The osprey has landed
My daily bicycle ritual usually takes me north of town, past the hospital to pedal along our rural county roads. On a windy day at the end of April, a most unusual scene unfolded as I headed out. I stopped to gawk at a crane grabbing hold of an osprey and lifting it almost 30 feet off the ground.
Before crying fowl, let me explain. The osprey weighed 2,500 pounds. I know this because the crane operator shouted the information out his truck window while he manipulated the crane’s hydraulics with the skill of a pinball wizard. The osprey was already familiar to me,
a commissioned sculpture designed and assembled by local artist Bill Teetzel at his studio north of town, before it arrived for installation at the newly constructed Osprey headquarters, just across the street from our newly constructed court building. Osprey is Cortez’s sanctuary for backpacks, not birds. The company designs, manufactures and sells a trademark with greater recognition than most actual ospreys.
A half dozen men scrambled to orchestrate a gentle landing for the sculpture after its awkward flight from a flatbed trailer, suspended by cables, swinging and swaying slightly as it came closer toward its permanent concrete perch. Famous for its expansive 6-foot wingspan, the osprey is impressive, but the record for any living bird’s wingspan is held by the wandering albatross, which can spread its feathers up to 12 feet. But who would want to go hiking with an Albatross backpack.
Teetzel’s osprey stands 9.5 feet tall and 18 feet wide. It, too, is impressive, constructed out of three gnarly sheets of half inch crusher screen slightly arced then welded in layers to form a 3-dimensional background relief. The company’s skeletal trademark bird is fastened to that wired slice of sky and once the lighting gets electrified, Osprey headquarters parking lot might feel more like some kind of theme park or tourist attraction.
While I admire the sculpture very much, what I admire even more is the way a community came together to make it happen. Osprey could have easily out-sourced the art project but they opted to work with local talent, ingenuity and sweat.
Standing among a growing crowd of onlookers, I recognized many faces involved in the undertaking. The crane operator whom I first met at parent-teacher conferences while his boys studied their way through high school – the same school district where his wife and I taught. A teacher who spends some of
his retired hours volunteering at the county jail instructing inmates wandered over to see what was going on, then vanished before I could say hello. The crew included a former manager from our local Empire Electric Co-op, a young Osprey employee assigned an eight-hour construction shift, and some friends who have worked with Teetzel for years, including Joanne, his wife, a nurse with a career in Four Corners public health. The scene smacked not of a business venture but of a neighborhood celebration.
Bill Teetzel has a vision he shared with me, of finding common ground between art and community, encouraging both to occupy the same gallery. His
salvage yard installation stands as a case in point. It occupies a roof at Belt Salvage south of town depicting two enormous metal vultures gutting the carcass of an overturned car placed up there, no doubt by another crane. Three companion vultures survey the highway nearby, as if waiting their turns or sizing up a fresh menu. The sculpture constitutes a reality adjustment, a lens where Bill adds perspective and humor. To a stream of amused tourists passing through, Teetzel’s vultures stand as goodwill ambassadors for the city of Cortez.
The word connectivity could be a source of confusion for those trying to grapple with the concept of community. Social platforms, followers, postings and traffic shape internet relationships for users trying to grow an audience. Donald J. Trump boasts over 51 million Twitter followers. He follows about 48 users. Katy Perry holds a Twitter record with almost 110 million fans. She scrolls through about 200. Apparently, these social media
communities run mostly with one-way streets.
To people growing a physical community, a social platform might be as sim-
ple as a neighbor’s deck where food gets grilled and glasses refilled. Followers are not encouraged, especially at night when we’re walking alone. Postings usually occur at the Post Office, or on a public bulletin board if a pet disappears or some possession loses its charm and needs to be sold. As community traffic increases, we might be advised to put in a few more signal lights, slow down, become more attentive. A hit on the internet is not the same when it happens while crossing a street.
Eventually I bicycled home, because the serious work of drilling concrete and installing 6-inch bolts gave me the willies. Building relationships can be constructive, but I’ve never been attracted to wearing a hardhat.