We arrived at the dusk, under clouds of lightning.

We found the backbone of an ancient being—it stretched two miles into the ancient surf. We walked between its wooden pylons—now, just short stubs of wood encrusted with salt. It doesn’t take a lot to fill up this basin, or empty it either.

We found a stand of Ancients. Six figures facing the mountain and bowing. If the more you look, the more you see, if you look eternally you will see infinitely. I stood between them and faced the mountain and bowed. Then I moved on.

We found the spinal column of the backbone. An ancient wooden pipe threaded around by rusted wire. We stepped over it carefully.

We passed over mud flats, grass, and bones of seabirds.

We reached the water.

The ground and sky were charcoal. I removed my shoes and waded, up the spinal cord, feeling the salty blood of earth lap my ankles. I walked until I dared go no further—until the metal wires threatened the very life of me. I stood, near the end of the boardwalk, the backbone of an ancient beast—I stood, and watched the pylons in the water—I stood, and froze, one hand on my hat and one out to my side—I stood, and was hypnotized by the black and white of the moving, living, breathing water—I stood, where seconds were minutes and minutes were hours and hours were years—I stood, and saw the terminus, and could not reach it—like Moses and the promised land.

I leaned and put my hands in the water as a sign of devotion.

I returned, with my shoes in one hand and the spine of a seabird in the other, my bones made of salt, my head full of sky. I did not walk along the spinal cord. I left a bit of myself at the end of the dock, imagining sea monsters opening up their gullets at the end of the spinal column, hypnotized by the infinite water.

Now I am alone.



I. The Magician


I. The Magician

Rider-Waite tarot card

Rider-Waite tarot card

 Behold, I give unto you power, that whatsoever ye shall seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven; and thus shall ye have power among this people.

(Helaman 10:7)

Mormon Tarot ( 

Mormon Tarot ( 

As Above, So Below.

What once was Above—here—was 2500 feet of water. We are at the bottom of the Western Interior Seaway. It’s no wonder that a lot of people don’t have quite enough oxygen to breathe.

When you stand on the valley floor you can see that it’s the ocean. Sagebrush now, instead of seaweed, but it’s the same idea. Rustling wind instead of rushing currents. Flocks of wheeling birds, instead of schools of reeling fish.

(In the stars, I swear I saw the form of a giant, ghostly plesiosaur.)

“Time, and how she moves” by Ryan Perkins

“Time, and how she moves” by Ryan Perkins

As Above, So Below. God gave us gifts and I, for one, am determined to use them. It’s a form of consecration to render art to the service of God. I never thought I’d be the one to do something like this, but I’m the Desert Prophet now, I suppose, and almost all prophets are reluctant.

It’s the Magician’s job to make the desert blossom as the rose, and we’re doing it. Of course, I wouldn’t call new developments a “blossom”, per se, but above our heads is the Infinity Sign of the Land of Milk and Honey, and below our feet is swiftly blooming, failing flowers, and around our waists is a rattlesnake devouring its own tail, and thus unable to hear its own warning.

The Desert Prophet Somewhere in the Great Basin

The Desert Prophet Somewhere in the Great Basin

by me. 

by me. 


0. The Fool


0. The Fool

by Amrit Brar (

by Amrit Brar (

“I lived better when I was ignorant of the sun, tucked away in your chest.”

I am no knowledgeable authority concerning tarot. But one thing I do know about is the Fool.

The Fool is not the first card. The Fool is the card numbered zero. The Fool is the querent, before they even begin their journey towards knowledge. 

by The Mormon Tarot ( 

by The Mormon Tarot ( 

The Fool is unformed clay. The Fool is the Hero before the Journey. The Fool is Adam & Eve in the garden.

The Fool is me, at age 15, for the first time in my life struck with problems that were my own for solving.

The Fool is Icarus, flying, before his fall. No—the Fool is Icarus with two feet planted on the ground, and no wings to catch the air.

Before, and After.


Today I rode my bike past a place I used to live. What a strange feeling that is. And I couldn’t help it, I scoffed—“Oh, you thought that was a good life, didn’t you?” I scoffed at my past self, and in so doing, made myself a Fool.

But if I was a Fool then, that must mean I am a Fool now. How can it be, when my life seems so wonderful, that when it changes I will look back and think, “Oh, you thought that was a good life, didn’t you?”

To love makes one a Fool. Or at least, it makes me feel to be. How can I know if the affections of my heart are properly placed? When I look back it so often seems to be Wrong.

I do not like to be Wrong.

Maybe only the Fool can love without knowledge, without reservation. Naïveté will get you hurt but it allows for a pure love that can never truly return. Once the Fool has danced off the precipice.

But I am loyal to my core.

by me.  

by me.  


Icarus, Underwater.


Icarus, Underwater.

It’s quiet down here. I can still hear the wind far above, far away. The moon’s almost full, if I counted right. It’s hard to keep track of what was Before, now that it’s After.

When I press my fingers to my eyes I can still see the Sun, a circle flash of light on optic nerves to my brain. It’s dark down here, and cold. When the fishes swim by they shine with their own bioluminescence. Tiny moons and stars near the ocean floor. The Sun I hold only in my eyes.

There was Before, and now there’s After. The way your childhood feels like a different existence but you’re still the same person you were since you were fifteen. At what point did you wake up? Maybe I wasn’t conscious then. Maybe I am now. Maybe I was, for a while.

But now it’s After.

Sometimes I think I see the world. In dusty colors, murky, dim. The lights on the mountains aren’t so bright. Golden haloes dimmed, even though I couldn’t see them before. Can you believe I sometimes forget I am underwater!

