The Life and Legacy of John Denver

When I hear the name John Denver, I always think of Colorado. John Denver is a talented American singer, musician, and song maker. John Denver is famous all over the world. His music is known to have been inspired by his home state and the beautiful Rocky Mountain landscape. When Denver was born, he was named Henry John Deutscendorf. The singer/songwriter began his career as a folk rock singer in the early 60s.

Soon after that, Denver joined The Mitchell Trio and become their vocalist. He managed to become a real celebrity when Peter, Paul, and Mary recorded his song “Leaving On A Jet Plane”. This song was their first and only Number One single ever.

John Denver stayed with the Mitchell Trio as their vocalist for four years. After the members of the group are separated, John Denver realized that he had got to the top of the Pop charts and he is one of the best selling artists. “Rocky Mountain High”, “Take Me Home, Country Roads”, “Sunshine On My Shoulders”, “Thank God I’m A Country Boy”, “Back Home Again”, and “Annie’s Song” are just some of his most popular songs.

Denver had not only been a talented musician but also an environmental and humanitarian activist. In his lyrics, John Denver used to support people to get closer to the earth and nature. The artist freely expressed his views in his songs in a peaceful but compassionate manner. His lyrics were inspired by the beauties he had seen living in the Rocky Mountains near Aspen, Colorado.

John Denver had enjoyed watching the snow, the sunshine, the beauty of all of nature. If John Denver had never seen the beauties of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, probably he would have never written his songs.

John Denver had often worked together with Jim Henson, the creator of the Muppets. Denver even recorded many songs with the cast of the Muppets. He even played a role in a movie – the film was “Oh God!” with George Burns. During the twentieth century, John Denver has continued to be one of the most famous singers.

John Denver passed away suddenly and tragically while he was piloting for the first time his new plane. The aircraft was caused by low fuel.

All his life had been spent close to nature. John Denver had devoted himself to his work, spending all his time singing and songwriting. John Denver had contributed a lot to many environmental and humanitarian organizations. John Denver will last in the hearts of his fans forever although he is not yet among us. Everyone who is interested can learn more about John Denver at http://www.johndenver.com, or http://www.john-denver.org.

Extraordinary Landscapes

In the summer of 2007, a curatorial team from George Eastman House invited twelve photographers to photograph the sites designated by The Cultural Landscape Foundation as their 2007 Landslide landscapes. The photographs focus on culturally significant landscapes at risk of alteration or destruction, and include trees and other plantings that have witnessed or withstood major cultural or natural events.

In this exhibition of work the focus is on celebrated botanical heroes that have withstood the test of time Ranging from Charleston’s angel southern live oak, a majestic living legacy from the antebellum South to the dew-drenched petals of a rare tree peony from Pavilion, New York, these photographs lovingly document heritage landscapes that are threatened by development, disease and the ravages of time.

Additionally the exhibit, “Heroes of Horticulture” documents the sole surviving witnesses to some of the nation’s greatest people and most significant moments. Some are hundreds of years old: the horse chestnut tree that shaded suffragist Susan B. Anthony in the late 19th century to the live oak tree allĂ©e in Houston.
These photographic collaborations with artists, now a traveling exhibit, have yielded compelling interpretations of extraordinary places. And, for most of us, this is the only way we may ever experience the subjects and places depicted.

The exhibition includes twenty-four images by photographers Mark Klett, John Pfahl, Eli Reed, Louviere+Vanessa, John Divola, Eric Baden, Jodean Bifoss, George Blakely, Roger Bruce, Matthew Keefe, Fredrik Marsh, and James Via. The twelve sites, located across the nation, are currently featured on TCLF’s website (www.tclf.org) and appears in the January 2008 edition of Garden Design magazine. For a schedule of this amazing traveling exhibit visit http://www.eastmanhouse.org/Main/exhibitions/on_the_road.php.

A Legacy for the Future: The Moroccan Argan Oil Industry

“I’ve found that some of my best projects have been started, not on the basis of rigorous prior analysis and planning but simply from an impulse that says, “Here is a chance to do something good.” “

Muhammad Yunus, Creating a World Without Poverty
The industry of the Moroccan Argan oil production bears a striking resemblance to the humble beginning of Muhammad Yunus’s Grameen Bank, a microcredit organization that brought financial services to the poor who wanted to start little businesses of their own. As with Yunus’s vision of providing a stable source of income for the impoverished, especially the women of Bangladesh, the production of Moroccan Argan oil is also seen to involve the ultimate goal of providing livelihood and eventual empowerment to the women of the traditionally male-dominated society of Morocco. It has given the women employment that assures them of continuous income for it involves a form of labor which at the moment had been proven to be only possible with the arduous work of human hands.

