Thursday, June 14, 2018

--- Adventures in social work ---

                                                                  [Denver skyline]

After I left home, I took care of all my business. If they were able, my folks would have done everything for me but, although we always had what we needed, we often didn't get what we wanted and I was quite happy to make my own way in the world so I have no cause for complaint. In fact, it gave me plenty of opportunities to observe the workings of society. Since moving to Denver, although living with people that feel like family, I am still pretty much on my own - I pay all my bills and most of my activities, I do thimgs  alone.

When I was in graduate school training to be a rehabilitation specialists, I was told that, if I wanted to make money, I should go into the private sector and, if I wanted to help people, I should work the public sector. I wanted to help people so I'm now living on a small pension and Social Security. Luckily, my life style is not expensive.

As a rehabilitation specialist, I helped people get their lives started after a disabling condition. That meant that I had to know the social structure of the area so that I could help my clients get the services they needed. In my spare time, I worked with some of the social services as a volunteer, helped people find needed resources in the community, and helped organize benevolent organizations.

For most of my life, I have been intimately involved with social services.

I knew that states do things differently and that, when I moved to Denver, I would have to relearn the social structure of the area. Not only would I have to get myself re-established, but I was already in contact with a homeless man that I was to help get his career started back up. I'm still studying the social services here because I would like to see the huge homeless population in the area become homed.

But I'm on Social Security and am about to switch over to Medicare, so I'm managing paper work. I got a request to bring some papers to the Human Services Office to validate my unearned income for last year. That involved a cross town bus ride so I decided to take care of multiple tasks.

The Human Services office is near dowtown Denver on Federal Boulevard, so I took the Evans Avenue bus to Federal. That let me check out vans Station, which is my next rail hike destination and it let me see how I would need to walk from Mary Carter Greenway to the train station.

The Human Services offices are housed in a huge complex, impressive but architecturally modern and not particularly aesthetic.

                                                                 [Human Services]

I got to check out some of the services available to the homeless, and what I had to do was quick and easy. The staff does try to be helpful and friendly. I have generally had good experiences with the social services in the area. Broomfield was easier, primarily because it was less crowded. Denver seems to try to be helpful but the sheer size of the community makes the machine rather clunky. Once resources are assembled, people can get things done, but they have to be responsible for the assembling, and the system is not easy to navigate here.

I was a little disgruntled to find that Human Services was right next to the W Line. If I have a choice between bus or train, I will always take the train. But, the trip let me check out the W Line.

                                                                    [The W Line]

Downtown pigeons and doves have no fear of humans. Of course, many of the commuters will feed them while they wait for the next train.

                                                                     [City birds]

One of my favorite wild flowers is blooming now. Milkweed is most certainly a weed. It has been everywhere I have been in North America. It's much more prolific in Virginia than Alabama, but it's pretty common along streams and in gardens here in Denver. It's a hardy plant that looks the part.

The flowers form in big globes and, if you look closely, you find that they are exquisitly carved and colored blossoms.

                                                                        [Milk weed]

When you have an irritating chore to do, think about how you can change it into a fun outing. I used to make laundry day bareable by making that the specific day that I went for a milkshake.

Part of human nature is the need to feel like one's life matters. A good way to feed that need is to volunteer for community activities that benefit others. Often, volunteer work is managed but Human Resources or Human Services

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Oxford to Englewood

                                                  [Englewood station from the bus gates]

Englewood Station is a good place for a "home station". It is quite interesting in it's own right and it has all the amenities. The Englewood Community Center is part of the complex, with it's city offices, the Englewood Library, and the headquarters and museum of the Open Air Arts Museum, which is scattered all over Denver. A short walk brings a hiker to three shopping centers and several banks, and the shopping area along Broadway. There is a WalMart and my favorite restaurant in Denver, the Beirut Grill.

It was a hot day when I took a bus down Yale Avenue to Englewood Station. The big spire in the picture above is not only a piece of art, it houses the elevator from the plaza at the Civic Center to the bridge across to the light rail station.