I can still smell it sometimes. The Sun, the wax. The light on the water. Old buildings and quiet afternoons. Dust motes floating in sunbeams. Shadows under roof eaves. Red stucco. I can feel it under my fingers.

But that was Before, and this is After. I woke up and forgot I was underwater.

The light doesn’t filter down here.






There’s a glow behind the hills. There’s a glow on the hills, fire on the hills, the hills are burning.

There are birds above the fields. Birds on the fields, birds as dark clouds in the air, birds in the air, migrating.

At night I see Mars. A red eye to the South, unblinking. Never in my life have I seen Mars before. I see him every day now.

Last night I saw a red glow over the hills. Wildfire, in the canyons. Mars was glowing red in the heavens. A pinprick of light to another world that’s burning all the time.

Last summer I was eating peaches. Now I’m watching flocks of birds over the fields and the smoke plumes on the horizon. White and orange, settling into our lungs and staying there.

Every day I stumble through life as if in a dream world. What is reality? Everything seems so real when you’re buried neck-deep in it. I have so many perspective shifts I can hardly stand it. Raise my head above water and gasp the air in a valley filled with smoke. Wonder why the red eye of Mars is so close in the sky every evening. How much longer he will be watching me.

I am not awake till after midnight. I am not awake at all. I am in a dream world where everything feels strange and sad.

I am wondering how a human being is supposed to spend years and years and years of their life like this, or indeed, how one is supposed to live at all.

The fire is coming down the hillside.



Ace of Spades

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Ace of Spades

I found an ace of spades on the sidewalk. I am always finding things on the sidewalk.

“The ace of spades, the death card.” A mobster was found shot with the death card in his “bejeweled paw.” The US troops rained them down upon the superstitious Viet Cong, psychological warfare by the Bicycle Secret Weapon. “The ace of spades, the death card.” I found it on the sidewalk, rained on and trampled, and put it in my bag.

“All I do is wait in silence and dread,” Maggie said. What a poetic turn of phrase. I do not wait anymore. Because I do not want anymore, maybe. I am going places but I do not have any plans. I will take life as it comes, maybe. Patient and observing. Perhaps I will put down roots.

So let’s just talk about it. I am buying a house. Maybe. It was built 129 years ago. It is white and cream. It has original wood floors and an exposed brick interior wall. It has lead paint and needs new wiring. I love it.

I am terrified. To go about this venture all on my own. To pour a lot of money into fixing up an old dwelling. To have to work the yard! All for the sake of hexagonal yellow ottomans and maybe a pet crow? It is never enough/it is always too much. Easily bored and easily overwhelmed. I refuse to sit around and wait for things to happen but at the same time I do not like doing things on my own.

Do you remember when I went to Paris? All alone. I was terrified. Never having left the country before. Jet-lagged out of my mind in a big unfriendly city. Easily traumatized? Obviously.

But I wasn’t going to wait for anybody. I had things to do so I was going to do them. The same applies here. I cried outside of church for half an hour because this is a very scary thing to do when you’re alone and unsure of it.

Patient and observant? I don’t know. How can you be patient and observant when you also try to be moving? Maybe I am a tree, put down roots after all and let the branches move freely. I’m in no rush here. Perfectly content to eat Rockwell’s ice cream and think about blood sacrifice and religion.

And that’s it, you know—everything has a price. For mankind to live the sinless Man had to die. Is it wrong to say I wish we practiced animal sacrifice in modern religion? The intense tangibility of ending one life so another can keep on living. I can imagine myself sobbing at the altar of our God. I can imagine the endless red.

Everything has a price. Everything has two sides. I choose what I choose, and I must pay.

“Ace of spades—Port of Morrow—Life is death is life."


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On the Dark Sun That I Carved From Linoleum.


On the Dark Sun That I Carved From Linoleum.

I am resting.

I have been sick, in a manner somewhere between real and imagined, since the turn of the year. 

It's hard when your body feels weighty and dim and the afternoon sun begs you to sleep. Sleep in my warmth, sleep in my light, sleep in my silence. Momentum has always been my enemy. Any change in velocity or direction.

I am supposed to have been stitching away merrily for the past several hours. Oh, would that I could, Orange One. Would that I could.  My frame of tiredness is a bit too deep for even that. I lay on my side, alternating between reading East of Eden and drifting away drowsily. The afternoon sun calls me to dreaming.

Today I pulled my first prints since the first and last linocut I made in middle school. They are not perfect, but nothing is. And at least they are something.

My brother told me he wants to go out into the desert and play Em chords on the guitar. I told him to take me with him. There's a desert rat in me that wants to be let out, he said. I thought of sun and spare land and endless sky.

Last night I watched a video of modern bushmen practicing persistence hunting. Where you run down an animal until it collapses from exhaustion and heat. You know humans are better endurance runners than most animals. I watched the bushman run down a kudu and kill it so respectfully I wondered if I was even human. Laying on my back, feet up on the radiator—I will never reach the measure of my creation, not if that measure is what I had just seen on the screen.

Annie Dillard wrote of Eskimos in the frozen North, "running after the click-footed caribou, running sleepless and dazed for days, running under the long-shadowed pale sun, running silent all night long." Do the Eskimo's faces shine, she wondered, like the face of Moses when he descended from Mount Sinai?

I have been thinking about the sun. As an abstract concept, in symbols. Drawn over and over again in my notebook like an all-seeing eye. The squiggled lines of the painted-over metal sun affixed to the side of my chiminey. What happens when you stare at the sun? The earth will not support such a perversion.

I almost wore sunglasses to church today. As a performance piece, just to see what would happen. "Face the sun of my salvation." I cannot. There are so many mediating layers between me and whatever source of holiness is the Prime Mover of our world.

So in the meantime I will make art, I suppose. Draw the sun with black pen in my notebook. Sleep in the afternoon light.

