Notes from Westwater

Once, while visiting Santa Fe, we toured a gallery that featured the paintings of Albert Scharf, a skyscape artist. His powerful images of Southwestern clouds have since prompted me to look up at heaven’s landscape, especially this last July when beautiful cumulous clouds towered over San Juan...
Since our 1991 pickup wouldn’t start, we left it at Cunningham Gulch and bumped down the road to Silverton in Ron Blackburn’s truck. Strangely, we soon spotted a tow truck coming toward us with lights flashing. Ron slowed. “Do you want to talk to him?” “Sure,” Ted said. “What are the chances of...
My mother died on May 16, 2014 in the San Juan Medical Center in Farmington, NM. Her three-week stay there for renal failure had been a roller coaster of hope and despair with the doctors bringing her back from death several times. But after they put her on the ventilator the last time, they...
Today Oggie and I walked down to the Westwater stream, stopping to listen as a bird sang five distinct tunes over and over. Something about her beautiful voice silvering the air brought me joy, but because the foliage was so thick, I couldn’t see her. Leaving Oggie on the trail, I climbed some...
Years ago, in the middle of a severe Utah drought, I wrote a prayer for San Juan rain modeled after William Lindsay White’s prayer first printed in the Emporia Gazette in 1935. In his petition, he writes, in part, “O Lord, in thy mercy grant us rain, and by that we don’t mean a shower. “O Lord...
Last November Ted, Oggie, and I drove to Beef Basin hoping to find a petroglyph panel which was an extraordinary collage of ancient images. Beef Basin is an earthen bowl with Canyonlands to the north, Sweet Alice Hills to the south, Horse Mountain to the east, and the Henry and Boulder Mountains...
On May 30, 1879, a tornado unexpectedly touched down in Ottawa County, KS and traveled along the Solomon River, sucking up water, mud, and trees. Then, it careened across farmland, smashing buildings and killing people and livestock. I imagine Harry Vossman had gone to the field to tend the young...
Oggie is a rescued dog, so her precise breed and age are unknown, but the Ogden rescue agency thought she was about eight months old when we adopted her. This summer she’ll be turning nine. Without a doubt, she’s slowing down. A 45-minute hike in the canyon has turned into an hour-and-a-half amble...
I was 12 when my mom, little brother, and I moved into my great-grandparents’ farmhouse in north central Kansas. Even though I’d always wanted to live in the country, the move from town to the old farmhouse terrified me. Without city streetlights, the nights were so dark I couldn’t see my hand in...
When we were in St. George at the end of February, I walked around the block in my mother-in-law’s neighborhood. Birds sang their spring mating songs on branches laced with delicate green. Daffodils, looking like old-fashioned telephones, and purple crocuses bloomed. After the frigid winter, the...

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