                                                         [Englewood Civic Center]

                                                         [Art plaza with fountain]

The fountain is constructed to allow a lot of personal wetness. Geysers of cool water erupt from the lawn around it and a hot summer day, of course, draws crowds of children in swimming attire. I was tempted, but was dressed completely inappropriately for fountain activities. Instead, I stopped into the Civic Center for a restroom and some water. There, I looked at some of the exhibits including Cherrelyn, the horse trolley (and the horse), and Museum of Outdoor Arts (and it's bear). If you ever visit Denver, you will notice that Bear is a major motif around town.



The starting point for my hike was just one station down from Englewood. Here are more of the tiles decorated by children at Oxford Station.

                                                                  [Oxford Station art]

I am told that the art across town and the ornate rail stations and highways are fairly recent.

                                                                    [Oxford Station]

            [Santa Fe highway overpass]

                                              [Mountains from bridge over the South Platte]

We've been here before. It's the bridge over the South Platte River where the Mary Carter Greenway/Platte River Trail and Bear Creek Trail meet. You can see from the mountains frames in the bridge's railing that, regardless of the heat on the high plains, Mount Evans still has a lot of snow. At 14,271 feet, it's still pretty cool up there.

I wandered over to the Steak and Shake to buy a much needed milkshake and then I came back to the Greenway to begin my hike. I found these two waders, perhaps little blue herons, on a sandbar in the river. This area is a good place for spotting water fowl.

A little ways on I noticed this patch of sturdy grass, which I have been unable to identify (anybody out there have an idea?).


At the point where Dartmouth crosses the South Platte, it has absorbed Big and Little Dry Creeks (Little Dry Creek merges right here at Dartmouth in Englewood.), Bear Creek, and several smaller tributaries and is becoming a respectable river.

                                                                [Platte at Dartmouth]

Several of the old train depots have been preserved in the area. Englewood takes the arch shaped facade design of its depot as an emblem. It reminds me of the Spanish architecture of the Catholic missions. Some of the depots, like the Littleton depot are still at the tracks, but for others like this one, the tracks have moved away. Now, it is the front for a community garden.

Since the columbine is the Colorado state flower, I had to take a picture of these nice specimens.

Back at Englewood station, I walked up to my favorite Denver restaurant, the Beirut Grill, for lunch. On the way back to catch the bus for home, I spotted the Englewood Trolley that ferries passengers at no charge between 19 stops among the businesses near the Englewood City Center.

                                                               [Englewood Trolley]

The area around the city center is an open air art museum with an entrance to the east guarded by these two durpy looking dogs. (Actually, they're sculptures of Greek Temple dogs. evidently, if you made trouble in a Greek temple, you would be licked to death.)

                                                             [Greek temple dogs]

This stalwart gentleman rests down Galapagos street.


At the other end of the street, these two sage and weary looking lions keep watch.


And my last stop on the hike was the bus stop beneath the obelisk and arch bridge.

Not every town has such an extensive open air art exhibit as Denver, but just about every town has statues. There's a bole weevil statue in Enterprise, Alabama, and a chicken statue in Gainesville, Georgia. Selma, Alabama had a lot of statuary including some that caused constant controversy like the statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest (namesake of Forrest Gump and the first leader of the Ku Klux Klan) and the less infamous gargoyles on the First Baptist Church at Lauderdale and Dallas. What statues does your town have and what's their back stories?

Folks rarely give grasses, even the ornamental grasses in gardens, a second glance but, if you look closely, you will find intricate patterns in their blooms and seed heads.

If you have streams in your area, check out the areas where streams merge - the confluences. They are often favorite areas for water fowl and other wildlife - why do you think that would be? What's different about stream confluences?

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Why "go out"?

First, more succulents!

and clouds building up on the horizon.

The bottom line reason for this blog is to encourage people to explore their world in person - away from book, TV and computer - or in addition to book, TV, and computer. Why would I think that this is important?

Lifelong learning is a way to really connect with your world - a way to actually be a part of it all. So many of us don't even know our neighbors, much less the institutions that support us, tools that we can use to enrich our lives, and the "wilderness" that surrounds us.

I've begun writing another manual for DANSYS, this one suggesting ways that DANSYS  can be used by students in school and outside of school. (If you're curious, it's at ). In it, I bring up Bloom's Taxonomy of learning. The Bloom's Taxonomy is a classification of the kinds of things that go into complete learning of a subject. It is intended as a way to construct learning objectives. There are three parts: the cognitive domain, affective domain, and psychomotor domain. It's as if people associate "learning" with only the first domain (and, indeed, I think only the first domain was ever published in book form.) But the intention was that all learning involves mind, emotions, and skills.