I am resting. 



Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

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Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

I crack my scriptures open and in my head I hear the phrase

"...their barbaric religion"

spoken like it's a line from some book, or movie;

the way someone in the future describes (now-defunct) Christianity.



I have fallen on the page where Jesus tells the Twelve to drink his blood and eat his body

"...their barbaric religion" the voice said.



The 21st century LDS part of me tried to twist it, tried to tell me to see it as beautiful, as not troublesome at all—

But then another part said "no, embrace it."

And so I did.

I thought of the violence of it. The violence of eating flesh and drinking blood. Of Christ being torn and beaten. Of a hundred thousand lambs with their throats cut on the tabernacle floor. Of door posts smeared with red, of armies being crushed under the pounding sea.

Why is it necessary, this violence? Why must  there be violence, bodily violence, so mankind can return to God?

I thought of death as a door. Of the hundred thousand lambs opening it. Of the One Lamb opening it. I do not know why death has to be so violent. Why it needs to be so violent as we return to our God.

Indeed, "their barbaric religion."



I am tired of living a sanitized version of the gospel.

I want to be lit on fire. To see it as mythology. To stare the darkness straight in the face and see that it's ablaze.

To watch it burn with blood and bone and holy holy holy fire.



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The Rapture occurred on Center Street last night. Evidence: three (3) abandoned bicycles.

Looks like the only ones taken up to heaven were the holy men disguised as beggars, and maybe those few who took care of them too. My best friend was one of these, but she lives far away and these days we only communicate by letter. I suppose the only way I'll know she is no longer part of this corporeal sphere is if I never get another letter from her again.

We are Luddites, both, she always being so and me drifting so recently, after a fling with futurism and enough Twitter threads to make any sane person nervous. Now I am torn between the simple life and the mindless pleasures of modern convenience—to choose the slow and deep, or the fast and shallow.

Last night the Rapture occurred on Center Street, and I don't think anybody noticed. Though it's probably better that we don't know what we're missing out on—a dance with holy men and beggars alike, their salvation wrought by something greater than my meager coins—a dance in an immaterial sphere, my best friend playing the tambourine.






Sing me a song of your vast salty spaces, of your sagebrush, sand, and stars. 

God is always sending people into the wilderness. To the tops of mountains or into the desert for 40 years, to the great salty steppes of the Great Salt Lake valley. To learn what can be learned only in a wilderness, under blasted earth and blasted sky.

The sky tonight is no less than J. Alfred's evening painted and spread across a table. It hangs over the flats and the water in a periwinkle haze—is that the right word?—cavernous space, now that's the only word, space, with so much sky, so much salt, so much water, and as the water is a reflection of the sky the world is suddenly fractured and doubled—!

The ring of mountains holds it in. But only tenuously, just on the edges, blue bumps on the horizon, and if they weren't there the sky would fall into the water. 

God's always sending people into the wilderness and maybe Robert Smithson is no different. "Go," He said, "Go out into the desert and create thy work." Which is why we've got a spiral out into the middle of nowhere, a black spiral in the pink and white sand, in the algae and salt lie volcanic rocks (to my untrained eye volcanic), a spiral on the flats on the water. 

To walk the spiral is a meditation. A religious experience if you're so inclined, to worship at the altars of God or Art or Nature or maybe at some mix of the three. Like those labyrinths in churchyards whose journey is more important than the destination—pick your way across the white sand and black stones, there's nothing at the center but if you were looking for something maybe you should go back and start again. 

The sand's filling in the spaces between the black stones, scattering, burying. Process and decay are implicit, Andy Goldsworthy said—but this is a Smithson, not a Goldsworthy, and I don't know how he'd feel about his creation sinking into the salt desert. 

But he meant to sink his creation underwater anyway. He built it during a dry year—it spent the next 20 underwater. Now the salt sea is kept mostly at bay, held off by the slightest incline at 30 feet back—a choppy mirror mixing the teal and pink and orange colors of the sky into a dull lavender. 

The moon's pasted on the horizon like a child's transfer sticker, full and orange, transparent and wan.

And the only thing left to do is to walk into the great salt sea that's named this region. The water in this half of the lake is pink from algae, the same temperature as your body, and so shallow you can walk out 100 feet before it starts to go up your calves. Only later will it start to sting and cake salt on your legs—for now, to walk into this water is to walk into infinity. 

God always send people into the wilderness, into vast salty spaces where they can lose their minds. 

But the thing about space—spare, sandy, salty space—is that it does such a good job of existing that when you're there you have no choice but to exist too. Because, well—there is nowhere to hide under that much sky. There is nowhere to hide on that barren ground.

And as the land is what it is, so must you be too.

God is always sending people into the wilderness. Because—well, as they say—because he who loses his life shall find it, now isn't that something....?

All photos by my perfect sister Julia, who doesn't have a website or even an instagram to link to. What a shame.


A True Occurrence in the Sagebrush Steppe of Central Utah, or, Ghost Camping


A True Occurrence in the Sagebrush Steppe of Central Utah, or, Ghost Camping

Welcome to a 100% true scary story that occurred when I and several friends decided to go camping at one of Utah’s many ghost towns.


Allow me to introduce THE PLAYERS:

KAT, small and exceedingly clever human, usually seen wearing something black and skintight. Enjoys anatomically perfect animal illustration and amateur taxidermy. Definitely knows how to skin a rabbit.

JASON, solid, bearded human. Solid in personality too. Chemist, ceramic artist, and future dentist. Really good at making omelettes. Bonus fact: Married to Kat.

ROANOKE, Kat and Jason's scrubby teenage mid-content wolfdog. Prone to laziness, wandering, ambivalence toward people, and looking creepy when the light hits his eyes just right.

