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This post is an excerpt from my unpublished book, Crossfire Canyon and the Landscape of Language.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”

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Field Notes #13 : Spider in the hand of a goodly snow

800px-Crab_spider by RedRue

Polar fleece. One of the best.  Inventions. Ever.

My admiration for this virtuous fabric prompted me to do a bit of research on it. On Wikipedia, I came across this: “Aaron Feuerstein [inventor] intentionally declined to patent polar fleece, allowing the material to be produced cheaply and widely by many vendors, leading to the material’s quick and wide acceptance.”

What a lovely man for doing this for us.

Until recently, my polar fleece jacket has been out of commission, in need of repair. I’ve been wearing an uncomfortable coat—the shell, actually, from my husband’s coat—made of polyester. The coat is much bigger, heavier, and longer than my fleece jacket but nowhere near as warm. Continue reading “Field Notes #13 : Spider in the hand of a goodly snow”

Field Notes #12: Who Has Seen the Wind? (Pt.3) by Patricia Karamesines

Desert storm with rainbow

This is the third part of a three-part entry. To read part one, go here. To read part two, go here.

Glancing at Belle, I can tell she needs water, and soon. I lead her away from the beaver ponds before she’s tempted beyond her ability to resist to drink from its giardia-laced teapots. I hurry her to the shade of a big juniper, another of my stops, and sit down in the dirt beneath a broken branch that hangs across the trail. Obviously, Belle needs more water than I can provide by cupping my hand. I relent and pour her a drink in the canteen lid. She laps four or five lids full then lies down in the shade without my prompting, her shoulder pressing against my knee. She pants rapidly but seems to have gotten enough to drink, refusing another offered lid.

Looking around inside the juniper’s shadow, I notice a single penstemon blossom, looking like a wind sock on a pole, glowing red against the litter. Its color leaps to the eye from a backdrop of live blue-green and dead brown juniper stubble; last year’s curled, tawny oak leaves; green wisps of grass growing in a clump; spider webs clouded with dirt and other debris; and round, purplish-blue juniper berries dropped into grey-toned soil speckled with blacker grains, probably of decayed organic material. From somewhere up-canyon, a canyon wren’s laugh pipes its downward-falling scale. Continue reading “Field Notes #12: Who Has Seen the Wind? (Pt.3) by Patricia Karamesines”

Field Notes #11: Winter Solstice 2010, Part Five

Parts one, two, three, and four.

The mid-sized Ancestral Puebloan site sitting up on that €œerosional layer of lower strata € (love that phrase) of Crossfire’s east cliffs is one of my favorites because of the serene view it offers down-canyon.   From what I’ve seen of that portion of Crossfire, including about a mile or so of what lies below the €œNo Drive Zone, € the farther south the canyon runs the wider it opens out and the higher the cliffs soar above its floor.   This Pueblo II-Pueblo III site’s impressive field of view takes in several of the canyon’s other ruins, including the first site across canyon that the archaeologist and I visited and, possibly, the tower. An ATV trail, badly eroded now as its illegality has come clear and nobody wants to risk keeping it up, crosses this site and runs onto the mesa east of Crossfire.   Sometimes I climb just above the ruin and sit on a flat rock jutting from the canyon wall out of which the trail was carved.   It’s nice up there, the size of the place intimates itself more deeply, and I feel the canyon’s inclusiveness fold me in. Continue reading “Field Notes #11: Winter Solstice 2010, Part Five”

Field Notes #11: Winter Solstice 2010, Part Four

Part One.   Part Two.   Part Three.

As we’d searched for the incised grooves and then the tower, the archaeologist and I traded small details about our families.   He mentioned how, when he takes his kids for hikes, they’re always running up to him and asking, €œIs this an artifact, Dad? €   I told him how, when we first moved to the area, my two ambulatory kids would go out exploring and bring home rocks that struck their fancy.   A flashy array of jasper crops up from the ground here along with colorful cherts, etc. €”the stones Ancestral Puebloans flint-knapped into arrowheads and other tools.   Lithic flakes €”the waste and €œmisfires € of flint-knapping €”abound, as well as partial and whole arrowheads and cores, which are the rounded remains of rocks from which workable pieces have been flaked off €”a stone’s unusable €œpit. € I had to sort through the adopted rocks for lithic flakes then explain to my kids, €œThis is an artifact.   Take it back. € Finally, I went out with them and taught them how to recognize possible lithic flakes and related artifacts.   These, I told them, were to be left in situ. Continue reading “Field Notes #11: Winter Solstice 2010, Part Four”

Field Notes #11: Winter Solstice, Part Three

Part One here.   Part Two here.

The rain that earlier diluted a few thoughts in my journal failed to commit, but the overcast thickened. Light making it through the clouds fell flatly. Trees in the juniper forest through which we walked cast no shade that could be distinguished from cloud shadow. Below us on the creek’s banks, Fremont cottonwoods had lost most of their heart-shaped scales to autumn winds. Remaining leaves flapped on their stems, working free from the trees’ upper stories, winging back to their roots.   With the loss of the cottonwoods’ stands of verdure and the stalks of most of the other plants gone to straw, Crossfire’s green flames burned very low, deep inside the trees and in the ashes of the canyon’s seed-time. €œGrey € was the word for the day. I guessed temperatures were hovering around 38 degrees, but high humidity accompanying the storm front whetted the chill.   The archaeologist is a light, slim man.   He wore no gloves and not much of a coat.   He remarked that he felt cold. Continue reading “Field Notes #11: Winter Solstice, Part Three”

Field Notes #11: Winter Solstice 2010, Part Two

Part One below on the “Home” page or click here.

As the archaeologist and I pushed uphill through sage and rabbit brush, he stopped to explain, quite diplomatically and in precise language, that he was in the canyon doing work pursuant to the BLM’s weighing a county government proposal to establish an ATV right-of-way through Crossfire, length to be determined.   Having lately become one of the canyon’s resident creatures, I found this information intriguing. Continue reading “Field Notes #11: Winter Solstice 2010, Part Two”