Colorado Art RanchPhoto: David Peterson

Salida Artposium: A River Runs Through Us

Susan Tweit on River as Muse

We’ve spent the weekend hearing, seeing, and thinking about the river that runs through us, a literal and metaphorical evocation of water, literally the stuff of our lives.

We started with Kent Haruf and his evocation of the river of love that runs through our communities at their finest, and may be our species’ best gift to this improbable living Earth. (He also reminded us of the river of church-supper food, including Jell-O in many flavors!) Fred Rasmussen and Stuart Andrews showed us how a passion for fishing can lead us into the current with a fly rod in hand, and into an understanding of our relationship to the aquatic world of trout and caddis flies. John Calderazzo led us into rivers in life and metaphor while Sherrie York showed us how to see rivers with new awareness by working eye and hand in drawing. David Goldes taught us about the Mickey Mouse molecule of water, with those two hydrogen atoms bonding at one end of the oxygen atom like outsized ears, and showed us the water’s spectacular and dramatic way of life - and of threading through all life - with his keen eye and sharply focused lens.

Ray Kitson reminded us that rivers form communities the world around, and that the exhilaration and danger in challenging turbulent waters can bring out the best in who we are. Laura Hendrie focused our awareness with words while Jack Chivvis, B Strawn, and Richard Cabe showed us how the river’s gifts of rock and wood and other water-worn objects can be shaped into insights into who we are and what we believe.

Christo and Jeanne Claude brought us home to this river and their vision of a way to use art to remind us of what it is that we love about the landscape we often take for granted.

Sunday morning Gloria, Mary Ellen, Alonzo, and John of the Colorado Art Ranch residents group showed us how their work has been shaped by this place and the other places they’ve lived. While Ed Quillen taught us how Salida shaped the river and Dan Downing showed us how to picture this river and the landscapes that feed it.
So we’ve been to the river and back, from abstract and generic water - if such a marvelous and vital substance can be described as generic! - to the very water running by outside. We’ve talked river in metaphor and focused on water molecules; we’ve seen rivers in art and literature and life.

We are all creatures of water: our bodies are more than 90 percent water by volume, around two-thirds by weight. Water flows in us, through us, and around us in the air, the soil, and in what John Calderazzo calls “the long smooth muscles” of rivers and streams. Without water, this improbably blue planet would be as burnt and lifeless as Mars. Rivers are our literal and metaphorical lifeblood, carrying not only the water we depend on but our hopes and fears and dreams as well.

Before you leave this place, do one thing: walk down to the Arkansas River and dip your hand in it’s flow - about six hours from snowmelt passing Salida - and feel the shed skin cells of the earth in the fine silt and organic matter it carries, and the pulse of the planet and all our lives in the pulsing rhythm of its current. As you dip your hand in the Arkansas, take a moment to remind yourself of the communities it nurtures - wild and human - and of the grace of life we all share.




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