THICKET, Kat and Jason’s four-week-old coyote puppy. Pretty much a useless bean at this point. Spent the duration of this story in her little den under the passenger seat of Kat and Jason’s truck.

JOEY, extraordinarily tall and skinny human (read: so much limbs), good-natured and wildly creative. Often stops dead in the middle of conversation, whispers “I trust you,” and trust-falls backwards. 

and ME, extremely average-sized human (if a bit on the scrawny side). Read too much Edgar Allan Poe in high school and likes spooky things only in theory; is actually a huge weenie.


All this occurred on THE STAGE:

The ghost town of Latuda, an early 1900's mining town in Utah’s scrubby sagebrush steppe, five miles up the canyon from the small (living) town of Helper. Inadvertently,  the night of the full moon.


And the reason we’re here is THE GOAL: 

Experience something spooky.



We came to visit the ghost town Latuda—up here in a creepy canyon full of abandoned buildings. I was scared even coming up here—I saw a family of five walking down a trail on a family hike and I felt a bit more okay.

Joey and I had driven down together but separately from Kat and Jason. During the hour-and-a-half drive down Spanish Fork Canyon he and I listened to music and talked about the physics of love and gravity. The views down the canyon were incredible—though I feel like I spent half of the drive trying to craft an Instagram caption instead of looking out the window. We almost ran out of gas halfway through and had a tense 19 mile countdown to a gas station in the middle of nowhere.

Phone service was terrible and Kat and Jason got a bit ahead of us—when we finally rolled into Helper we got a text from them to meet at the Pick and Rail Market off the main road—we saw their red truck in the parking lot but the couple sitting inside was in their 60s at least—“How long did we keep them waiting??” Joey asked. After the imposter truck drove away we decided they had gone up the canyon without us, and went to follow suit...

After several miles up the canyon we saw the real red truck driving toward us—“You guys, we found buildings, it’s spooky,” Kat said when they stopped. We all drove up the canyon, started seeing odd buildings on our right, odd concrete and brick, fallen apart things that gave into the winds and skies when their human owners departed—but we passed them for now, and drove to the road the map said was the entrance of Latuda... a giant fallen tree. A giant dry twisty thing with silver bark and scattered branches everywhere. Totally obstructing the road to our ghost town goal. 

That wasn't going to stop four intrepid ghost hunters, though. The sun had gone down in the valley and now it was actually getting quite dark. I gave Kat my leggings to put over her shorts, everyone grabbed a flashlight or a headlamp, and we climbed over and around the tree and set off on the trail...

We were ghost hunting but we had a little ghost following us. Roanoke the teenage wolfdog, acting odd and skittish with a white light glowing from his collar so we could find him easily and flat green disks reflecting from his eyes when the headlamps hit him right. I found it odd that he was acting so reluctant and scared, hanging back 20 feet or so like he was—but Kat said he's lazy, Kat said he's weird whenever he's in a new area and besides, he had never gone hiking at night—it was only later that we realized the light on his collar was actually blinding him.

We went up the dirt and gentle climb. I wasn't worried too much about either ghosts or trespassing because the ground was filled with footprints and horse dung—though honestly the supernatural element was the primary concern. It was dark but a full moon was rising, yellow as old lace and turning the color of the sky around it red. Jase had a big light that was sometimes white and sometimes orange—Joey had a flashlight, Kat had a headlamp, and I tried not to be the last one in the pack.

We didn't really know where we were going—we passed one abandoned, falling-apart structure but didn't see any others. A stone that looked like a giant skull in the last fading light of evening. Keep shining your flashlight down the ravine—see if you see anything.

The wind blew alternatively hot and cold. Roanoke still hung back twenty feet—shouldn’t that be telling us something? Eventually we stopped—how much farther? The map said we had passed the spot where there was supposed to be a ghost town—"Is it out there in that dark mass that's absorbing all the light?" Jason asked, shining his floodlight into an especially dense blackness at the top of the hill. At that moment a cold wind blew.

That was too much. Back down the hill we went.

It was spooky, sure. But it wasn't...too spooky at this point.  

As we went down the hill the conversation turned less tense and more ordinary. No ghosts up the canyon tonight—at least not that we could see. Maybe we could go down the road and visit some of those old buildings we had passed on the way in.

As we rounded one of the final bends I gave Joey my water bottle to hold onto for a second. I took it back and chatted with Kat and Jason about camping—we turned off the light on Roanoke's collar (making him suddenly start acting a lot less weird—poor guy had been blinded), and at last we made it to our giant broken tree blocking the path, our cars on the other side.

Jason shone his light high up onto the broken branches so Kat and I could find our way across. As we picked our way across the gray branches, Jase suddenly asked… "Where's Joey?" 

Kat and I stopped and turned. Jase stood alone on the path. One, two, three—there were only three of us there amongst the sagebrush, under the white light of the moon. Joey was simply...gone.  

"Joey!” Jason voice echoed off the canyon walls. “Joey! joey! joey..."

Had something happened to him back on the trail? Had he fainted, or fallen into a ditch, or gotten carried away? People don’t just disappear like this, don’t just vanish without a trace. 

I mean, except in horror movies, I guess.

We started back up the trail, to go back and look for him. Where was the last time we had seen him? The last time I knew was when I had handed him my water bottle when we rounded that bend...

We heard something snapping twigs in the brush.  

We all froze. Jason shined his light down on the sagebrush down by the fallen tree. So this is how it ends? I imagined whatever natural or supernatural being that had snatched Joey emerging from the brush and snatching us too.

"It's just baby coyote,” Jason said after a long pause. "Making noise in the car."

I didn’t believe him. But there was no use standing here staring. 

