Every once in a while, people come along who touch those they know with their lovely and gracious spirits.
Leslie LaVerghetta is one of those people. The ovarian cancer she has fought for several years is beating her body, but not her soul, and her friends wanted her to know how much she is loved.
More than 100 of them spent Thursday employed in an old Japanese tradition, Senbazuru, folding 1,000 origami cranes. They came from all aspects of her life, from people she travels with to fellow members of P.E.O. Chapter FX, Friends of the Arts and the choir at First Presbyterian Church of Durango.
The custom is to string the cranes together and present them as a surprise to a person who is gravely ill, with the belief that the time and effort will bring the mojo of caring to them.
Friend Marilyn Swanson organized the event at the Durango/La Plata Senior Center.
Artist Chyako Hashimoto spent two hours teaching those who attended how to do the precise paper folding in the morning, and then they started folding, and folding and folding ... And with each delicate fold, a wish of love and caring was added to the individual cranes.
Hashimoto warned them that they probably couldn't fold all 1,000 in one day. And because it was the second time in recent memory she has helped a group in folding cranes, she has some experience in the matter.
But she didn't know the group was determined to do it in one day, come what may.
Swanson, her husband, Vern, Verlena Collentine and Dick Griffith strung the finished cranes together in strands of 50.
Seven hours after the group started, the stringing was complete and the task was accomplished.
Swanson said that the cranes were delivered to LaVerghetta on Friday, and she immediately had her crane folders hang them all around to brighten the room.
The experience of creation was spiritual for those who shared in the project. Not at all morbid, it was a time of joy and friendship, and many found it comforting to share the experience and their love for LaVerghetta with each other.
In another project for LaVerghetta, Missy Rodey organized a group of women to create a quilt, with each square featuring one of her interests, such as bicycles and bridges.
This is not the first time locals have gathered to fold cranes. Several years ago, a thousand cranes were created for Leonard "Red" Bird when he was undergoing cancer treatment. As far as I know, it was the first, although clearly not the last, time locals have adopted the custom.
---Here's wishing the best of Aquarius birthdays to Jesse Walker, Steven Scales, Derek Freienmuth, Regina Roark, Charley Wimoth, Denise Krispin, Sharon McAnear, Cally Roberts, Sydney Milner, Ann Christian-Dold, Jim Bolen, Sally Bradley, Pauline Murphy, Scott McCool, Mike Sarti, Kate Errett, Holly Englund, Jamie Hill, Terry Hoel, Dave Trautmann, Bryce Von Tersch, Katie Chicklinski-Cahill and Nikolas Henry.
Belated birthday greetings go to Mary Jo Paxton.
---Spellcheck may be everywhere, but it is far from perfect. So the art and skill of spelling still matters. And its importance is celebrated each Snowdown at the Adult Education Center's Spellabration, which was held Wednesday in the Henry Strater Theatre.
In the adult version of a spelling bee, teams of three from banks, schools, businesses and nonprofits compete in rounds that get more difficult as the contest proceeds.
Each team has one opportunity to buy back in after missing a word, and one chance to pass a word on to another team. There were a record number of 14 teams this year and two teams had to be turned away because there was no room left on or in front of the stage.
For the fifth year in a row, Beth Warren and John Dunn served as the masters or ceremonies. A group of volunteers managed the logistics of The Durango Herald-sponsored event, which was overseen by Kyle Conrad.
AEC Executive Director Paulette Church was responsible for handing out the prizes. Each team (and a few audience members) scored some swag from a wide variety of local businesses, including Ken and Sue's Restaurant, Subway, Quizno's, Yellow Carrot, Maria's Bookshop, Mountain Waters Rafting ... Yours truly scored for knowing that King Tut's tomb was discovered in 1922. (Sometimes a memory for strange and trivial facts pays off!)The words, as is customary, range from the easy - pyramid, obelisk and ignominy - to those no one had ever heard before, such as booboisie and zymurgy. Booboisie means stupid people as a class, and is the source for calling someone a boob. And zymurgy is the study or practice of fermentation in brewing. That's a word that folks in a microbrewing town ought to know.
The first team eliminated was the one sponsored by Bank of the San Juans, which had the word gasconade passed to them by their Eighth Street rivals, the First National Bank of Durango. The team's members, Amanda Robinette, Ryan Robinette and Ashli Wilson, each took home a bottle of champagne for their high spirits.
The Southwest Conservation Corps won the costume honors with one of the most clever concepts on our Snowdown in Da Nile theme. Landis Ehler and Justin Laursen wore white sweatshirts with big red 'C's sewn on. They stood shoulder to shoulder, and then stepped aside as Hannah Hanford, dressed as a man with a long beard, struck the stage with her walking stick. "Parting the Red Sea" was a big hit.
Honorable mention in the costumes went to Renee Sebestyen, Misty Matthews and Sue Johnson, who had created magnificent bright gold Egyptian hats. They are all teachers in Bayfield.
In the end it came down to three teams. Accountax CPAs, which has either won outright or shared bragging rights for the last several years, came in third after a minor mistake cost them the championship. Virginia Miller Cavanagh, Jean Walter and Mary Colgan forgot to capitalize Tutankhamen.
Then it was a duel between the Herald team, Wordslingers of Da Nile, made up of Danial Ciluffo, Jim Kerr and Brandye Turner; and the Mnemonmsters, a group of doctors whose spelling is clearly much better than their handwriting. My colleagues spelled valiantly, but could not get past a final-round mistake on atrabilious (melancholy, morose cross, black bile) despite coaching from Sam Rose. They won three roundtrip tickets on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.
Drs. Robert Bricca, Mark Saddler and Gus Hallin took home top honors with the words execration and sardonyx. They won an envelope full of Durango Dollars.
Congratulations to all of the teams who share a love of words.
---Enjoying happier results than Marc Antony and Cleopatra are these anniversary couples - Rollie and Ella Roth, Howard and Karen Preston, John and Beth White, LeRoy and Ellen Williamson, Malcom and Barbara Cannon, Eric and Debbe Speck and Todd and Trish Hutchens.
---For information about upcoming events and fundraisers, check Local Briefs.
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