Say Hello


I'm from the South. We say "hey" to everybody. 

When my partner and I started getting to know one another, we would be walking down a sidewalk and when I passed someone I'd say "hello." She would inquire, "Do you know them?" I would respond in dismay "No." I was raised in a place where, when you get into close proximity of another human being, you said "hello". When you were driving down a narrow street or a country road you raised two fingers off the steering wheel at the passing car. 

We don't seem to do much of that anymore. 

We seem to go about our days with our eyes glued to our screens and our heads in the clouds or in the sand. We stick close to our tribes and our safe havens. We've all started becoming more comfortable with the "we" and the "them" — the dreaded "other." We don't 'see' anybody. But the minute you make an introduction, the moment you lift your head and raise an eyebrow or share a smile, you are connecting with another human being. You are acknowledging the sheer magnificence that you both exist, that you are in this moment together. And just that small recognition changes you both. It does. I'm not sure how, but I'm certain that it does. 

Maybe today you give it a try. I wonder where we'd all be if we just said "hello" more often. 

Trees. Trees. Trees.

We love trees. But we didn’t fully understand the complexity of urban forests until we started working with City of Boulder’s Forestry Division on their Urban Forest Strategic Plan. Now, when we see our Denver Parks and Recreation crews, we understand the daunting task of preserving and maintaining our beloved tree canopy. We now see the amazing environmental benefits and how our trees play a crucial role in the urban ecosystem– sequestering carbon, providing oxygen, mitigating stormwater runoff and improving our air quality. We also see the imminent threat of pests and diseases, such as the emerald ash borer, in wiping out large swaths of that canopy.

We take them for granted, these giants of our everyday. We tend not to notice them until they are taken down or broken due to crazy winter storms. But when asked how we connect to them, when asked to share a story about that connection, it doesn’t take much to conjure the depth and connections we have with them.

In part of our community outreach, we asked residents of Boulder to share some of their stories. What we received were photographs, childhood stories, poems, and drawings – some of which brought tears to our eyes. And reminded us that we are connected to our very core. Here are some of those stories:


Childhood City Trees

burnt orange bunches of
mountain ash berries
in my first backyard

pink spray of
weeping cherry, the sapling planted
at First Communion,
now topping the house

the so-tall sycamore
between sidewalk and curb
on Seminole Drive
with yellow smooth gaps where
long lengths of bark
sloughed off.

My sister and I peopled the
little moss-covered rooms of
convoluted roots with tiny
sticks and rocks,
a wild doll house

the dogwood in my grandparents' front yard
whose fleshy white petals
we tore, exposing the pink heart
whose low first branches
we clambered up, exploring

leaves arching above me in
our backyard hammock
filtering light into shade
yellow to green
heat to cool

hemlocks sweeping the
ground with soft needles
double-lined with white
inviting us to crawl under
their feathery shelter
each deep snow day

the solemn campus trees
whispering sage advice
casting deep shadow on the quad.

Once a squirrel dropped a
piece of bark right into my
open hand - magic confirmed.

we bring trees in our pockets homesteading
planting a promise
believing in a future of cool shade
and crimson autumn
we share our sighs and
their exhalations

we grow up together in a
tiny forest pocket
arboreal and urban
rooted in this place
where the hell strip
grows green

-Erin Robertson




We often notice trees as stationary plants that only move with the help of wind, rain or other natural elements. That helps us know they are alive. Another option is viewing the energy that trees emit. During the early or late hours of the day, relax your eyes as if you were caught up in a carefree daydream; focusing on nothing, but still capable of observing. View the edges of the tree and at times you can see shades of transparent silver against the sky background. Every living thing emits energy. Trees give us innumerable opportunities to be aware and connected.


-Steven McGaughey

The Three Sisters Tree: 
A Sunburst Locust Tree in Boulder
by Risë Keller

From age 6 to 9, I lived with my family in a tiny house on the alley behind a house on High Street, near Casey Middle School (then Casey Junior High). 

One day, I brought home a couple of the long, reddish-brown pods from a large tree on our school grounds, a sunburst locust. There were two of these trees at Lincoln School (now Naropa University’s Arapahoe campus). My mother and I pried the dried pods open and extracted the pale, tender seeds, which were about the size of my littlest fingernail. We put a few of the seeds in a dish with wet paper towels and set them on a window sill. We kept the towels damp and watched the seeds over the next few days. Some sprouted. 

My mother helped me plant the three strongest sproutlings in the ground. I felt cruel for abandoning the smaller ones we left to dry out and die. Two of the three sprouts we planted grew taller and stronger. Eventually, one became the clear winner. I don’t remember whether we pulled up the second plant or it died on its own, its roots crowded out by the larger tree, which kept on growing. 

Just before my family moved into the little house on High Street where I planted the sprout that became a tree, we had suffered a terrible loss: my little sister, whom we called “Baby,” died in a drowning accident. My mother was pregnant at that time. She gave birth to my new little sister at home. Even though we didn’t have our own telephone, the fire station was across the alley, literally about 30 steps from our front door, so we knew if we needed emergency help, it was right there. The birth went well and eventually my sister and I shared a bedroom. 

