Out of the Dust

In an austere habitat
of nettles and weeds,
the sun scorches
any flowers or plants
that fail to acquiesce
to the desolate scene.
Pompous and contrary,
this desert does not
bother to feign a reason
for its predilection.
Between two rocks,
nascent buds hide
until the day . . .
Mariposa lilies bloom.

By Karen O’Leary

white mariposa lilies in the desert


photo of the author

Karen O’Leary is a writer and editor from West Fargo, North Dakota, USA. She has published poetry, short stories, and articles in a variety of venues including, Frogpond, A Hundred Gourds, Haiku Pix, Sharpening the Green Pencil 2014, Now This: Contemporary Poems of Beginnings, Renewals and Firsts, Creative Inspirations, and Poems of the World. She currently edits an online poetry journal called Whispers.

Photo of Mariposa Lilies by Ron Harton

Finding Joy in Life with Art and Nature

Agave and cactus in desertCrunch, crunch. With each step forward in my worn down hiking boots, the noise and bustle of my busy, stressful life quiets to a murmur until all that remains is the present moment. A palette, acrylics, brushes, an easel, along with my camera, my lunch, and two bottles of water form a jigsaw puzzle in my day pack. It is weighted down, a constant tug at my shoulders. I hold a stretched canvas in my hands just so, in order to avoid indenting it.

It is morning, and the cool, crisp breeze caresses my face and I breathe it in deeply. I aim my face to the sky. The soft, low blue is only interrupted by the jagged red canyon walls. I am on the Colorado river, just downstream from Lee’s Ferry. It is late September in the high desert of Arizona, and Autumn is a foreign concept. I can already tell that the minute the sun rises from behind the sandstone cliff, the heat will be unforgiving. For now though, my skin prickles in the chilly shade.

I reach the river with a satisfied sigh. I drop my pack and remove my footwear to reunite my senses with the water. The Colorado River and I are old friends. I return a few times every year to reflect on my life and reroot myself in nature. This ritual has become a welcome constant in my life. I perch myself on the same sandy rock on the same bank, next to the same creosote bush looking out to the same view. Sameness welcomes me home, unchanged and stable even though I am not.river and red cliffs

My world seems to be moving more and more quickly. I constantly am rushing around to complete the next item on my lengthy, never ending to-do list. It seems there is not quite enough time in the day no matter how I slice it, and organizing my busy life is a never ending task. I finally check a box and another gets added.

Working more efficiently or for longer may help chip away at the pending items on my queue, but it doesn’t restore my mind and body. Which is why I come here. I come for the stillness and the quiet. I disconnect from the noise with each breath of fresh air. I come to remove myself from my world and revisit the idea that there is a certain stillness and beauty in living simply.

artist painting at easelI am an artist. A working one, but also a student. Art is in all corners of my life. It is what I study, produce, and consume. Creativity of all forms captivates me. It is my purpose on this earth to discover myself in expression and creation. I do not desire a life where I cannot let my imagination take me to the far reaches of possibility. However, the fact that my daily life is so saturated with art and pushing my own limits, I find I need projects that remind me of why I create. I need that taste of freedom and joy of letting go of the elements and principles of design. I need to take a picture for the fun of it. I desire the feeling of making a composition just because it feels right.

When I am here, on the river bank, I approach my old love and let go of all technical aspects of art. I simply paint for the feeling of it. I don’t give myself a chance to get caught in the details. For some reason, being indoors does not lend itself to the same freedom. I have tried to recreate this assignment of letting go in the studio and it never works. With the first touch of my brush to canvas, it all floods back. I reconnect to the value in art, the reason to make it in the first place. It is for the pure joy that comes with creating.close-up of artist brush and hand

As I paint, I observe. I watch fishermen silently slip by on drift boats, birds fly between the canyon walls, the shadows swirl and shift as the sun rises higher. The desert landscape is my muse. The roughness of it all is emphasized with vibrant, illuminated color, almost as if it demands respect and awe. Our society, far removed from nature lacks this type of awe, the awe that has the power to awaken our souls. We need that experience to remind us of why we are here and what we are meant to be doing.

boat on river with cliffsI believe that spending time outdoors is the cure for our stressors and time crunches and anxiety. It is the answer to most of our problems. Taking precious time to simply be in nature and observe the landscape may seem like just another added item in our busy lives, but I have felt the value. The return is far more worthwhile than the time spent. So close the Macbook. Put the to-do list on hold. Lace up those old hiking boots. Fill that day pack. Grab a sketchbook and camera. And take the time to take that hike. Feel what it is like to reunite with your true purpose.