We started up the trail again. Jason shone his light into the brush. We all called his name. "Joey! Joey! Joey! Joey!" I thought about how silly it was that we were shouting such a juvenile-sounding name for a grown man. I wondered if any other campers heard us, what they would think we were doing. I prayed, "Dear God, please help us to find our friend."

The moon shone.

We went back up to the place where I definitively remembered last seeing him. The curve in the road where I had handed him my water bottle.  

There was absolutely no trace.  

"Joey!" Jason shouted again, and I will never forget the sound of that name echoing off the canyon walls.

There were three parts of me. The first part thought something natural (but still terrible) had happened to him. He had been attacked by a wild animal, he had gone off the path and fallen down a ravine. He was hurt or unconscious, he couldn’t hear or answer our very audible cries. “Fainting can happen so quickly,” Kat kept saying. But if he had fainted on the trail, then where was his body? Where were the marks in the dirt of him being dragged off into the brush? But the trail was undisturbed and empty. There was nothing but sand and sagebrush and sky.

The part of me that believed this wanted to go back to Helper and call the police. Find him with searchlights and dogs more worth their salt than Roanoke, who was still trailing behind us like a reluctant teenager. I imagined a group of volunteers with floodlights combing this brushy hill, calling out Joey's name.

The second part of me thought that maybe he was playing a prank. Maybe even that Kat and Jason were in on it. “Did you know anything about this? Did you…?" But they said they weren't, and when Jason asked about it, I thought about his fake trust falls and said "He's kind of a prankster, but not this kind of prankster." It's not that funny, is it, when your friends are calling your name so loud it echoes off the mountains, when your friends are talking about calling the police? Yes he's a prankster, but would he really take it that far? 

And the third part of me thought that it was something supernatural. We were looking for a ghost town, after all—and Joey had disappeared completely, and without a trace. What had taken him? And which of us would be next?

This part of me only prayed to God that it would not be me.

These three parts of me were absolutely, completely equal as we walked in the light of the moon and the blue up the path of a sagebrush mountain, calling into the night.

After we reached the bend where we had last seen Joey for certain, Jase's light suddenly started to die. It was too creepy, it was too much. “Let’s just go back,” I said. Go check out the cars, go to town maybe. Call the police, hopefully.

We had made it partly down the hill when Jase's dying floodlight lit upon the cars. The doors of Joey's silver car were open.  

And then

we saw

 from the back of Kat and Jason's dark red car 

two twisted hands.

First one hand, then two hands, twist grotesquely from behind the car onto the roof. Joey's hands. I knew those were Joey's hands.

"Joey you motherfu..." Jason began. But then stopped.

Because suddenly a hunched, arched, naked body came into view, and I knew we had three options: 

1) Joey was pranking us

2) Joey was possessed

3) Joey had actually gone crazy.  

In my mind all three options were equally possible.

The body lurched itself into the roof of the car. It was Joey's body—those were his jeans, his shoes scrabbling against the roof of the car, his hair dark and disheveled. It kept its head down and we could not see its face—we could not see its face but I knew if it had blood on its face we were not going to be getting out of here alive.  

Joey—or Joey's half-naked body—lurched and slid across the roof and down the front of the car. Disappearing behind the broken tree that was the only thing separating us from the madman on the other side. Jason threw his stick at it as it slid down the windshield. He missed and it was gone from view.

"Has he actually gone insane?" I asked.

Kat picked up a stick. I held my water bottle, it was my weapon—these sticks were too light to do any damage anyway—

"Fire a shot into the air," Kat said to Jason.

I looked at Jason. A short but solid man, the only thing between us and the distorted thing on the other side of the fallen tree. If there was a fight he could take Joey, couldn't he? But what about possessed Joey? And what about crazy Joey?

So Jason walked down to the car. I watched, my hand on Kat's shoulder—I don't remember putting it there—was he really just walking toward that red car when a lunatic could be slithering underneath it? Who knows where he was at this point— 

I watched Jason approach the car. I watched him open the door. I watched him grab something from the side of it.  

"Into the air," Kat said.

I watched him raise his arm to the right. In his hand there was a silver pistol.

I watched fire burst from the barrel as the shot echoed around the canyon.

The sound faded away.

Suddenly I saw Joey lying on the ground, outside of his silver car. He was wearing a dusty long-sleeved black shirt—did he have that shirt before...?

"Where...where am I," he said.

Jason shone the floodlight into Joey's face. He sat up and blinked into the beam. I couldn't stop staring at his scruffy beard and mustache illuminated in the yellow light.  

Joey and Jason stared at each other for a long time. "What the hell, Joey," Jason said finally.

But I still didn’t know who he was, not really. 

Gradually me and Kat picked our way across the gray tree to the other side with them. I didn't like the way Joey was grinning at me while I crossed. I didn't trust him anymore—was he really possessed, was he really crazy?

It took several minutes for the charade to fall. I only knew it was a prank for sure when Joey said "I had a wig I was going to bring, but I forgot..."

  "Dude," Kat said   "We almost shot you."

It took awhile for all of us to finally settle down. Jason had legitimately been about to shoot Joey, for goodness sake. Kat hadn't even known it was him—she thought a random crazy man had ransacked our cars. And I, knowing that I am actually a huge weenie, was shocked at how calm I had been. 

And Roanoke? He was useless.

Eventually the details came out. Joey slipped away and crawled through the bushes just moments before Jason noticed he was missing. He hasn't been planning on doing this exactly, but the whole time he had planned on doing something...

After it was all done he came up and hugged me. "I'm normal again."

“I don’t trust you,” I said. 