One day when my little sister was toddling around, my mother suggested, “Maybe you should call it the ‘Three Sisters Tree.’” At first I resisted. I had always thought of the tree I planted as “my tree.” But the trunk had developed three major limbs by then, so my mother’s idea took hold in my mind. 

By the time we moved out of the tiny house, the Three Sisters Tree had grown as tall as the house and cast shade on hot days. This tall tree still stands, having outlasted the razing of the little house where we once lived, its spreading, soaring branches casting shade over a small parking lot and carport behind a condo development. I still see it whenever I pass by on Broadway or 13th Street, and every time I stop and visit the tree I planted over 40 years ago, it feels like a reward for my childhood faith that a tiny seed could grow into a 60-foot tree.


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Adopted & Ratified

We have spent the past seven months working with our team (Logan Simpson and Ken Meter), Adams County and the City of Brighton to create a viable way forward for a historically Ag area south of Brighton. See full post. The main objective was to have consensus and a clear way forward on land use for the area. While there are still some landowners that object to the plan, it was unanimously passed by the City Council of Brighton and only one "nay" from the Board of County Commissioners of Adams County.

You can read the full draft plan here.

But this post isn’t necessarily about the work we did, but it’s one thing that really stood out to us as a common theme in this conversation and, I would assume, a national theme in the Ag community. It is alarming the amount of viable farmland that is disappearing in our urban fringes due to the development and density pinch. The American Farmland Trust says, "We lose nearly 50 acres of farmland every hour – and once farms are bulldozed and paved over, that land is gone forever." That's a big stat to swallow. But there is also another side to this conversation, and that is of the landowner wanting to sale. 

Terry met with a variety of landowners during this process. During one such visit, sitting around the kitchen table, talking about how her property has been passed down for generations and may be nearing its end. Mainly in its ability to provide a comfortable lifestyle from living off the land.  Sitting there as a guest in her home she generously shared the history of this place. One thing she shared stuck with us since that visit –that things must die in order for new things to emerge. In her mind, we suspect, she was speaking of the farming way of life and how it can no longer sustain families, a dying vocation for the modern way of life. In our minds this meant we have an opportunity to figure out how farming can live a new life, just one that looks very different from the traditional way of Ag.

Is it mad to think that farming can have a second life, in a place where landowners want to see ‘progress’? Progress being development, development that will afford them a retirement and an inheritance for their children and grandchildren– for a future that will most likely not take place in the same community. The data corroborates her point of view that this type of farming is a dying endeavor unfit to provide a lifestyle where prime jobs at $45K are sought after. What is the resolution that benefits people and the land?

There is no simple answer for this. One thing we do believe, is that we must be good stewards of this land in pursuit of viable solutions– whether that’s conservancy, new farming methods, clustered density with open space, etc. But we also understand that in order for there to be stewardship of this land or any other farmland resources, we must have champions and leaders that can hold a brave vision moving forward.

We are not so ignorant to think a philosophical declaration is where the story ends, –it is actually where it begins. What does the new Ag landscape look like? How can it serve and be preserved? How can public and private entities intersect to fill in the leadership gaps? We hope to continue our work and conversation in the Brighton District Area. To help create solutions and models for many of these questions.

We'll keep you posted. You keep your fingers crossed. 



Home: Part Two

We bought a house. Not a new house, but a house we will make a home. (It may help to read Home to fully understand the context of this article.) Finding a house in Denver right now is like finding the perfect wedding dress at Filene’s Basement. After we sold our last home, the race was on to find somewhere to land. We landed on a 1950’s ranch in the Sloans Lake neighborhood. We kindly refer to it as our “mid-century modest.” It didn’t look like it had been changed much since it was built- except for some pink soffits, pink shag carpet and some wood paneling. We knew it had great bones and a layout we could work with. 

What we didn’t know was that the house had one owner before us- William Seyfer. What we also didn’t know until we closed was that William (we affectionately call him “Bill”) built the home after getting out of the Navy in 1951. At our closing the broker brought us a scrapbook that Bill’s daughter, Sally, gave us that had a photographic account of the build. She also brought a story about the house that she scribed for her dad. Needless to say, I cried at the closing. 

We are in the middle of the remodel now. We’ve replaced all the systems. We’ve changed a few walls, and reconfigured some spaces, but for the most part, it’s the same. It’s not fancy. It won’t win any architectural awards. But it has an amazing spirit- a soul. It was evident to Terry and I when we first walked in, but it was confirmed by our dogs who just get crazy happy anytime we stop by. How is that? How does a house get a soul? And how do you feel it, how do you know it? It could be good design. It could be the love that was manifested there. It could have been built on some positive vortex of amazing energy. Who really knows, but you just know. Ya know. 

I’ve had trepidation about Sally or her brothers seeing that we’ve ripped open their childhood home to “update” it. As if it were to be held there in all of its 1950s glory- window treatments et al. I hope we are honoring the spirit of Bill as we move through new layouts and fixtures and flooring. I hope the space holds the ‘special.’ I hope that this becomes an example of taking something old and giving it a best new life. 

We think it’s important that we unearth the heritage and legacy of places and spaces. Especially the one’s in which we spend most of our time. I hope we do Bill proud in our efforts to restore. I hope we do us proud.