Dave got started in this world in the middle of the Eisenhower administration and spent much of his 1960s childhood on the streets of his Brooklyn/Queens neighborhood in New York City. Stickball, NY Yankees, touch football, riding the subways, street hockey, running just because he felt like it, and basketball are some of the words and activities that capture Dave’s childhood years during the autumn, winter and spring seasons.
But summers opened up a whole other world for him at his family’s summer bungalows in Mastic Beach, and then in Mattituck, Long Island. Nature became the center of Dave’s world during those magical summers “in the country.” Bike riding on country roads replaced getting around on city streets. Swimming, exploring the woods, boating the Great Peconic Bay, fishing, treehouses and tree climbing and dragonflies and beaches are where the seed of Dave’s love of Nature began to flourish.
Dave’s other love, music, provided the soundtrack for those early years – the Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, the Rascals, to name a few. A handful of guitar lessons early on helped Dave morph his love of listening to music into making music. The early 70s is when Dave began to find his musical home in the singer/songwriter world – a la James Taylor, Jackson Browne, and Dan Fogelberg.
It was around this time when Dave found his life partner, Helene. Dave and Helene’s teenage love affair led to their “bicentennial” marriage, the purchase of their first van, and the adventure of leaving New York City and finding their way to southern Colorado, where they have been living ever since. From their early days, Dave and Helene made music together. Their two part harmonies and catchy songs for children eventually found “The Van Manens” in the recording studio where they recorded four albums.
The Van Manens released four albums – three for children and families, and Earth Chants, a collection of chants and folk music geared towards adults. Listen by clicking on the album cover.
Dave’s life in Colorado has been a full one. While raising two children (and being there for two grandchildren), his professional endeavors, many in partnership with Helene, have included work as a musician, storyteller, workshop facilitator, songwriter, music teacher, curriculum and program developer, music therapist, nonprofit consultant, hike guide and naturalist, bus driver, outdoor educator, and small business owner. Among the many honors and awards Dave has received is the Enos Mills Lifetime Achievement Award by the Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education. He loves to grow organic veggies, bike, bird, cross-country ski, botanize, read, and practice yoga.
Early in Dave’s Colorado life, he began keeping a journal, where his passion for writing began to take hold. A few of his pieces were published here and there, but his writing took on a whole new meaning when he founded the nonprofit Mountain Park Environmental Center. Writing was a vitally important part of his position as Executive Director of MPEC – grant writing, newsletter articles, guest columns in regional publications, fund-raising appeals, marketing copy, policies and procedures… In 2005, Dave wrote and released a field guide to the flora of Colorado’s southeastern mountains entitled Plants of Pueblo Mountain Park.
Since stepping down as MPEC’s Executive Director a decade or so ago, Dave’s love of Nature, music and writing continues and is as alive as ever. His activism for Nature and wild places and his involvement with several nonprofit organizations are among the many themes that inspire his writing.
One more thing about Dave – he loves to walk, and hike, and backpack, and saunter, and run, and stroll – all on the original all-terrain mode of travel – his two feet. The 500+ mile Colorado Trail; wilderness areas; the sidewalks of New York City; hiking trails in National Parks and Monuments and Forests; sections of the Continental Divide Trail; walking paths and country roads – Dave has walked all of these, and so many more places. When the Covid19 pandemic hit, his primary tool for getting through it was walking. Chances are good that while you are reading these lines, Dave is out there moving his feet on some trail or road or park.