locality we know is our heart’s home,

whose karmic propensities or simple vibratory quality may coin-

cide with our own.  Thus have I often wondered how I happened

to choose this slope of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains for my

own home....I always stopped to admire [the spot] set back in a

green lawn, surrounded by towering cottonwoods along the small

stream flowing between the house and road....The first time I saw

it on a walk up into the mountains, something about it claimed me.

A second, somewhat similar incident wired to the deepest levels of the psyche occurred at our small winter home in Tucson.  From the beginning, Frank was pleased with it and its back yard full of runaway wild bird of paradise flowers, overgrown greasewood bushes, a pineapple palm, a gigantic evergreen, green-trunked palo verde trees, and a splendid Russian olive tree.

He said in 1977, “I feel like we’ve sat together before in a jungle clearing like this, in another lifetime.  Probably in Mexico.”

“Tall red poinsettia trees ran wild,” I said.

“Yes,” he said.

Frank’s landscape of the heart was always green, and rooted in the soil.  He liked his literature the same way.  His favorite book in later years was Karan, by B. Wonger, where the native Australian protagonist instead of dying transforms gradually into a fertile tree strongly rooted in the earth.

Frank said, “Now that’s the way to do it!  That’s the easiest transition I’ve ever heard of.”  And during bad times near the end he imaged an evergreen already beginning to grow in his heart.

“Be kind to trees and they will bloom into flower for you,” Wonger writes, as if describing our wild plum trees, cottonwoods, aspens, and Frank’s heart tree.

Frank thought that our friend Helen, daughter of the famous Taos artist Ernest Blumenschein, was out of her mind when she made the unkindly suggestion, “Chop ‘em all down, Frank.  Get rid of ‘em like I did mine.  All these high old cottonwoods and aspens make this place of yours look like the house of a sorcerer.”  He savored her final image, for he was attuned to Merlin, literature’s most mesmerizing sorcerer and a staunch denizen of the woods.  Frank may have bought the New Mexico property simply because it looked like it belonged to a sorcerer.

How he literally became rooted in the Sacred Aspen Grove and under his favorite oak in our upper pasture is a complicated story.  But it all began with the lack of trees in our local cemetery, where Frank had purchased a plot for himself.  To me this was intolerable.

“I can’t stand to think of you in that barren spot forever,” I said, “even though the individual graves are nicely decorated and well tended.”  To no apparent avail, I repeated my lament sporadically over the next couple of years.

Then Victor White died.  Victor had been a writer and teacher, born in Vienna on the exact same date as Frank’s birthday.  After they had befriended each other, Frank thought of him as his shadowy alter ego and said Victor had never received the fame he deserved for his fine writing.  When he died a lonely death, we scattered his ashes in our Sacred Aspen Grove and toasted him with some terrible, straight Scotch that Victor had loved.  Frank liked the ceremony and amazed me some time later by conceding, “I think that was a good idea.  I guess I’ll do the same thing as Victor, after all.”

Fiercely individualistic to his last hurrah, however, about a year before his death Frank informed me, “I don’t think I should do exactly the same thing as Victor did.  I want my ashes, or at least half of them, to be scattered out in the upper pasture under the shelter of the horses’ favorite spreading oak tree.”

There half of them are today, around and under a simple wooden cross that faces sacred Taos Mountain, while the other half in the aspen grove beside our house root themselves around and under a Colorado granite boulder bearing a symbolic Mimbres deer carved by sculptor Ted Egri.  Opposite the boulder is a granite chair hewn in China and bearing on its back calligraphy symbolizing the word “gratitude.”  In his opinion, writer David Jongeward had said at my husband’s memorial service, the privilege of having known Frank Waters could be summed up in that one word.  Under this granite gratitude seat, my ashes too will mingle and root with life-giving veins of aspens and purple plums.

Seven months after Frank’s death, two twelve-foot-high sheaths of light appeared outdoors here late at night.  They were shaped like Shalakos, those giant energy spirits featured in the Zuni Indian ceremony honoring death.  One danced back and forth before an apricot tree in the front yard; the other wove in and out in front of a high cross-shaped gatepost in the back yard.  Viewed symbolically, these backdrops both stand for the Tree of Life, while the figures represent the pure light of eternity.  This combination symbolizes a merging of duality into the All.  As Shalakos, they were probably the war twins, Warrior of the East and Warrior of the West.  Their Indian name, reminiscent of Frank, means “you are a tree and under your body the deer lie down to rest at your feet.”  In his stated opinion, the Shalako ceremony teaches that death is not to be feared or grieved.  It is merely part of the one great whole, the All.

Every third of June on the anniversary of his death, three couples and myself gather here at Frank’s memorial stone.  We festoon it with flowers, memories, and his words read aloud.  We study immortal initials thickening on aspen trunks crusted in black and try to decipher the messages encoded here in inscrutable Egyptian eyes.  This year Ines stood with the full length of her back pressed against an aspen tree close to the boulder.  “I feel it pulsing!” she suddenly exclaimed.  “This tree is alive like a person.  It’s giving me energy!”  Seated in the granite chair to her left, I smiled as soft leaves of a wild plum sapling caressed my cheek and the trembling leaves above chatted on.

Numerous happy memories of Frank are rooted in individual trees here, such as the Bear Tree, the Smashed Honda Tree, and our Bridge Tree -- all cottonwoods.  He’d hobble out with his walker to the Bear Tree beside our garage to watch mother bear and two of her cubs peering down at us.  Her third cub acted perennially perplexed, always stumbling off in the opposite direction from the rest of its family, scampering up the tree when they came down, making us laugh.

