What’s Real? Green River, Utah and Beyond

Seen from the highway, Andrew Roger’s land art pieces–Ratio and Elementals:



In the Tamarisk Restaurant, a representation of Ratio:



In parking lots, a little low rent stone sculpture:


A town of melons, but not the season for fruit:



Extraordinary Barrier Canyon style ancient paintings:



Looking for My Novel on the Colorado Plateau

I wanted to take this road trip on the Colorado Plateau…to be here. But I also had another reason. I’ve been working on my futuristic utopian novel (yup, used to be a novella, but it is getting longer). In it, a society loosely based on the ancient cultures of the Plateau, mostly Anasazi, exists in a non-technological future. Hope this isn’t too confusing already, because there a lot of levels of time travel in the book. But as speculative writer Suzy McKee Charnas says: a new story needs new ways of telling it. So, I’m trying.
But I wanted to see the landscape, right now, freshly. It’s only a few thousand years in the future, there is less water in some places but the terrain is close to identical. I’ve been jotting down notes of things to add, and writing chunks of description. Here are things that the landscape has reminded me of that ought to go in to the book.

So far:

dead trees, species die off among pines etc.
a dog bitten by a rattle snake
chalk formations like the White Place
cactus, and a needle in the palm
cap rock
natural bridges
dry stream
abandoned ruins
herds of mule deer
the feminine curves of the earth in canyons and crevasses

I don’t have to add petroglyphs, however, as they are a focal point in the story, and I’ve been studying them for a long tie.
I hope to have a rough draft by summer.
It’s gotten clearer and clear to me. It was funny when I realized I was writing about a community of artists, fairly egalitarian, gossipy, not into organized religion, pro-women, where people love children and dogs, a comparatively secure class in a world where the edges are menaced by war, starvation, and fanaticism…and realized I was actually writing about a social strata in Santa Fe.


Walking Crippled in Butler Wash–Miriam Sagan

“Crippled” isn’t a polite term—probably it never was. But it’s the term I privately prefer with myself. About three times in the last year I’ve done something I thought I couldn’t do physically—and yesterday was the fourth. And I did these things crippled.
I did the “easy” mile round trip to Butler Wash in Utah to see the far view of ruins in a cave. Easy for obviously out of shape tourists. Easy for kids in flip-flops. But difficult for me. Up. Down. Sheer rock. Difficult. I took my three legs (my good leg, my bad leg, and my cane) and my 1 1/2 lungs and off I went through the scent of sage. Had to sit on all three benches en route—both there and back. Had to remember that walking, dancing, weight lifting, and thera bands all done on flat terrain don’t exactly prepare for this.
Saw the far view. Made it back. Was it worth it? Well, I’d seen a nice far view of ruins across a river earlier down a totally flat road. And a cave dwelling off the shoulder of the road. And later walked a ruin that was practically in a parking lot. This part of the world is riddled with kivas, towers, ruins of 14 or 15 rooms, buildings in caves.
But yes, it was worth it. Not the view, the walk. The fear, the trouble breathing, the clear air, the trail. It’s better to experience it than not, for as long as I can.
I had Rich take a photo, but I just looked too goofy in my plastic orange sunglasses, my polka dot top, and my hiking boots—not a big surprise! Here’s the ruin instead. Not a polite term, ruin, but in its own way a noble one.IMG_1659

Where Am I?


I’m in Wendover, Utah. In a living pod designed by an art class in the abandoned Wendover Air Force base. Next to the hangar where the Enola Gay was built. It’s like a little mobile home but with oddities, mirrors and shelves appear in hidden spots and an indoor mailbox houses plastic kitchen bags. Spacious for one, doable for two, with two sleeping spaces carved out of corners.

At the edge of the Great Salt Lake. In what was once a vaster ancient inland sea. At the western edge of the “bathtub”–where mountains once were a shore. In a world of salt flats and playas that flood at the slightest rain, shimmering, not mirages but pure reflections, mostly of the utter blue of cloudless sky.

In a landscape pitted and mined. At the edge of three million acres of the military’s bombing range. Where old bombs are buried in undocumented locations. Where I can see old munitions mounds spreading out over the landscape like the ancient MIssissippian city of Cahokia. Craters. HIstoric aircraft. A landscape big enough to lose a plane or a bomb in. A landscape that seems to make people want to drive really fast, crash into things, and blow them up. And right outside my window, local police practicing some kind of maneuvers with cars loaded on a truck.

Its warm and sunny. Where am I? On the boundary between Wendover, Utah and West Wendover, which is Nevada, and which sports casinos and strip clubs. Also the grocery store, where I buy the odd things I’ll eat when I’m alone and not at home–cabbage, camembert, flavored instant coffee.

I plug in the tiny colored X-mas lights that adorn the inside of the pod, change the sheets, and settle in. This isn’t exactly Walden Pond.