Quothing the Raven by Patricia Karamesines

Photo of common raven courtesy of National Park Service
Photo of common raven courtesy of National Park Service

This post is an excerpt from my unpublished book, Crossfire Canyon and the Landscape of Language. I published a shorter version of the chapter in 2007 on the blog Times and Seasons. I’ve added material and developed my thinking about the intersection  of narrative and truth, posing questions about what our responsibility may be when we tell a story that deeply affects people–especially when the story isn’t strictly true, but people who read or hear it feel that it must be.

Winston Hurst
Archaeologist Winston Hurst

Early in the summer of 2007 I visited Blanding resident Winston Hurst, a longtime friend from my archeological field school days back in the 80s. Winston is an esteemed archeologist in the Southwest and a man of science. We were discussing Craig Childs, who was coming to Blanding’s Edge of the Cedars State Park to promote his book. I had met Craig in the 90s at a writing workshop he’d led in Torrey, Utah. The first time I read Craig’s work—it was The Secret Knowledge of Water—I  thought, Here is a writer I can learn from. I’d taken the risk to travel to the workshop, even though leaving the household whose atmosphere depended on the state of my special needs daughter Teah and on the whims of toddler Val left husband Mark with his hands full.

The experience proved well worth the risks to my household’s teetering domestic balance. Craig told our little group—all women—that it was his first workshop. At one point we met in the wonderful stone house, still a work in progress, of a local resident. To make memorable his point that we should all carry writing journals when we’re out traipsing, Craig set a pile of his own journals in the middle of the floor and told us to each choose one and find a quiet place to read it. I happened to pick the one that contained dialogue that would later appear in his book, The Way Out: A True Story of Ruin and Survival.  The dialogue occurred between Childs and his river guide friend, Dirk Vaughn, who used to be a cop. It involved Dirk’s statement that he’d killed a man. Continue reading “Quothing the Raven by Patricia Karamesines”


Excerpt from Lightning Tree by Sarah Dunster


Sarah Dunster’s historical novel Lightning Tree is due for release on April 10, 2012 from Cedar Fort.   To see a book trailer for Lightning Tree, click here. If you’d like to visit Cedar Fort’s poster page for the novel, click here.   Also, Sarah has put together a blog tour for her book.   One of her stops has been A Motley Vision, where she did a fascinating interview.   To read the interview, go here.


€œYou all right? €

Henry’s voice startled Maggie. She had almost forgotten he was there.

€œFine. € Maggie folded the letter up and put it in her pocket. €œI’ve got to go. €

€œYou sure you’re all right? You know, Maggie €”that part about the sisters in Pleasant Green €” €

€œI’m fine, € Maggie snapped. She shrugged his hand off her shoulder.

€œMaggie, I don’t think you are. Maggie, let us help you! €

€œI don’t need help, € Maggie muttered. €œThere’s nothing you can do anyway, Henry. € She walked out the door into the snow. She felt oddly empty. It was good, because she knew she ought to be feeling a lot worse. Maybe if she just kept on going, kept her feet moving, she wouldn’t have to feel it. Like hypothermia, if she just kept moving, maybe she would survive.

She made her way up snowy streets, off to the side to let others pass. She felt the soft brush of the snowbanks against her skirts.

At the edge of the town blocks, the cold began to seep into her, making her bones throb. She stood there a moment, looking out on the wide, white expanse of the empty fields east of town. She sat, suddenly, in the snow, with her back up against a fence post.

She gazed up at the mountains. Squaw Peak had always looked, to Maggie, like it had been created for the express purpose of jumping. It’s a giant jump-off point, jutting out over the valley so that you could fall thousands of feet without hitting anything. Maybe it even gave you enough time to lose all your senses, before that final, terrible crash into the earth.

With their blue color and caps of snow which trailed in lacy white lines down their sides, Maggie could almost imagine they were giant waves, big enough to reach her
there on the edge of the fields. She could almost sense a little bit of motion. They were slowly coming for her. They would take her, and sweep her up, up, up, over their tops and fold her inside of them, and she wouldn’t have to think or feel anymore.

Maggie stood then. She couldn’t feel her legs, but she didn’t need to feel them. She could still walk, and so she did. It gave her a tiny edge of pleasure to wade through the snow, to break a new path in all the soft whiteness.

At first she thought she would just wade over to the edge of the mountain and begin to walk up it, and get as far as she could, but her feet took her in another direction. The last of the Chaberts. Giovanna is an Alden now. Because I can’t take care of her. The thought brought the first edge of pain, and then it overwhelmed her. She stumbled and nearly fell as it descended on her like the giant mountain-waves she had been imagining, crashing over her and covering her in blackness. She kept moving, only because she suddenly had the fierce, aching desire to visit Noémie.

We’re the two last Chaberts. The two who can still be together. Who aren’t buried on the plain, or in Great Salt Lake City. We can be together, at least. Me and Noémie. We were the last two pieces that made a family, and so we can at least be together. The riverbank was a lot higher up if you tried to find it east of town, so Maggie circled up around the north side of the fort; the newer one that touched the northern edge of the town’s walls.

This is my real home, Maggie thought as she came through the homestead door.

This is the last place my family was.


Lightning Tree Author Sarah DunsterSarah Dunster is the mother of six young children. Her childhood journals are littered with poems, stories, and drawings of maps, characters, and places she imagined for her stories. She wrote her first novel at age nine – a rambling combination of Little Women and Anne of Green Gables, scribbled on binder paper – and tortured her friends by making them listen to the whole thing. Sarah is an award-winning poet; her pieces have been published in Segullah Magazine and Dialogue: a Journal of Mormon Thought. In addition to writing she loves reading, singing, skiing, and educating her children at home. Sarah lived for ten years in Provo, and grew to love the places, people, and history of Utah Valley.

Another excerpt from The Pictograph Murders

Why? Because it fits.

When she woke at sunrise, she squirmed out of her sleeping bag, stood up, opened her car door, and draped the bag over it to dry off millions of pinprick dewdrops that had bloomed on it during the night.   When she turned to face the dune at the canyon rim, her attention snagged on a weird image.

Standing on the dune’s crest, back-lit by the sun so that all features receded into shadow, was a squat figure.   The specter maintained absolute stillness on two short, thick legs that rose into a torso dominated by a barrel chest.   On its shoulders balanced a heavy black head adorned by a headdress from which protruded two curving horns. Continue reading “Another excerpt from The Pictograph Murders”

Excerpt: The Pictograph Murders by P. G. Karamesines

Dave’s post here caused me to reflect more self-consciously on what it is I do  when I go out in the desert.   Do I  walk off pavement’s edge to get away from stresses or disappointments?   Do I go out to  have adventures?   To think?    Dave’s post is about seeking God in nature.    Is that what I’m doing–looking for God out there, in the Great  Not-Me?   This passage from my novel, The Pictograph Murders, surfaced in response to  introspection that  Dave’s post provoked.   I think it sums up well enough what I do  some of the time  I’m out in Nature.        

The wash broadened into a fan of moist sand.   The walls, too, widened to form a rounded chamber capped by an azure disc of sky.   Just a few yards away lay a shallow plunge pool.   Kit waded in and drank noisily.   In the talus slope behind the pool, water clittered around three moss-framed, stone-keyed seeps.   The wiry and crooked little streams stepped and ruffled down slope to empty into the pool. Continue reading “Excerpt: The Pictograph Murders by P. G. Karamesines”