Slipping into the holidays

  • Paul Larmer

 

More than a foot of snow fell in our hometown of Paonia the week after Thanksgiving. It was fluffy, "powder dry" stuff to begin with, but after a week of sub-freezing temperatures, not to mention sub-par snow removal efforts, it turned into dense sheets of ice on the town’s sidewalks and streets. Geology students from around the state should have taken field trips (across well-plowed state and county roads) to come see Paonia’s famous glaciers form in a matter of days.

Many moments of dangerous comedy have ensued, with cars sliding uncontrollably into intersections or, tires spinning uselessly, not moving at all. More than one HCN staffer, walking to and from work, has found himself suddenly lying on his back, gazing skyward, steam billowing from his mouth like a prostrate musk ox. I didn’t fall down; I just put my car in a ditch on the side of a country road that felt as treacherous as the trail down the Grand Canyon. I was in low gear, going only five miles per hour, but halfway down I began a slow slide that seemed to last for minutes before it ended in a clump of sagebrush.

That’s the thing about storms; they make you slow down and look at the world a little differently.

Which is what Hannah Nordhaus makes us do in this issue’s cover essay. She slows us down in the middle of the Interior West’s largest ongoing storm — the natural gas boom — and forces us to pause and look at it afresh. Her credentials as both an environmentalist and a royalty-earning investor in a New Mexico gas field provide plenty of ironies, and raise uncomfortable questions about our roles as consumers, activists and moneymakers.

But what I like most about her essay are the people she encounters during her excursion, people she would never have met were it not for the energy storm around her. My slide off the road also had a rich human dimension. Turns out I was being followed by a tall young man in a pickup truck, who stopped the second I did. He was on the way to work at one of the local coal mines and was glad to give me a lift. In the two-mile drive to town, we talked about mining: the challenge of moving a longwall operation to a new seam of coal, the inability of the trains to haul out the coal as fast as it is extracted and the fatigue he endures working the swing shift.

An hour later, I was headed back to my car in an aging pickup truck, squished between a coworker’s husband and son, whom I hadn’t seen in months. We swapped stories about epic snowstorms we have survived; the husband told me about his latest job, constructing a large addition to a home 60 miles away over a treacherous mountain pass.

With one big push, and some sage advice about putting the car in neutral to keep the back wheels from locking up, I was headed back to town. It was so cold my breath turned to ice on the windshield, but my heart was warm from the storm.

High Country News Classifieds
  • CARDIGAN WELSH CORGIS
    10 adorable, healthy puppies for sale. 4 males and 6 females. DM and PRA clear. Excellent pedigree from champion lineage. One Red Brindle male. The...
  • A CHILDREN'S BOOK FOR THE CLIMATE CRISIS!!
    "Goodnight Fossil Fuels!" is a an engaging, beautiful, factual and somewhat silly picture book by a climate scientist and a climate artist, both based in...
  • DIGITAL ADVOCACY & MEMBERSHIP MANAGER
    The Digital Advocacy & Membership Manager will be responsible for creating and delivering compelling, engaging digital content to Guardians members, email activists, and social media...
  • DIGITAL OUTREACH COORDINATOR, ARIZONA
    Job Title: Digital Outreach Coordinator, Arizona Position Location: Phoenix or Tucson, AZ Status: Salaried Job ID Number: 52198 We are looking for you! We are...
  • DESCHUTES LAND TRUST VOLUNTEER PROGRAM MANAGER
    The Deschutes Land Trust is seeking an experienced Volunteer Program Manager to join its dedicated team! Deschutes Land Trust conserves and cares for the lands...
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT
    The Nature Conservancy in Wyoming seeks an experienced fundraiser to join our team. We're looking for a great communicator who is passionate about conservation and...
  • INDIAN COUNTRY FELLOWSHIP
    Western Leaders Network is accepting applications for its paid, part-time, 6-month fellowship. Mentorship, training, and engaging tribal leaders in advancing conservation initiatives and climate policy....
  • MULESHOE RANCH PRESERVE MANAGER
    The Muleshoe Ranch Preserve Manager develops, manages, and advances conservation programs, plans and methods for large-scale geographic areas. The Muleshoe Ranch Cooperative Management Area (MRCMA)...
  • ARTEMIS PROGRAM MANAGER
    Founded in 1936, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF or Federation) is America's largest and most trusted grassroots conservation organization with 52 state/territorial affiliates and more...
  • ASSISTANT OR ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF ENVIRONMENTAL HUMANITIES
    Assistant or Associate Professor of Environmental Humanities Whitman College The Environmental Humanities Program at Whitman College seeks candidates for a tenure-track position beginning August 2023...
  • ANNUAL FUND MANAGER
    Working closely with the Foundation's leadership, the Annual Fund Manager is responsible for the oversight and management of the Foundation's annual operating fund. This is...
  • DATABASE ADMINISTRATOR
    Looking for someone who loves public land and understands the value and importance of data in reaching shared goals as part of a high-functioning team....
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    High Country Conservation Advocates (HCCA) in Crested Butte, CO is seeking an enthusiastic Executive Director who is passionate about the public lands, natural waters and...
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF VOLUNTEER PROGRAMS
    Are you passionate about connecting people to the outdoors? The Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) is looking for someone with volunteer management experience to join...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The conservation non-profit Invasive Species Action Network seeks an executive director. We are focused on preventing the human-caused spread of invasive species by promoting voluntary...
  • NEW BOOK: A FEAST OF ECSTATIC VERSE AND IMAGERY
    Dynamic fine art photographer offers use of images to raise funds. Available for use by conservation groups. Contact at www.anecstaticgathering.com.
  • WANTED: TALENTED WRITER
    Write the introduction to A Feast of Ecstatic Verse and Imagery, a book concerning nature and spirituality. Contact at www.anecstaticgathering.com. Writer who works for conservation/nature...
  • MT STATE DIRECTOR- THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY
    The Montana State Director is a member of The Wilderness Society's (TWS) Conservation program team who plays a leading role in advancing the organization's mission...
  • HIGH COUNTRY NEWS EDITORIAL INTERNS
    High Country News, an award-winning magazine covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, is looking for its next cohort of editorial interns....
  • THE MAGICAL UNIVERSE OF THE ANCIENTS: A DESERT JOURNAL
    Bears Ears, Chaco Canyon, and other adventures in the Four Corners area. 60 photos and lively journals. Purchase hc $35 or pb $25 from bigwoodbooks.com...