I will use a rather inflammatory example. My emotional opinion is that it was a terrible thing that the United States did to Japanese American citizens during World War II by confiscating their belongings and placing them in concentration camps. But there are many World War II veterans that think it was perfectly reasonable. Is this an emotionally loaded issue? You'd better believe it - on both sides. Can you possibly learn about it by watching documentaries? I don't think so - you have to get out of your house, talk to the people who were involved to understand their sides of the story, go and see the camps, or at least exhibits explaining what happened, immerse yourself in the facts.

Even simple mathematics - can you really learn how to multiply without getting a pen and paper and actually scrawling some multiplication exercises out on paper? In fact, all learning involves thinking, feeling, and doing.

Why do some people think that the solution to their life problems involves taking other peoples' lives? One answer is that they never learned better alternatives for dealing with their life problems. Why do people think that learning is a chore? Part of the answer is that they never experienced the true joy of learning in the sterile learning environments provided by schools, and, worse, they were tormented by boring teaching during a very impressionable age.

A car enthusiast will diligently read the manual of a new car. But the same person will apparently relegate the care and operation of their body to someone else - a doctor or (shiver) a life coach. What's more important to understand - car or body?

I believe that the world is our home and to live to our fullest, we need to know how to use the "equipment" that is made available to us.

Friday, June 1, 2018

--- Door to door ---

Coyote and I have been doing volunteer work for a person who is running for governor in Colorado. We like him because he seems to be serious about improving life for the citizen instead of packing wealthy peoples' pockets with more money.

We're knocking on doors. It provides another learning experience. Most folks in this area are not at home on Saturdays (the time that we are out knocking on doors) but the people we catch at home have consistently been friendly and interesting.

And it's not just the people we meet at their homes. We talked a while to an elderly lady at the Baha'i Center. The people we do see are mostly on the streets with friends or their dogs.

The most disturbing thing is the number of homeless people in a neighborhood where so many houses are unoccupied. The irony is painful.

We encounter homeless folks selling the Denver Voice, a paper published specifically to provide an income for homeless people ( These people will talk to you if you're interested and I've never been asked for a donation. I donate anyway. They're good sources for what's going on in the area.

Our beat is the area called "Cap Hill'. It's near the Capital and is an old/new part of town, providing an interesting mix of residential architecture. Modern apartments have grown up among mill village houses and larger residences that have been converted into duplexes, triplexes....

The people in that area also seem to like gardening. This time of year it's a riot of color.

This time of year is also hot. There are some big differences between this kind of work and hiking. On the trail, I stop often to take pictures, make measurements, take notes, or just rest and hydrate. You can't just sit down in someones yard. So, my part in this campaign is coming to an end. The primary is coming up, anyway.

It's interesting that Colorado is opening the primary to independents. An individual can only vote for one party, but they don't have to commit to that party. I wonder how that will affect the practice of voting for the "wrong person" in a primary to sabotage the party, a common practice in the Southeast.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

--- Littleton to Oxford ---

                                                                 [Littleton sign]

The old depot is still there at the Littleton Station. Ogden Utah is only about 525 miles away now. I guess things didn't shrink - the road just takes a shorter route than the train did. This particular train only goes north to Denver and south to Mineral - things change. But the depot is still there.

There are steles out front. They aren't rock like in ancient Greece and Babylon but they do record historic events - the history of Littleton. Inside is a nice coffee shop with really good bakery items and friendly people.

                                                        [Littleton Depot inside]

Littleton is now firmly a part of the Denver Metro area. It's where the Littleton Lockheed Martin aerospace plant is and it's where the infamous Columbine shootings took place. Littleton has been in the news a lot.

It reminds me of small town America with it's crowded store fronts. In town, Arapaho College breaks the spell with it's modern buildings.

Denver Seminary was close by and I wanted to stop in for part of another project but it was on the trail and, after finishing there, I joined the Platte River Trail and Mary Carter Greenway that parallels the South Platte River and the CanAm Highway as they transect the Midwest.