Growing Independence for Women
The primary and most apparent benefit of the increasing popularity of Moroccan Argan oil as a product is the increasing demand for the labor that would be necessary to supplement the growth in the production, which would inevitably follow as supply, must adequately meet the growing demand for the oil as a commodity. This is the most basic of market conditions; an increase in demand must be met with an increase in supply. There would be an increase in the number of women given employment and this would naturally lead to the development of women’s independence and give them a greater sense of self-esteem as they find themselves equipped with the means to earn their own incomes. They now have the option to spend on acquiring a higher education, on getting better nourishment for their families, or on saving to invest for the future. Any of these options would help them in fighting poverty, one simple step at a time.

Carrying on with tradition
With more women necessary for greater production, the uniquely Moroccan tradition of the Argan oil extraction is now certain to be passed on to more members of the next generation. As it has been proven that it is a stable source of income, it is highly likely that mothers would encourage their daughters to continue the practice. And even if one is not introduced to it as part of the family business, the increasing popularity of the Agran oil as a valuable exported product would still attract more to join the ranks of those employed for its production and the attention given this tradition would only increase with time as the Argan oil production becomes more integral in the livelihood of the women.

Environmental Implications
Closely following the increasing role of the oil production in the lives of the people of Morocco, there would be the recognition that the Argan trees are a significant and valuable resource which would have to be conserved in order for it to continue its role in various people’s subsistence. Just like any other natural resources, the Argan trees could be damaged with excessive harvesting. An example is that there would be an increase in the people trying to get the Argan nuts, which contain the oil-rich kernels. They would then use the traditional way of harvesting the nuts, which is to bring spry goats to eat fruits from the trees, and then collecting the nuts from the goat’s dung. With more people bringing more goats, unintentional damage could be done to the branches of the trees which would in turn lead to less fruits being borne by the trees. And thus actions to increase awareness of these implications must be taken.

Pre-emptive actions to keep the Argan tree population at a healthy number is also necessary as protecting the trees from getting cut down will lead an improvement in the local environment because the trees have always been of great importance to the local ecosystem. Being an endemic species in the harsh Moroccan deserts, these trees’ structure is uniquely adapted to have the best chance of survival in the dry, arid region. The deep roots of the trees help prevent desert encroachment while also ensuring landscape stability as they prevent soil erosion. The tree’s canopy provides shade for other agricultural produce. The leaves and fruits are naturally food sources of various animals. Lastly, the trees help in replenishing the aquifers, the underground layer of permeable rock from which groundwater is usually extracted from. For such a dry region like Morocco, this is of utmost importance.

A Triumph and Nature’s gift
Acknowledging the potential of the Moroccan Argan oil industry has been the first step of many in traversing the road to alleviating poverty in the region. The conspicuous success of the oil production which is being frequently carried out by women’s cooperatives encourages other agricultural producers to take a closer look into the cooperative model, where people voluntarily cooperate for a mutual social, economic or cultural benefit. It has also brought to the surface the urgency of taking care of our limited resources and their impact to the environment. The fact that the Moroccan women have proven their competence in handling the production of Argan oil had also shed some light to their growing role in their local communities as independent earners and decision-makers. With the Moroccan Argan oil industry flourishing, we are once again reminded of Nature’s generosity as it gives us the chance to learn to harness its resources to secure our future and we are impressed by the ingenuity unearthed in our age-old traditions as the seeds for progress are finally brought to life with the simple idea that we must leave behind something good for the future generations. The future must be something worth looking forward to.

Architect Julia Morgan Broke Barriers, Built Enduring Legacy

Among the pioneers and luminaries named to the California Hall of Fame in 2008 is a woman whose vision and skill make her a giant of architectural genius, though she stood but five feet tall. Julia Morgan’s work adorns California from the Bay area and far beyond, crowned by her most famous work, the design and construction of Hearst Castle that hovers over San Simeon Bay.

An Architect by Birth
Morgan was born in 1872 in San Francisco and graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1894 equipped with a degree in civil engineering. This was likely not the first indication that Julia Morgan was destined to become a groundbreaker for women in a male dominated profession, but it was the springboard for an illustrious career that blazed a path in architectural innovation.

Her skills were finely honed at one of the world’s most prestigious architectural schools, Ecole des Beaux- Artes in Paris. There, pushing the limits of convention, she was twice denied admission. According to Morgan, her rejection was based solely on gender. Finally admitted after placing 13th out of a field of 376 applicants to take the rigorous entrance exam, she became the first woman to graduate with an architectural degree from the world famous school.