We decided that was enough terror for one day—the abandoned buildings could wait till tomorrow—and went about setting up camp. It was a simple thing of building a fire and setting up one tent—Joey and I sat on the bed of Kat and Jason's truck while he held the coyote pup and I ate summer sausage and fed it to Roanoke for tricks. We built a fire and burned sagebrush on it, which smoked like incense to another world and lit up the sky with more sparks than what was strictly comfortable. I pulled out my guitar and played every song I had chords for on my phone, to varying degrees of success—but however mediocre my singing or guitar playing, Kat asked me what a few songs were and said she liked the songs I had chosen, and I kept seeing Jason watching me in the firelight.

So now we're all bedded down for the night. Kat and Jason in the bed of their truck, Joey stretched out in his car, and me, alone in the tent with my favorite teenage mutant ninja wolfdog for company.

I'm laying in a mesh tent under the light of a full moon. Roanoke is curled to the right of my feet—the green light on his collar flashing at slow intervals. That's not the only light in the night tonight—the fire is an orange glow through the walls of the tent. The light of the moon is whitish blue.

The moon is shining full and bright and I sometimes think I can hear creatures in the broken tree behind my tent. I didn't know if I'd be able to sleep so I thought I might as well write out the events of the evening.

I prayed to my Lord and my God in thanks that we're all safe, in thanks that I found my friend. That everything was okay after all. 

And you know...

I didn’t mean to still be here this late in the summer. I meant to be somewhere far far away, in a new city with a new job, building a whole new life. But as scared as I am of having a career that doesn't go anyplace, of being someone that amounts to nothing—this was the kind of night that is unforgettable, and maybe it's not such a bad thing to spend summer in Utah after all…?


I'm Five Miles Away


I'm Five Miles Away

When I was a child my father would tell us stories about shapes in the forest or Indian burial grounds. When it rained and the light was turquoise blue he would tell us a story about a man who was home alone at night when he received a phone call. In the story the man heard a gravelly voice on the other end of the line—"I'm five miles away." Click. In a few minutes the phone rang again. "I'm four miles away." Click. Until the voice on the phone said “I’m right outside your front door," and then my dad would jump on us and tickle our sides, and I can't remember if the story had any end. 

My father's father was a yellowed husk of a man when I knew him, pallid in a black chair and bald as an egg. My brother and I pushed him around the parking lot in the evening, two little kids barely able to manoeuver his wheelchair over the speed bumps on the asphalt. He died of an explosion in his brain on my brother's sixth birthday and I can't remember if I was sad, and when he was a waxen corpse at the funeral home I can't remember if I touched his body. 

They say he could smell oranges when oranges weren't there. And they say this is why my father grew up on a diet of cow's tongue and my grandmother worked at the library. And so I blamed my father's father for the way my dad still sometimes goes into conniptions at the thought of spending money, I blamed him until the day I read the letter that said my father’s father would never leave the church building until all the chairs had been put away. 

My father's father's father did not die of the black lung. He died of his lungs being scraped raw with silica, he died of his lungs being filled with sand. They say he fought in the war but I'm not sure which one, all I know is that a bullet struck his backpack when it should have struck his head and that's why I’m here. 

This is the man who came across the sea. He lived in Montana but he was not born there, he was born in the smallest town between the two smallest countries to the east of Italy. They called it Wooden Church Upon the River. 

My father's father's father's father had four children that I know of, whose names I cannot pronounce. My father's father's father's father's father had a second son with almost the same name as a Slovenian man I knew in Munich, who I will never see again. 

I know nothing of my father's father's father's father's father's father besides his name. But I wonder if he also had explosions in his mind, if he could smell oranges when oranges weren't there, if a bullet ever found his back when it should have found his head.

I think of my father and my father’s father’s father and my father's father's father's father's father's father and I wonder if any of them ever thought about the colors of the sky—because if not then where did all these colors in my mind come from? I cannot live if I cannot trace the source of the fire in my blood, if I cannot explain why my father's sister plays so many instruments or why her son who I have never met travels the world with his harmonica—I cannot live if I cannot explain why I cannot sleep at night if I have ideas in my mind, I cannot live if I do not know whether my father's father's father's father's father's father was ever compelled by the same undeniably cosmic hand to create, to create, to make something, everything, anything.

I know nothing of my father's father's father's father's father's father besides his name. But I know of his son and his son's son and his son's son's son and his son's son's son's son's son's son because I am his daughter.

But if my children who do not exist except for in my mind ask me someday why their minds are full of fire oh then what am I going to say—!



Corn, Altitude, Garbage


Corn, Altitude, Garbage



Today I am sick for no reason.

Maybe it’s the altitude. I met someone who said his son is never sick like this at sea level.

But I grew up at a higher altitude than this.




I can’t focus my eyes or my

brain or my



like my body is made of


or something

my brain is made of


my heart is made of


or something

and I didn’t even eat anything that I’m allergic to.



(Last week I ate two corn tortillas,

lovingly hand-patted by a Mexican grandmother, her eyes closed like she did this in a dream, her hands moved rhythmically as she stood over the black stove—

I feel sicker today than I did then,

and I am allergic to corn tortillas.)





There was a girl at my high school,

who I never talked to but saw all the time.

She was cripplingly shy but was always dressed at the height of fashion,

or at least the height of Colorado Springs high school fashion,

as if she thought that she would be able to make friends by

dressing in the


of Colorado Springs high school fashion—

But I only ever saw her alone with her head down,

I’m not even sure if I ever saw her face, I only ever saw her alone with her head down.


I think about this girl every now and then.

I hope she moved on past my dumb high school.

I hope that she found a way to raise her head.

I hope that she found friends.


But I don’t know what her face looks like,

And I have no idea what her name was,

And so

I have no way






(Am I dead? I think i’m dead.)






