Chiaroscuro

Through the vast rocky desert of southern Nevada, Andrew and I are returning from an afternoon in Pahrump when we round a bend and see Las Vegas sprawled below us. 

The city appears like a mirage. Approached on desert roads at night, Las Vegas glimmers like a lake of stars, the Luxor Sky Beam suspended between heaven and earth like an anchor’s taut chain. In the daylight, the Mojave Desert opens wide and reveals a civilization of millions.

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View of Las Vegas from the southeast. Photo by Ryan Hafey on Unsplash

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The Cranes Were Not the Strangers Here

For my ninth birthday, just weeks before my family left Bangkok, my best friend gave me a sheer pink sash screen-printed with cranes in flight.

This friend was Japanese, but, like me, she’d spent her entire childhood in Thailand. When you’re small, you understand too little of the world to comprehend cultural provenance. You simply absorb. You exist where you exist. You believe you belong until given reason to believe you do not. Continue reading “The Cranes Were Not the Strangers Here”

Unexpected Memento Mori – Or, The Massive Orange Moose

In the life of a melodramatic lover of roadside attractions, there’s no preparing for a massive orange moose. One moment, you’re living your life the best you know how. Suddenly the world has a massive orange moose in it, and it’s right outside your window. There’s an emotional reckoning to be had. Nothing will ever be the same. Continue reading “Unexpected Memento Mori – Or, The Massive Orange Moose”

And the Mississippi Taketh Away – Or, The Tale of Fort de Chartres

Nearly three hundred years after Fort de Chartres’s construction first began, Andrew and I stood in the stone doorway of its restored Catholic chapel, listening to a Franciscan monk—a real one, not an actor—speaking of French colonial life. He sat in a large, simple wooden chair on a low dais, looking as comfortable in the humid shaded heat as he was in his dark robes. Outside, the sun was slipping out from behind the moon, the Great American Eclipse not yet over even though totality had passed. The sunlight was ethereal, periodically shaded by passing clouds. My eclipse glasses still dangled in my fingers.

Pierre Dugué de Boisbriand and his small French contingent left New Orleans in 1718 not for military purposes, but financial ones. Louis XIV had strained the French treasury during his long reign, and with his great-grandson Louis XV now on the throne, a correction was in order to ensure French prosperity and power. New France—a broad swath of North America stretching from Quebec to New Orleans, abutting the British colonies to the east and the Great Plains to the west, united by the Mississippi River and its tributaries—seemed the obvious answer. Continue reading “And the Mississippi Taketh Away – Or, The Tale of Fort de Chartres”

The Clouds Must Be Bewildered – Or, The Great American Eclipse

On August 21st, 2017, Andrew and I sat beside a ruined French fortress in the middle of Illinois farmland, waiting for the sun to disappear.

We’d found Fort de Chartres by accident. A couple days prior to the Great American Eclipse, we had driven from Madison to St. Louis to spend the weekend with family. This put us barely outside the path of totality. I was content to view the historic eclipse from St. Louis; I have a self-defeating habit of accepting things as they are, even when minor one-time expenditures of effort stand to significantly multiply my enjoyment. Sometimes serene acceptance is a virtue, but I haven’t yet found the wisdom to know the difference.

Thankfully Andrew was having none of it. “We drove all the way down here to see the eclipse,” he said. “We’re seeing the eclipse.” Continue reading “The Clouds Must Be Bewildered – Or, The Great American Eclipse”

Even Our Overpass Stones are Jeweled

Once the days get warm and sunny enough, the outdoors pull at Andrew to start up Pokemon Go again, wandering the nearby neighborhoods in search of exercise, whimsy, and vitamin D. I’m not far behind, chattering away alongside him about whatever I’ve been reading lately, full of lamentations that my potato-phone can’t support the game.

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Photo by Sara Codair on Unsplash

Continue reading “Even Our Overpass Stones are Jeweled”