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Between Urban and Wild

Reflections from Colorado

Andrea M. Jones

Publication Year: 2013

In her calm, carefully reasoned perspective on place, Andrea Jones focuses on the familiar details of country life balanced by the larger responsibilities that come with living outside an urban boundary. Neither an environmental manifesto nor a prodevelopment defense, Between Urban and Wild operates partly on a practical level, partly on a naturalist’s level. Jones reflects on life in two homes in the Colorado Rockies, first in Fourmile Canyon in the foothills west of Boulder, then near Cap Rock Ridge in central Colorado. Whether negotiating territory with a mountain lion, balancing her observations of the predatory nature of pygmy owls against her desire to protect a nest of nuthatches, working to reduce her property’s vulnerability to wildfire while staying alert to its inherent risks during fire season, or decoding the distinct personalities of her horses, she advances the tradition of nature writing by acknowledging the effects of sprawl on a beloved landscape.

Although not intended as a manual for landowners, Between Urban and Wild nonetheless offers useful and engaging perspectives on the realities of settling and living in a partially wild environment. Throughout her ongoing journey of being home, Jones’s close observations of the land and its native inhabitants are paired with the suggestion that even small landholders can act to protect the health of their properties. Her brief meditations capture and honor the subtleties of the natural world while illuminating the importance of working to safeguard it.

Probing the contradictions of a lifestyle that burdens the health of the land that she loves, Jones’s writing is permeated by her gentle, earnest conviction that living at the urban-wild interface requires us to set aside self-interest, consider compromise, and adjust our expectations and habits—to accommodate our surroundings rather than force them to accommodate us.

Published by: University of Iowa Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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The View from Home

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pp. 1-13

Oh, sure, first there was the guy, the falling in love, the settling down in a house in the Colorado foothills. But where the bird feeder enters my memory, a different point of view asserts itself. Not a complete revolution in seeing, but a shift in perspective, as if someone had clapped their hands around my skull and swiveled my head, ...

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pp. 14-21

It’s early July, a mild evening after a string of hot days. The sun has dropped below the folds of the foothills behind me. I’m sitting outside on the deck, enjoying the cool air, listening with half an ear to the activity that surrounds the house. The day is still bright but has lost its brassy sheen. ...

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First Signs

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pp. 22-24

Spring arrives in the high country differently than in other places. Where the land has a strong vertical dimension, the change of seasons is bound to elevation, not distance from the equator. Shades of green swirl up the flanks of mountains as the snow recedes, making the end of winter a complex topographical dance. ...

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Lay of the Land

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pp. 25-38

My expectations are still braced for snow, but this early spring day is absurdly warm, and such weather is not to be squandered. I quit my office, grab a jacket, and head outside. Across the paved county road, I walk along the shoulder to the next curve up the hill and, after a hop over the guardrail and a short clamber down the rocks stacked along the road’s edge, ...

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Where Does Your Garden Grow?

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pp. 39-41

On a small deck opening off our top-floor bedroom, I have a garden. It’s not elaborate, but a variety of vegetables, herbs, and a few flowers grow serenely in a hodgepodge of containers: plastic, square, terra cotta, round, rectangular. Nasturtiums dangle from a hanging basket lined with coconut husk; ...

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Five Ways of Seeing a Mountain Lion

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pp. 42-46

We are eating dinner outside at the end of a hot summer day: avoiding the stuffy house, sipping wine, waiting for the air to begin moving again. Hummingbirds bicker at the feeder. ...

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Love Letter to a Sewage Lagoon

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pp. 47-52

Folded mountains are the topography of home. To my eyes, the horizon is properly serrated by peaks, and the dominant background color is the black-green hue of conifer trees. The scents of pine and spruce, sharp as their needles, are comforting, as is the soft rustle of wind through their branches. ...

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Reaping an Unexpected Harvest

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pp. 53-56

At best, I’m still a novice when it comes to gardening. I’m plagued by grandiose visions of lush plantings brought on by the seductive pictures in gardening magazines and seed catalogs. I tend to engage in fantasies of organic produce and eye-pleasing flowers more often than I apply myself to the chores of watering and weeding. ...