During a storm, one third of the mammoth cottonwood next to the Bear Tree came smashing down on the back end of my hatchback Honda, flattening it like a pancake sizzling with silver-red sparks from a downed power line.  With one of his what-will-be-will-be shrugs, Frank edged around the third of the Smashed Honda Tree filling the entire back yard, went inside the house and back to bed, and immediately fell asleep!

Our cottonwood Bridge Tree crashed across the acequia madre out in back where we used to picnic and splash our feet in the cold mountain water.  This venerable being could be Frank in another form.  He has proven too daunting to demolish.  His commanding arm, tattooed with orange lichen, continues to halt all aspiring woodchoppers.  And a poet has written as his epitaph:

Old tree fallen over

the ditch

decorated with lichens

One arm raised

in strange greeting

Wrinkled skin lending

secure footing

for dogs

people and

Spirits homeward

bound.

That Frank Waters knew how to talk to trees and understood them, we know from his novel The Man Who Killed the Deer, where he wrote intuitively of cutting down a lofty pine for the Taos Indians’ harvest ceremonial:

We know your life is as precious as ours.  We know that we

are children of the same Mother Earth, of our Father Sun.

But we also know that one life must sometimes give way to

another, so that one great life of all may continue unbroken.

So we ask permission, we obtain your consent to this killing.

 

So they cut him down, he in their midst who had stood there

tall and sound and proud before they were yet grown and it

was well with them and with him who had spiritually assented

to their ritualistic request for his sacrifice.

Through his love of nature and his published ecological concerns, Waters grew into a contemporary embodiment of Green Man, stone images of whom have adorned architectural structures for centuries.  In folklore this symbolic figure has also been called “Leaf Man,” “Jack of the Green,” “Green George,” and “May King.  Green Man is the archetype representing our oneness with the earth.

In his book about this archetype William Anderson writes, “When an image of great power such as the Green Man returns as he does now in a new aspect after a long absence, the purpose of its return is not only to revive forgotten memories but to present fresh truths and emotions necessary to fulfilling the potentialities of the future.”  Anderson might well be speaking of Frank’s lifelong writing mission.

One of Frank’s doors to the universe, then, was this wilderness of trees on his own private property, now open to the public through the Frank Waters Foundation, which deeply appreciates your essential, continuing support.  I leave you with these repeated, sustaining words of that other great author who loved his land and trees, and who also embraces here his fellow writer being honored this centennial weekend:

...where is any death

while in these blue hills slumbrous overhead

I’m rooted like a tree?  Though I be dead

This soil that holds me fast will find me

breath.

In other words, we have the consolation that both of these lovers of Mother Earth will continue to speak through their roots, warning us against the worst and inspiring us toward the best.  Pure Waters: Frank Waters and the Quest for the Cosmic, Frank’s second posthumous book, is the latest proof of this promise kept.

 

 

                                             Of Awards and Pink Tulips

                                                      by Barbara Waters

            Glory hallelujah!  Pikes Peak Library District in Colorado Springs, hometown of Frank Waters, got the centennial celebrating his birth year off to a smashing start with a series of events that happened to tie together with remarkable synchronicity over the weekend of April 12-14.

            Initiating this celebration was the tenth Frank Waters Award for Excellence in Literature given this year to author Barbara Kingsolver.  Because Kingsolver was unable to attend, she wrote a gracious letter of appreciation; and focus gravitated to Waters and this special year of tributes to his memory.

             As his representative, I had all the fun and benefit from a well-organized program emanating from an enthusiastic community that united Frank and the literary award given annually in his name, Kingsolver, the Betty Field Memorial Youth Writing Contest Awards, a writing workshop for participants in that contest, the Pikes Peak Library District Board, Friends of the Pikes Peak Library District, parents, teachers, personal Colorado friends of Frank’s, myself, and Mary Ann Torrence, who as Frank’s number one fan traveled with me from Taos.

            Special touches were the Board’s exuberant pink tulips and boxes of chocolates left in our rooms at the Hearthstone Inn Bed and Breakfast, a favorite of Frank’s and mine.  Friday evening was just as special with gourmet food prepared by board vice president Mary Ciletti and her husband Jim (owners of Hooked on Books, a real find for us), and other welcoming board members, such as president Barbara Bailey, Friends chairman Kathy Stevens and board photographer Don Stevens, director emeritus Andrea Corley, and our “chauffeurs” Ken and Susan Krassy.

            A large writing workshop facilitated mainly by Darcy Alan for young people and their parents on Saturday morning reacquainted me with the writing dreams of Frank Waters at the same age, as evidenced by his second published story that appears elsewhere in this newsletter.  Students in grades six through twelve received certificates for their participation in the writing contest and workshop.

            The highlight of both workshop and Saturday night’s sold out annual library district dinner was being in the Carnegie Reading Room of Penrose Public Library.  This striking Carnegie Library with its huge picture windows was originally built when Frank was three years old; a little later of course it became one of his favorite hangouts.  A special tribute statue presented to me was another surprise highlight of the dinner event. And I was deeply touched by the accolades given Frank by old friends Ken and Barbara Sparks, Joe and Diane Gordon, Alex and Ines Blackburn, and Bob and Marilyn Callan.  Thank you, Ken and a cordial audience, for mine too.  I also felt honored to present winning student authors with their awards and to be photographed with them.  On top of all this, the food was good!

            Mary Ann and I completed our memorable Library Trip with a pilgrimage to Frank’s gaunt old house – sympathetically painted this spring in soft Easter egg colors -- across from Frank Waters Park on East Bijou Street.  Before heading home, we decorated his father’s grave in Evergreen Cemetery with bluebells, white daisies and pink tulips.

 

For Program Details --> Click HERE       

List of Friends and Supporters of the Celebration --> CLICK HERE   

Centennial Photos --> CLICK HERE

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