Volume 29 Issue 2

Essays, stories, and poems by Michael Ventura, Chris Ransick, Karen Chamberlain and many other fine writers and artists. “Words along the Way” from poet Peggy Pond Church.

From Solitude and Vertigo by Karen Chamberlain

I dismounted, but the sand-patch gardens at the top of the rock, cowled in white like sheet-covered furniture, did not invite me. Nor did the distant horizon, nor anything between. Nothing looked alive, or even real; everything had lost its presence, receded into vague blotches of juniper strewn like so much trash over gray undulations of snow. Staring out over the deadened land, I became acutely aware that I was the only human being for miles in any direction, and that no one in the world knew where I was. Even my dappled mare looked dull, faded, a ghost-horse the color of . . . what?

At that moment, my presence on earth was as frighteningly meaningless as I have ever experienced it to be. Something opened up and I teetered on the edge, overwhelmed, dizzy and falling—into emptiness, into the abyss of myself, into that place where we all disappear, where emptiness and the void are not the ground of freedom and choice and becoming, but are simply and totally groundless, empty and void. And yes, I was afraid, suddenly, of being . . . all by myself.


From Fidelity by Sherry Simpson

Twenty feet away, the bear stopped and turned sideways to show us how big it was. It yawned. That glittering eye, sharp and knowing, did not leave us. Only a few times in your life are you asked to surrender completely to a moment. We could not have been more humble before this bear. Our hands were empty. The ocean was behind us. The bear was before us. Whatever happened next was entirely up to the bear.


From Temporary Goodbye by Michael Ventura

As he was finally dying, I thought of all this, and drove off into the Arizona desert, a drive he and I had taken years ago, to Meteor Crater and the Hopi Mesas and Canyon de Chelley, when we had spoken so honestly, two baffled men who loved each other, trying to make sense of our lives, aided in our communication by the remorseless and generous beauty of the Painted Desert and its vast skies. I thought of the strange schism my father embodied: the charm and intelligence and humor and grace of the man, which one perceived and experienced as qualities utterly apart from his usual behavior, which was often petty and selfish and worse (as though the qualities and the behavior of the man were two entirely different people, and you courted the one while being wary of the other).


From Words Along the Way—Peggy Pond Church
In some mysterious way, inherent in the dust form from which our flesh is made, is all our consciousness, our intellect, our emotion, our will. And so, through the convoluted brain of man, the earth becomes slowly conscious obows.


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