This red winged blackbird was determined that I would not take a picture of his brilliant scarlet and yellow stripes. This is a good place to spot birds - both songbirds and water fowl.


The path is well marked - nobody's gonna get lost here.


These swallows were constantly in motion. I don't know if I could have gotten a decent picture with a telephoto lens.


In the Littleton area, the South Platte has grown to a small river. Rivers grow through time and space. This is a much older river than the one that rushes out of the Rockies at Waterton Canyon. It still runs swift but it has slowed considerably.

                                                                   [South Platte]

Very few of these trees are original to the area. It's easy to forget that Denver is still a desert city.

                                                      [Bridge near Hudson Gardens]

Hudson Gardens is still waking up after a mild winter. I was hoping they'd have all the plants out but, alas, only the tractors are evident.

The wildflowers are certainly awake, though.


                                                             [Euphorbia (spurge)]

                                                               [Prairie Phlox....maybe?]

This collection of brass statues memorialize the cowboy. I gotta say that I like equestrian statues out here more than the bombastic megamaniacal Goliaths of Greece and Rome.

                                                               [Statue group]

Oxbows are features of meandering streams. Water flows downhill and, as it does, it tends to carve steepsided valleys but, as water pushes at one side and then the other, it broadens it's streambed until there's a wide valley. With a little restriction, it's path becomes serpentine. When a bend in the river turns back on itself and reconnects with the main watercourse, that loop can get pinched off to form a marshy or dry gouge called an "oxbow". Oxbows are a regular feature of the streams in the southern United States but I haven't seen that many here in the West (although both Bear Creek and the South Platte River certainly meander), but there is a nice example of an oxbow between Littleton and Englewood. They tend to be long and sweeping and hard to photograph except, maybe, from the air.


I don't see very many things that might be called a waterfall (by some stretch of the imagination) out here. Even the water features that most people here call "waterfalls" are either cascades or man made. This little cascade on Big Dry Creek where it drops down into the South Platte is, at least, picturesque and is comfortably cool on this hot spring day. The trail crosses Big Dry Creek over a bridge and then crosses the South Platte River via a nice example of a suspension bridge.

                                                             [Big Dry Creek area]

The river is beginning to look like a river here. I could still wade across it but it's broad.

                                            [South Platte from suspension bridge and above]

I've noticed that rivers in America become domesticated, harnessed, controlled as they get older. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said that you can't step in the same river twice. Of course, the river you stepped in the first time has gone on down river to be civilized and bound.

                                                            [Downstream photos]

And from the river, I can look up to see my old friend, the bell tower at Colorado Heights.

                                                            [Colorado Heights]

And since this is The Bear Creek Commentaries, I would be remiss  if I did not include the confluence of Bear Creek with the South Platte River. Here, the two form a delta that seems to be a favorite with the water fowl and other wildlife. There is a little overlook park that recommends itself well for bird and wildlife watching.

                                                              [Confluence photos]

The end of Bear Creek Trail, where it joins the South River Trail/Mary Carter Greenway at River Point Shopping Area is where a historic (and notorious) settlement called Petersburg stood. The marker tells it all (well, some of it, anyway. There are webpages where you can find out the rest.)

                                                       [Petersburg marker]

I walked up the hill to see one of my favorite views of the Rockies from Denver.

                                                   [River Point view of the Rockies]

I ate supper at another of my favorite restaurants in Denver - the Huhot Mongolian Grill. It's an experience where you can build your own stir fry from a bar of components and sauces. They also have a menu (from which I selected a rangoon dessert - crunchy cream cheese filled pastries covered by a fruit sauce and served with a bowl of ice cream.)

Then I continued on to Oxford Light Rail Station, back to Englewood Station, and by bus to home. In keeping with Denver's recent appreciation of outdoor art, most of the light rail stations are decorated by local artists. Oxford features tiles painted by school children representing different modes of travel. Here are a few.

                                                              [Oxford Station]

Spring is a time for looking for wildflowers. Many of them are tiny but exquisite and you have to pay attention to find them and look very closely to really see them. You might be surprised at the diversity and complexity.

Rivers on the plains and in the southern United States are great meanderers. See if you can find some aerial photographs of them and you might see an oxbow.