Happy Holidays and Peace on Earth, December 2011 and for All of 2012.

Rancho Europa, 2083 Lazy Z Road, Nederland, CO 80466 USA

December 2011

Dear friends, colleagues, and family,

This year has had its difficulties and sadnesses, not unique to life here on our precious planet, but Clark, Y, and Rocko are basically fine and we are hoping that you are, too, as we look forward to 2012. There have been some evolutionary changes in our lives, as Y resigned from her Rotary club, having been a member for nine years, after helping lead the organization of its health fair in the spring. And Clark has voluntarily dropped to 90% of full-time employment with Southwest Research Institute. Y's back surgery early in the year was partially successful and we hope to be back on the ski slopes soon. Our immediate family members seem to be doing fine, including Clark's mother, who will turn 99 in a few months.

As we dig out from our 30-inch pre-Christmas snowstorm at Rancho Europa, we look back on our travels to new places, reuniting with old friends, and the exciting enterprises we are involved with. As the MESSENGER spacecraft entered its prime mission of orbiting the planet Mercury, the Science Team held more frequent meetings, which took us to Tucson, Washington D.C., Ann Arbor, and Annapolis. The trip to our previous home town, Tucson, was coincidentally shocking and sad, just a couple days after the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, only hundreds of feet from the building that housed the Planetary Science Institute in the early 1970s. NBC anchor Brian Williams stood on the roof just above Clark's old office to report on the sad event. We returned to Tucson in September to remember Tom Gehrels ("Mr. Asteroid," or "The Little Prince," as Y would say), and gathered with friends and colleagues to watch the fly-over by the Royal Dutch Air Force. Too many other friends, colleagues, and relatives -- young and old, many from Arizona -- passed away this year. Our memories of them will enrich our lives even though the pain of their loss will be felt as long as we live.

Music appreciation continued to be one focus of our activities, ranging from a balmy spring concert by the Moody Blues at Red Rocks, to the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, to the wonderful house concerts just a mile from our home in the foothills southwest of Boulder. We traveled to France in September, visiting the Nice Observatory, some of Y's old haunts in Eze and Monaco, and Nantes in northwest France...followed immediately by a week in the Twin Cities. We continued to enjoy hiking on mountain trails in Colorado. And we returned to our favorite Hawaiian island, Kauai, and had Thanksgiving dinner overlooking Hanalei Bay (check out the recent, excellent movie "The Descendants" to see where we were).

We have continued to actively oppose the proposed three-times enlargement of Gross Reservoir, a couple miles from Rancho Europa, which would further drain the endangered Colorado River and its tributaries, nominally to water non-native grass lawns in Denver. The long-delayed final Environmental Impact Statement may finally be released in the coming months.

We are anguished by the collapse of rational discourse in Washington D.C. and hope that 2012 will mark a turning point in recovering from the global economic collapse. We further hope that the uneasy peace in much of the world will be strengthened so that we may all turn our attentions to caring for each other and reaching out towards an exciting and productive future.

We look forward to our travels in 2012, beginning with the pristine Galapagos Islands where the animals, vegetation, and fish are preserved under a canopy of heavenly stars. Y will personally be saying: "Thank you Darwin for all of your scientific and evolutionary studies!"

We had intended this to be the hard-copy year in an alternating pattern of mailed greetings and on-line annual letters; but circumstances are making the USPS obsolete, so we'll probably be sending emailed greetings in the years ahead. Happy holidays and wishes for peace and recovery in the new year.

With cosmic hugs for all,

Clark, Y, and Rocko

P.S. This greeting and other important things are posted at www.ranchoeuropa.com.

Brian Williams reporting on the Tucson shooting from the roof of the old PSI building.

Y on the patio of the Newseum on Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington D.C. (May).

Crowd and setting moon at Red Rocks Moody Blues concert (May).

Mountains south of Breckenridge, Colorado (June).

Clark in the mountains east of the Arkansas River valley, Colorado (June).

Telluride, Colorado, from the pass over to Mountain Village (June).

Rafting on the San Miguel River, near Telluride.

Telluride Bluegrass Festival.

Rainbows over Rancho Europa.

Flyover by the Royal Dutch Air Force, during "Celebration of Life" for the late Tom Gehrels, Tucson (September).

L'Observatoire de la Cote d'Azur (Nice Observatory, France).

View of Nice from the observatory (September).

Aquarium fish in the Oceanography Museum, Monaco (September).

Monaco casino reflected in a giant mirror.

Mechanical elephant in Nantes, France (October).

Appetizers at a fine Italian restaurant, Nantes, France (October).

Conservatory in St. Paul's botanical gardens.

Y at the new Martin Luther King Memorial, Washington D.C. (November).

Y in the National Tropical Botanical Gardens, Haena, Kauai (November).

Rocko in December.

30-inch snowfall at Rancho Europa, December 22nd.