Wilderness Witness

Photographer shares his affection for the Great Sand Dunes

 SAT, 12/11

John B. Weller's love affair began on an innocent date.

Four years ago, the Boulder resident returned to the Great Sand Dunes National Park for the first time in years -- and was overwhelmed by the natural beauty that surrounded him.

John B. Weller captures the Great Sand Dunes on 
paper.
John B. Weller captures the Great Sand Dunes on paper.

"We camped out. It was ice-cold, five below zero, and the night sky was incredible. There were never fewer than five meteors at a time. Everything was so peaceful, and the stillness was resonant," he says. As he and his companion walked on the frozen dunes, the sand formations "were reflecting the sky. It looked like someone had taken blue paint and dumped it all over." The photographs Weller took on that trip moved him. He began documenting the southern-Colorado site, returning many times and always discovering some new aspect. "The dunes themselves, and their minutiae, took over," he explains. "The inhabitants, the sunflowers, the insects and the ravens were all compelling."

Weller's impressive portfolio of pictures and essays on the subject resulted in Great Sand Dunes National Park: Between Light and Shadow, released by Westcliffe Publishers. At 2 p.m. today, he'll present an hour-long slide show of his work and autograph copies of the book at the LoDo Tattered Cover, 1628 16th Street. Reactions have been enthusiastic, although Weller notes that the positive reception presents a dilemma: "People see the book and say they have to go down to visit." He doesn't want to see the wilderness destroyed -- in fact, he's struggled with his own impact on the fragile ecosystem -- but he believes that publicity will help the dunes in the long run.

"People will only really preserve what they know and love," he concludes. "What I'm trying to do with the book is communicate a respect for the area that will infiltrate readers' minds." For information, call 303-436-1070. -- Ernie Tucker

Capture the Flag
Have some holly, jolly football
SAT, 12/11

Every December 26, chock-full of pent-up holiday-season frustration, my friends and I play football. Whether it's the allure of gridiron glory that draws us together or just the desire to beat the bejesus out of each other is unclear. What is clear is that by the time we're done, our T-shirts have long since de-sleeved, and we've left everything on the field.

The players whom South Suburban Parks and Recreation adult athletic coordinator Butch Reich comes across are equally gung-ho. But for the 8 on 8 Flag Football Holiday Sweetness Bowl, today at 8 a.m. at Lorenz Park, 8560 South Colorado Boulevard, the fellas get in the Christmas spirit and take it down a notch. It's for charity, after all: Reich donates all the proceeds, in the form of gifts for underprivileged children, to InterFaith Community Services of Englewood. This year's tourney features a special Punt, Pass and Kick competition, with both "Fat Guys" and "Skilled Guys" divisions. Participants must be eighteen or older. A team fee of $200 is required for the Bowl, and each team member is encouraged to bring a toy worth at least $20. For information, call 303-798-7515. -- Adam Cayton-Holland

 
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