Oh, would that I were a flock of blackbirds, the next iteration of the dinosaur wheeling in the sky in unknowable formation, instead of a pseudo-intellectual kid who has to decide in which city she wants to spend the next x number of years.

Oh, would that I were the cloud of steam rising from a power plant, lit from below and within by yellow mercury lights, instead of a sentient being that can’t see itself from the outside.

Oh, would that I were the cancer and the cure, invisible and paradoxical, instead of just paradoxical and left here to try to resolve it all.



Venus, Unblinking


Venus, Unblinking

“The world is such a beautiful place…and such a sad place."

"Did you just say the world is a beautiful place and a sad place?” Tammy said.


Last night I stepped outside into the dark and unexpectedly burst into tears at the sight of Venus shining bright and unblinkingly in the cold night sky, the third time in two days that such a thing had happened because of the sheer unexpected beauty of something.

Today I learned there are two types of optimism. There is the type that breeds complacency, the type that whispers in your ear to to sit back because “Everything will be fine,” and “Everything will work out eventually.”

And then there is the type that burns a fire in your blood. The type where your hope is born from the knowledge that things can be improved when you work hard. When we work hard. This is the kind that refuses to sit back, to let time pass and watch the chips fall. This is the type that fulfills its own prophecies, because that is how prophecies are meant to be fulfilled.

Months ago I eschewed this first type of optimism and with it any sort of hope for a better world. Luckily today for no reason whatsoever I realized that the second type of optimism exists.

(I believe in God.)

In the mornings when I wake up sometimes my mind is filled with puns or epiphanies and sometimes it is filled with nothing at all.


Tammy: "Do you think the world is more of a sad place or a beautiful place?"

Me, without a doubt: "Beautiful."





 “This medicine might leave the taste of metal in your mouth,” they said.


My mouth is full of metal.


I'm sorry if I'm all a bit too much. It's all a bit too much for me too. I'm either dancing on top of the table or I'm curled up in a ball hiding under it. If I'm excited to see you then you'll know it. I'm sorry if I'm all a bit too much, I don't mean to be. 


I saw an angel today on the sidewalk. A tiny pair of wings knotted together in a tangle of bones. Either the Fates or some other odd person gave it a halo made of pine needles, and in the afternoon sun it glowed like an Icon. "Hawks don't care much for the wings," Kat said.


When the wind blows these days I feel it in the top of my lungs and in my bottom teeth. I taste metal across the back of my tongue like I've drunk liquid iron and I try not to gag. I taste it even more when the wind blows, and I don't know why.

They say that even adult humans sleep better with the rocking movement a train. I guess we never really leave the time when we grew from a nothing into a person inside of our mother.

Three days a week I look at my 50% opaque reflection in the deep blue of the train window and think about how the adult world tries to crush everything childlike out of you. And as the trees and the fields roll by in morning and evening blue I worry that someday I won't be able to see the lights on the mountains anymore.






Isti Mirant Stella (Dec 20)

These people marvel at a star.

Once along this stretch of road an oil truck bucked and rolled and cut a wide broad swath of fire, it left a black trail in the long yellow grass like the jagged scar of a distant surgery or the internal twisting path of a plunging ranula.

We live lives of parallel existences, delineated not by time but by place. Lives that stop and start and continue by geographical location, and when we come back that version of ourselves picks right up where we left off.

Or maybe that’s just me.

This stretch of road is in the center of the American West but this stretch of road looks just like Iceland. It’s only a matter of time before ugly new developments pop up like mushrooms, because I guess there’s nothing more Western than sprawling outward like some kind of unconsidered fungus.

I’ve ridden this stretch of road a hundred times but I’ve never driven it. I’ve never really driven very far at all.


In the mountain valleys the sun sets at noon.

It’s the end of the year and these are days that I spend very carefully. These are the days that time seems to stop, the only time when the in-between space doesn’t feel like both the sentence and the prison, the only time when the in-between space does exactly what it’s supposed to do. I wish I weren't so easily abstracted and distracted by the whole wide wondering world, but I guess there’s a purpose to the manufacture of noise-cancelling headphones and couches hidden in the corner. I want to be left alone in the half-dark where I can sit in interior corners or hide under tables, but I live in a world of 2600 Kelvin light and voices telling me it’s time to come to dinner. Csikszentmihályi hypothesized that the more time you spend in a creative flow state the happier you’ll be, and I too have felt time disappear in obsessive fixation because as I was told once time doesn’t actually exist for creative people.

But time passes, as it always has.

I am perpetually wiped out by emotion. In these twelve months I have had both my highest highs and my lowest lows to a degree I had not thought possible. You always turn into everything you’ve misunderstood and this year was no exception. I miss riding my clunky silver bike on rainy European mornings more than I can express but at least I learned the allure of alliteration and a lot of other things I have not lost yet.

A year ago everything made so much sense, far more sense than I ever could have expected to deserve. And now nothing makes any sense at all. Maybe someday things will make sense again but as Amélie said, “Times are hard for dreamers.” One can only be disappointed so many times before becoming a preemptively disappointed idealist.


I wanted to write this and say that I was hurt. I wanted to write this and say Look At All These Things I’ve Lost. For four months I gained the whole world but within one week in August I was first more and then less than I have ever been. I never could quite get up after being knocked down but that’s what happens when you spend your entire young life getting good grades at school and then all of a sudden you’re not so good anymore.

This year I was delighted. I was elated, I was giddy, I cried at the sky wondering how things were working out so well, I was overcome.

This year I was broken. I was choking, I was crushed, I cried at the sky wondering how things had gone so very very wrong, I was overcome.

But right now I am none of those things. The sun is down and the air is blue and I am standing at the counter putting the dishes away and for once in my life I feel quiet, I feel quiet, it is the end of the year and I can see things as they are.