A Career Begins
Julia Morgan had a singular focus – architecture suited to the environment that surrounded the building. She was able to successfully blend the strictly classical training she received in Paris with her home-grown love of the California landscape in its many natural variations. . In 1904, she again exerted her individuality and started her own architectural firm in San Francisco. She began to receive commissions and build a reputation. One of her first assignments was a home in Grass Valley, in the foothills of the Sierra, where she built the North Star House in the Arts and Crafts style.

The widespread devastation of San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake caused an interesting side effect as the acute need for rebuilding mitigated prejudice against a female architect. Her own office, on Montgomery Street, was among the hundreds to crumble into ruins. From those years of intense design and reconstruction, Julia Morgan was never at a loss for work and her reputation grew as steadily as did her body of work.

Assertive and Individual
Certainly, one of the hallmarks of Morgan’s hundreds of homes, buildings and public edifices is eclecticism. Armed with her classical education, she was never caught up in a particular trend, design or architectural paradigm. Morgan designed her buildings with consideration for the site, use and the surrounding environment. Her work ranged from extraordinarily ornate and opulent, to simple and functional. She was comfortable working in many architectural styles and considered each commission a newly stretched canvas upon which she’d create a site-specific masterpiece.

The range of Julia Morgan’s work is equally extensive. She built for billionaire magnates such as William Randolph Hearst, but attacked more modest projects with the same dedicated focus. Among her public buildings are YWCA’s, the Riverside Art Museum and the Los Angeles Examiner Building. She also worked extensively on college campuses in Northern California and designed the Mills College Bell Tower as well as buildings for churches and private homes.

She is most widely known for her work with the Hearst family. The crown jewel, of course, is Hearst Castle which is visited by millions of people each year. There, she was remembered for wearing stylish slacks and silk blouses while scrambling quickly into the construction work to make certain the details of her design were being followed and properly executed by craftsmen, carpenters and masons. Julia Morgan dedicated years of labor, love and exceptional creativity to build the vast estate that sits atop “La Cuesta Encantada” – The Enchanted Hill. As visitors from around the world know, it takes many hours to appreciate the 165 rooms, gardens, water features and acres that make Hearst Castle a woman-made wonder on the Pacific Coast.

From Bavaria to Wyntoon
Less well known, but nonetheless breathtaking is the Bavarian Village at Wyntoon, built in the 1930s. This was Hearst’s 50,000 acre getaway that lies in the shadow of Mount Shasta in Northern California. At this heavily wooded site, Julia Morgan felt the pull of Bavaria and Austria, with timbered building sheltered by tall pines and crisp clean air filled with the scent of pine.

To make Hearst’s many distinguished guests comfortable, Morgan designed three guest houses, each three stories tall. There were four to eight bedrooms in each timbered house along with sitting rooms. All looked out to a grassy expanse and backed up to the rushing sound of the McCloud River that meanders through the estate.

True to her love and connection to the natural environment, Morgan used local stone and wood in the construction of the Bavarian Village. The effect remains timeless as steep roofs jut skyward with many gables and faceted windows framed by massive timbers. It is, indeed, as if a small piece of Bavaria was lifted up and gently eased into the California landscape. But, upon closer examination Julia Morgan’s touch of genius took the traditional architecture to new heights. The many artistic touches and unusual conventions that Morgan brought to the Village are entirely unique.

In preparation for building the Village, Morgan and her sister, Anna, traveled with Hearst to Bavaria in 1931. Some experts speculate this visit furthered Morgan and Hearst’s resolve to carry forth the Bavarian theme because they sensed the rise of Adolf Hitler might threaten the survival of Austrian and Bavarian architectural treasures.

The Wyntoon Bavarian Village guest houses were named for fairy tale characters – Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty among others. A noted muralist from New York added his artistry to the outside walls of two of the buildings, painting fanciful scenes of tales from the Brothers Grimm. Among the most embellished was Hearst’s personal home on the property – the Bear House. There, the muralist painted scenes from Snow White and Rose Red over the entire stucco exterior.

As with many of Julia Morgan’s major projects, select artisans – men and women – traveled with her to ply their craft on her projects. Although she never married, Morgan attracted a rich following of friends and colleagues in whom she had confidence and respect for their work. Wyntoon is a prime example of the kind of team work that characterized Julia Morgan’s long and successful career.

An Isolated End
After hundreds of notable projects and widespread recognition of her considerable talent and leadership, Julia Morgan’s last years were spent in self-imposed isolation. With many of her friends and family gone, including Hearst who died in 1951, Morgan felt herself failing. No longer able to work, to express the passion that had fueled her life, she chose to become reclusive. She died on February 7, 1957, leaving behind endowments for aspiring architects, scholarships and an unparalleled body of work.

She also left behind a road – one that started out a rough and cobbled path to be maneuvered by only the most bold and brave of young women. Today, that road is paved and many women architects stand on the mighty reputation of Julia Morgan, a California original.