Coming to Terms With Deep Mourning
by Art Goodtimes
Nov 18, 2009 | 927 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print

A SEASON OF LOSSES … When I first came to the San Miguel watershed 30 years ago, I jumped right into a battle with the State of Colorado (and the Romer administration) over the siting of a low-level radioactive waste dump across the river from Uravan. Lots of Telluride folks took up the standard – along with the Western Colorado Congress and the newly-formed Sheep Mountain Alliance – and fought the proposal. But it wasn’t so easy finding people in the lower basin willing to stand up and say no to a bad idea (making Western Colorado a nuclear dumping ground for the nation). Grace and Steve Herndon in Norwood and Buzz and Jean Zatterstrom in Nucla were the exceptions. As ranchers and teachers, their long ties to the area’s earliest history gave them the standing to challenge the local majority support for short-term jobs – recognizing the multi-generational stigma and damage a dumpsite would engender and being willing to publicly say so … Thus it is particularly sad to face the passing of both Grace and Buzz. For years they carried the torch for the protection of this beautiful land we all cherish, whatever our views or livelihoods (miners, conservationists, ranchers, tree-huggers). They refused to allow economics to be the region’s only bottom line … Add to their passing the loss of a retired angel, an ex-pat Tellurider living far away, and the son of dear friends – and you have a week in which I find myself in deep mourning. Even as I rejoice for having benefited from knowing all these good people.

GRACE HERNDON … Grace was the dean of San Miguel County journalists. I like to identify four important phases in the life of a journalist: cub reporter, reporter, editor, and columnist. You start out investigating stories. Finding sources, taking notes. Understanding complexities and grasping core elements. And then you polish your writing and submit to the ordeal of editing. Sometimes, for years. Eventually, if you’re good enough, you move beyond mere reporting and start giving rein to opinions. And if what you write resonates with its readers, newspapers pay you and provide you with your own op-ed bully pulpit. Grace did all of those things, and ended up as our best local newspaper columnist … I remember her subscribing to an in-house critique sheet for New York Times writers that each week ferreted out the good from the bad, the chaff from the grain, the newsworthy from the incidental. Grammar, style, facts, relevance. All of it mattered to Gracie. And when she wrote, you paid attention because she wrote well and what she had to say was worth knowing, whether you agreed with her or not … Plus, she was an environmental champion when that was a rare breed on the Western Slope, and she took no little share of criticism for standing up in public and making her “radical” views known. Criticism, yes, but also the admiration of a whole crowd of readers less able to say in a small town what she was willing to say, come hell or high water. Truth is, she spoke (and wrote) for a lot of us. And a lot of us will miss her voice. She was one of those pioneering western women of small stature and huge presence who casts a long long shadow.

BUZZ ZATTERSTROM … For years Dolores LaChapelle was my intellectual teacher and mentor. The wise woman crone from Silverton who challenged my curiosity with dazzling mind. I think I needed a lot of cognitive stimulation to get this less-than-extraordinary grey matter of mine on track for philosophic ideas beyond the quotidian worries of a middle class white male. And for a bunch of reasons I needed a feminine spirit to guide me through what we usually consider the masculine arena of knowledge … When it came to heart wisdom, however, I ended up only getting a few small homeopathic doses. But it was enough to teach me nurturance and compassion. And those more feminine energies came my way via a most amazing man – Buzz Zatterstrom. His funeral at the United Church of Christ in Nucla last weekend made me understand exactly why … You can’t help feeling that happiness and saintliness go together, and Buzz embodied both. He was a most happy person, and he communicated that to his kids, his students, his neighbors and even his political adversaries. Who among us can imagine being remembered as one “who never had a bad word for anyone”? Buzz could. And did. Person after person stood up at his service and said just that … His family adored him. His fellow citizens held him in the highest regard. And the four ministers that celebrated his life drew important lessons that left few of us dry-eyed in the pews … As the Rev. Pat C. Whiting noted, when she made her only visit to see him in a rest home in the Denver area when, at 93, he wasn’t hardly speaking except to say “si” to staff requests (he’d spent several of his last years in the Dominican Republic with his son Dan), every time she spoke to him about the good deeds she’d heard he’d done for his congregation and his community, he would reply, “It was a blessing to me.” And he’d smile and his blue eyes would twinkle … I have known many men and women in my own sixty-some years. But after that service, I realized I had never known anyone who was so deeply loved and revered and recognized for such deep heart energy, a wisdom that was bigger than the small town Buzz so lovingly embraced.

STEPHEN WALD … Stephen brought money and intelligence to Telluride when he came here with his partner Sheila, and for years he put both blessings to good use. Lots of local non-profits benefited from his attention and nurturing … Plus he was a genuinely good man. One who made our community a better place. Often quietly, from behind the scenes. Sometimes in the public thick of things … We’re going to miss him.

NAN BALMER … Some of you don’t know this name. But for those of us who’ve been here a couple decades or more, Nan was one of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet. And Harry, her motorcycle riding partner, was an iron-working Vulcan and can-do kind of guy who needed her sweet balance to even his rough edges. A marvelous couple … They left Telluride to found a pizza place up in the Pacific Northwest. A fire started. Harry ran out to get help and died of a heart attack … That was years ago. Sadly, most of us never got to see Nan again. But she died surrounded by family. And her spirit of kindness lives on in the memory of many of us here.

JESSE COHEN … I can’t think of a sadder thing for anyone to experience than the loss of a child. Especially an only child … That my friends Michael and Valerie had to endure just such a sadness grieves me even now. I’ve written them. I’ve called them. But it feels like so little for a sorrow so huge … And yet all we can do is live our lives and try to understand the unexpected, accept the unfathomable. As Michael wrote with heart-breaking clarity in an email, “You reach a certain point in your life, and then everything gets taken away. Usually this happens gradually. Sometimes it happens suddenly.”



-for Buzz & Jean Zatterstrom

Bent but undeterred

the elder spruce

along Leopard Creek

on the grade up to

the ghost town of Sams

stands sturdy.

The wind has done

all it can.

The crushing snows.

But nature knows

nothing can stop

the heartwood’s green fuse

from rising

like flame & bursting

into needles.

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