I’ve been following the discovery of ancient footprints at White Sands with interest. The most recent thinking pushes back the date that people first came to North America. The tale below is a story within a story, part of my unpublished novel “The Future Tense of River.” It was inspired by perhaps the oldest hominid foot prints in an African rift valley. For the purposes of the book, it is set on the Colorado Plateau.


What the Rift Told
She kept one eye on the mountain and one on the dying woman. It had been a difficult few days. When the mountain started to spew hot mud and the earth shook and shook, everyone decided to break camp. They’d seen this before. First mud, then ash, then an eruption with earth slides that took down trees and everything else in the path of destruction.. Sometimes fire. Better to move. The dry riverbeds were a barrier, the old-timers said. After that, the delta, the lake, fish, and a change of camping grounds. Summer was coming. They’d been here too long. The proof—a trail of smoke from the collapsed caldera.
But her mother’s sister’s daughter was in labor. Too long, exhausting, swollen. The child lay sideways, and she couldn’t move it. Actually, she suspected the child was dead. And the mother soon to follow. But she couldn’t leave her, not a mother cousin, really not anyone. She kept her two boys with her, lying to herself a little that they’d suffer without her. When of
course they wouldn’t. Anyone could care for them. She’d follow the others later. But she kept them.
And then told them to amuse themselves. Get dinner, grubs, lizards, locusts. They gorged themselves, roasted things to a crunch.
Mama, said the younger one. Is that God? He pointed to the mountain.
No, she said. God is here. And she put his hand to his heart.
But…he said.
He’d seen her offer food to a blue stone, feathers to the wind.
There are little gods everywhere, she explained. Each thing has its god. And there is the big God, inside. And the ancestors of the mothers…there are many things that will help you. Many things.
By now her cousin was beyond hunger or thirst, bleeding out, just a whimper. The mountain rumbled, stinking of mud and ash. Dust started to fall, closer, poisonous. The child lay crosswise and the would-be mother died. She’d have to leave them, come back in four seasons for the bones to gather, disarticulate, smear with red, and bury in a basket. Unless the mountain buried it all first.
Come on come on, she told her boys. We leave now. No more playing slap the hand or hunt the antelope. Run! The younger was on her back, heavy but not that heavy. First child had her hand. Walk walk. Now run! Her legs were long, very long for a woman. She’d seen summer seventeen times, she wasn’t yet old. Faster. They stepped in mud, ash falling. Trotted uphill, down again, and there was the valley. Across the dry riverbeds. The air cleared a little.
Camp could not be far, two days at most. They could walk all night, the little one asleep on her back. Rest in shade in the day. They’d see the others soon. Her own mother was gone, mother’s sister too. She felt the pull of grief in her belly, the mother and child she’d lost.
Mama, said first child, squeezing her hand. Mama, we ran so fast, it was like flying.
She wondered for a moment why she felt she’d left something behind, besides her failure to save mother or child. Maybe just two sets of footprints in ash.

The Oldest Human Footprints in North America Could Redefine Prehistory as We Know It—and It’s All Thanks to These Tiny Seeds

Haiku by Judy Mosher

These evocative haiku were written at the end of summer, upper Canyon Road, Santa Fe at Randall Davey Audubon Center

forest floor
carpeted with brown needles
Towhee rakes and rakes

shady hillside respite
branches intertwine
my healing green cape

hoping to see
what I hear
binocs in hand

old orchard
white tombstones
fruitless trees

gnarly, aged trees
my sedentary ancestors

recently fledged
raucous young crows
form a band

just off the trail
white-washed tibia
apache plume

beside the creek
rooted ferns flutter
under my shadow


The NM State Fair was quieter than usual and required vaccine proof–both good things. But fewer 4-H exhibitions and such, showing COVID’s toll.

However, pie is perfect! All these delicious slices are from a consortium of faith groups and go to feed the hungry in Albuquerque year round.

We had the day’s special–blueberry. And the personally iconic fave: strawberry-rhubarb.

Along with giant pumpkins, this is my harbinger of autumn.

M is for Medusa by Miriam Sagan

In our girls’ school uniforms we watch “Un Chien Andalou” in the auditorium. I’d rather be in the bathroom, hanging out and smoking Balkan Sobranies with my friend Juliet. She favors the black ones with the gold filters. They taste of elsewhere. A hole opens in the man’s palm and ants crawl in and out. I’m unimpressed. We have plenty of ants, in every sandy crack in the sidewalk. My father is at war with all nature, setting mouse and ant traps all over the house. And yelling at us if we leave the sugar bowl uncovered. But he is losing the battle. An old mop abandoned on the back porch is colonized by yellow jackets who build a nest in its snaky Medusa head. My father’s three daughters swell from flat-chested childhood into the busty rebellion of womanhood. We roll up our uniform skirts and show our legs, a shadow between the thighs. We believe, for the first time, that we are real, and begin to act accordingly.

Back To People: Bubbe Report from Miriam Sagan

Back to People

Life with a two and a half year old can feel a bit bi-polar. Wreathed in smiles, acting out Goldilocks, my own grand-daughter looking like an Arthur Rackam flower fairy…all is groovy. Then, hysteria. Sobbing. Lying on the floor. The beating of feet.

“What’s the matter?”

“The ice cream…melted.”

All my protestations about how yummy melted ice cream is go unheard (I’m not lying. I genuinely like melted ice cream).

But, life as we know it, is now OVER. All is lost. All is a terrible, inconsolable, dreadful loss.

The truth is, I know exactly hw she feels. Donald Trump. COVID. Going back in time, a broken heart, a thwarted plan, a ruined dream.

Sob sob sob. Kick kick kick. But I don’t, at least not in public.

So, trying to model…well, something that isn’t a tantrum…I leave her alone for a bit. I’m available, but quiet. Soon, I hear her murmuring to the baby dolls. Soon, the butterfly net full of baby dolls emerges on her shoulder as she distracts herself from the fit.

Until the next one.

This next anecdote contains a confession. We were watching My Little Pony (Yes, it is moronic, but we both like it). I said: I wish I could fly like my little ponies.

G. waved an imaginary wand at me and pronounced: “Fly, little pony!”

I pretended to fly.

She waved the imaginary wand in the opposite direction.

“Back to people,” she said.

She was trying to say, back to being a person, but with toddler syntax.

I like that. Back to people we go, for good or for ill, with all that comes with that.

Haiku by Tina Carlson

Haiku from Randall Davey Audubon Center & Sanctuary

(on the ground just above the pollinators garden)

I wander among
small continents of pale green:
Lichen maps on stone.

Sunflower husks nod
Towards purple suns of aster.
Late bees ravenous.

On shards of granite
mica shines mirrors, a glint.
Mornings, cooler now.

Prickly pear small as
my pinky, loosens its spines:
sharp sting in my palm.

(in orchard, on stone bench in front of teepee)

Dry grasses bent as
if a bed. I cannot smell
who may have slept here.

Jays raucous in a
fall breeze. My daughter sleeps far
away in the fog.

Dragonflies dive in
Chamisa’s gold. Few birds sing
near enough to see.

Blue spruce cone laden
from drought. Two men talk non-stop.
I yearn for quiet.

Teepee like a pyre.
Grasses, a dry bed. Stone bench:
momentary home.


These were written in a workshop last Saturday. I like them so much–blogged all of Tina’s.