Western history Western Travel Writing Life

A Bittersweet Homecoming

When we left Pikes Peak behind for opportunities in Denver in 1992, a piece of my heart stayed behind. Fortunately, I have been able to maintain many strong connections with Colorado Springs, and have enjoyed new associations through my work as a writer and historian, in my role as a biographer, and in preserving stories of the west. My work has allowed me to enjoy Colorado Springs on many new levels.

This week, I returned to Colorado Springs to celebrate the launch of the latest book from the Pikes Peak Library District, Film and Photography on the Front Range. The book is a fine collection of stories about photographers in the Pikes Peak Region based on a history symposium on the topic presented a year ago. I was thrilled that a chapter I wrote and presented, “Artist’s Glen: A Tale of Two Photographers”, was included in the collection. It is the story of a pioneer viewist named William Hook, and a modern photographer, Paul Idleman. Although their work was separated by more than a century, they had much in common in their lives and their photographic quests.

As usual, the folks at Penrose Library and the other participants in the project were a dream team who combined their specialties regarding history, photography, and publishing. It was exciting to work with them, and a splendid honor to be included in the project. The book launch included a presentation by history professor Kathryn Sturdevant about female photographer, Laura Gilpin, which I found particularly interesting because of my special interest in Women Writing the West.

Unfortunately, the day and the celebration was tinged with sadness. The forests west of Colorado Springs were on fire, and the beautiful city at the foot of Pikes Peak was in peril. Those present were subdued and burdened with worry for those who were in danger of losing their homes and possessions. Everyone was affected, and knew people who had been evacuated. Expressions were of dazed confusion. If able to do so, does one carry on with everyday tasks, or is the guilt of such an extravagance too much to carry?

I am grateful for the celebration and to those who came out to welcome the publication of a special book and resource, and to the great people who worked on it. My heart is heavy as I leave Colorado Springs in a haze of worry and ashes. As I left Pikes Peak behind, I reacted as Kathy Sturdevant said Laura Gilpin would react. I took a photograph.

Joyce B. Lohse

Film and Photography on the Front Range
can be purchased from Clausen Booksellers
in Colorado Springs or the Pikes Peak
Library District.