I am sad and I may be for a long long time. But I have always said I do not regret a single thing that has happened to me. It’s impossible to feel in the moment but tonight I am full of an undeniable sense of faith and I do not know why. I believe in God and I believe that things make sense to Him even when they do not make sense to me. In these days at the end of the year the air clears and I know I was immeasurably blessed so I will take from it what I can.

My dad stood at the sink tonight holding a bouquet of roses tightly in his fist. He laughed to himself as he cut the stems but did not loosen his grip on the thorns. "Makes me appreciate someone else who dealt with thorns,” he said.

This year I have often thought of the myth of Icarus. Of the dangers of both ambition and mediocrity. Because it never was the sun that killed Icarus. Daedalus warned him of the waves just as much as he warned him of flying too close to the sun. And in the end it was the waves that did him in—

This year I had the chance to fly very high but the waves do not have me yet.


You Can Call It a Common Pigeon Or You Can Call It a Rock Dove and Depending On What You Call It You Will See Different Things.

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You Can Call It a Common Pigeon Or You Can Call It a Rock Dove and Depending On What You Call It You Will See Different Things.

You Can Call It a Common Pigeon Or You Can Call It a Rock Dove and Depending On What You Call It You Will See Different Things.


In 2015 I learned that some things make sense and some things don't. In 2016 I learned that some things you have control over and some things you don't.

When I was younger I could smell snow on the wind. Now the mountains are washed out with nitric oxide and tropospheric ozone and the sun shines through it like smoke.

I walk slow.

The creative endeavors of my past are washed out but it's so hard to be in a hurry. Give me unlimited time and enough structure and I'm sure to get to it eventually. Give me no time and enough structure and you and I will both be amazed at what I can do.

The sun's unnaturally warm for mid-November and I would rather have the cold because of the implications. Today at church I won't be able to see my mountains. I walk through the halls and all I can think is that there's so much creative content produced in the world.

Years ago I developed a system where I stay up as late as humanly possible so when I finally go to bed I can actually sleep. Unfortunately now it's all I can do to lay there staring at the blue or wake up gasping from half-sleep at three in the morning. Maybe it's the supermoon or some other force from the sky, but I don't want to accept the way things are because then I might never get back to the way things were before.


As if I could get over this just by willing it.



(Or can I...?)

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I Never Thought I'd Be Sobbing As A Result of Politics But Here We Are. (Nov 9)


I Never Thought I'd Be Sobbing As A Result of Politics But Here We Are. (Nov 9)

Do you remember when I played the violin? Do you remember when I stopped playing the violin because I am no good without extrinsic motivation


Do you remember when I played the violin for seven years and when I stopped it was like my insides had been torn apart and a piece of my identity was gone.


When my second-most beloved teacher died in high school I mourned him more than the death of my own grandfather. I mourned him more at the time but his presence is not the one I feel when I'm up late enough at night for there to be demons in my living room, he is not the one I cry about when I stand at church pulpits.


In the triviality of the modern age there are secret websites that sell downloadable prints and patterns to purveyors of fast fashion that make all of us look the same. It's not even a choice to be sheep anymore when your mindset is controlled by social media algorithms. Ideology is sold in the [less] expensive fashion magazines. Music is produced like hamburgers on a line.


In the triviality of the modern age a man in a red sweater can bloom and die in under one week like a virality rose and so there's something to be said

when a song that is two weeks old

is as relevant as a song that is fifteen years old

is as relevant as a play that is a hundred and twenty-one.






The nice thing about being a person who doesn't wear black is that when you wear all black and nothing but black in the wake of an arguably cataclysmic event


at least everyone knows that you're mourning.




The Art of Caring Too Much

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The Art of Caring Too Much

"Positive feedback draws attention to the fact that the receiver is advancing in the right direction and indicates what he or she has achieved with respect to the goal that was set, which enhances the receiver’s appraisals of self-efficacy.

“Negative feedback, by contrast, draws the recipient’s attention to what went wrong and what still has to be done, which may evoke uncertainty and fear in the recipient, the more so because negative feedback evokes the possibility of failure."

Perceived Self-Efficacy, Personal Goals, Social Comparison, and Scientific Productivity, Vrugt & Koenis, 2002



I’ve felt fragile for a month and a half now.

A month and a half ago I got on a plane. It was the 21st plane I had gotten on in a 14 month period and I won’t be going that kind of distance again for a while.

“I’m going to be on fire,” I said when I was asked what it was going to be like when I got back.

But then—what is this?

I never expected that the structure built up in my chest would constantly feel so close to tumbling. We pulled one too many blocks out of the Jenga tower and now there’s a kind of tremor in my hands and my eyes. There’s a film between what I used to be able to do and what I do now, and what if I’ve forgotten how to make anything...?

When I was sick in high school I was on such an edge that I was stupidly high-achieving. And now maybe I’ve used up all my adrenaline because you can only care so much for so long before you get tired, so tired, why am I so tired and I’m only 22 years old…?

I want to talk with my friends and look at the mountains and look at the sky.

I want to ride my bike on Sunday afternoons in the late summer sun. Riding bikes in a skirt outside of time and place, because are side streets in a Western town still relevant in the 21st century…?

I’ve felt fragile and damaged inside since this my last first day of school. I learned from having OCD at age 15 that one stimulus can morph into another and create slow-moving shockwaves that flow throughout your life for years and years and years and years—that aftershocks pop up intermittently—that caring too much buckles you to your knees until you have to learn how to care again—

Because caring too much is and has always been my problem, people keep telling me that I’m "a bit much", to “ maybe tone it down a little” and avoid the extremes—

—and I always thought they were wrong but what if they were right…?


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