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A Walk in the Park

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pp. 57-76

The tallest sand dunes in North America rise at neither the Atlantic nor the Pacific coast. They’re landlocked, in fact, nestled against the western flank of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in south-central Colorado. The dunes are made up of grit picked up by the prevailing winds blowing across the elongated pan of the San Luis Valley. ...

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Modern Frontier

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pp. 77-83

From our house tucked in the foothills west of Boulder, I could be downtown in fifteen minutes. I was content to be a homebody even then, but this is proving to be a particularly useful trait now that we’ve moved to our new home place, located just east of Colorado’s center point. ...

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Tyranny of the Visible

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pp. 84-98

The comment is almost inevitable when someone who has never been to our place arrives, be they a visitor or contractor or even someone from the area stopping by for the first time. ...

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Contemplating the Fire Seasons

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pp. 99-102

By the time the calendar says winter has officially arrived, we’re already deep into fire season. Each evening, a blaze in the fireplace beats back the chill brought on by days whittled short by the planet’s wintry tilt. When the wind blows or the snow falls, or even on days when light clouds drift idly over, preventing the sun’s warmth from streaming through the windows, ...

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Weed Duty

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pp. 103-108

By late spring, the season is in full swing. Weeds get an early start, even at this high elevation. As soon as their green shoots are large enough to be identifiable, I start pulling and I’ll spend a few hours a week at this task right on into fall. Some of my weeding is more puttering than sustained effort, ...

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Horse Lessons

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pp. 109-130

Horse crazy: as a kid, I lived the stereotype. I read all the horse books in the library, collected horse figurines, doodled horses in the margins of my school notebooks, snapped to attention whenever a horse appeared on TV or in a movie. I pranced and cantered more than I walked. ...

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Picking Up the Unexpected

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pp. 131-133

The excavation of our house site a few years ago left an angled bank of bare dirt on the east side. Below this, broken rocks had rolled and lay scattered among the native bunch-grass. The pink knobs of granite looked messy in the greenery, and I knew that any time I walked along the hill on that side of the house I’d be risking my ankles on the loose stones. ...

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Winter Outlook

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pp. 134-141

Soon after the grass greens up in late spring, it will tan to a persistent tawny hue. I admire how it ripples like fur in the afternoons of late summer, but its arrangement over the terrain and among rocks, shrubs, and trees settles into a familiar routine for my eyes. ...

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Fourmile Postscript

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pp. 142-157

On Labor Day 2010, my former home ground west of Boulder gained national attention when a fierce wind-driven fire began to rip through steep canyons and dense ponderosa forest in what has since become known as the Fourmile Canyon Fire. The day after the fire started, Doug called Stephanie, one of our former neighbors. ...

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A Day with Nothing More Urgent than This

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pp. 158-160

At the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in south-central New Mexico, the sandhill cranes are not yet awake. It’s early February, barely dawn, and a brightening sky throws pewter light over the pond in front of me, its surface rough with ice. Backed by cottonwoods and distant hills, the far side of the pond is still deep in twilight, ...

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pp. 161-174

Years have passed since I’ve traveled these Utah roads, but the route is ingrained like an instinct and the topography matches my recollections with comforting precision. As the road bends and dips into a shallow canyon, my eyes hungrily seek out the curves of buff sandstone that define the rim of the drainage. ...

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My Life as a Weed

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pp. 175-184

The silver-gray plant stands out against the tan- and rust-colored needles of dried autumn grasses. More handsome than showy, it hunkers low to the ground, with stems that radiate from a central crown and sprout paired leaves along their arc. The leaves get their silvery sheen from a pelt of fine hairs, and they taper to points like spearheads, ...


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pp. 185-196

E-ISBN-13: 9781609382124
E-ISBN-10: 1609382129
Print-ISBN-13: 9781609381875
Print-ISBN-10: 1609381874

Page Count: 195
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: 1st ed.