Claire Sipos lives in Flagstaff, Arizona working as a graphic artist and studying photography and the visual arts. She is a photographer, graphic designer, potter, writer, painter, color enthusiast, lover of light, and aspiring filmmaker. Tomorrow, maybe something new will be added to that list. In short, she is a creator, a dreamer, and an explorer in pursuit of full self expression. She plans to never lose her sense of wonder.Photos by the author.

Desert Rain: Two Sedona Poems

Sedona Rain Day
red rocks,
surrounded by
primordial fog

absent the
piercing, reflected
light of
desert sun,

allow for the
interior reflection
of muted, rain
soaked landscape

High Desert Benediction
Today is a day
for subtlety
in the high desert,
mountain peaks
that usually reflect
the sparkle of
unimpeded sun
against lapis sky,
left to be
themselves against
the darkening clouds
that carry the benediction
of gentle rain.

By Lucinda Marshall

Rai cluds over Sedona Mountains


Lucinda Marshall is a writer, artist, and activist. Her poetry publications include Sediments, GFT, Indolent Books’ What Rough Beast Series and the upcoming Poems in the Aftermath Anthology, Stepping Stones Magazine, Columbia Journal, Poetica Magazine, Haikuniverse, and ISLE. Her poem, ‘The Lilies Were In Bloom’ received an Honorable Mention in Waterline Writers’ Artists as Visionaries Climate Crisis Solutions contest. Lucinda co-facilitates the award-winning Gaithersburg, MD Teen Writing Club, and hosts a poetry reading and open mic series in Gaithersburg. For more information about her poetry and other work, please visit her website, Reclaiming Medusa, http://www.lucindamarshall.com.

Photo of red rock cliffs in Sedona by the author.

Masterful Sculpture

Chocolate, yellow cake batter dollops
Knife drawn zig zags, marble cake
Mother Nature’s marbled canyon recipe
“The Wave” in North Coyote Buttes, Arizona
Manipulated water, dry winds
Constructed U-shaped troughs
Run-off painted manganese and iron
Stretched streaks of color through
Thin horizontal and vertical layers of Navajo sandstone
Like pulling bands of salt water taffy
Liesegang rings, burnt orange, cinnamon,
Umber, ochre, white, and green swirls
Winds carried sand etched the desert rock face
Rock wrens, cliff swallows nested in fissures
Chuckwalla lizard scurried across heated rock
Stagnant, sedentary undulations
Ridges as fragile as tri-colored ribbon candy
Transformed over time

By Suzanne Cottrell

red and orange sandstone formation


Suzanne Cottrell, an Ohio Buckeye by birth, lives with her husband and three rescue dogs in rural Piedmont North Carolina. An outdoor enthusiast and retired teacher, she enjoys hiking, biking, gardening, and Pilates. She loves nature and its sensory stimuli and particularly enjoys writing and experimenting with poetry and flash fiction. Her work has appeared in The Avocet, The Weekly Avocet, The Remembered Arts Journal, Plum Tree Tavern, The Skinny Poetry Journal, Three Line Poetry, Haiku Journal, Tanka Journal, Poetry Quarterly, Women’s Voices Anthology (These Fragile Lilacs Literary Journal), The Pop Machine (Inwood Indiana Press), and Nailpolish Stories, A Tiny and Colorful Literary Journal.

Photo of The Wave, North Coyote Buttes, Arizona, US, by kojoty.

Wind

My Kansan grandmother once said,
I love to walk in the wind!
those big open plains,
grasses combed clean
of their secrets.

But for me it’s always the desert,
Santa Anas gusting from Big Basin
all wild bluster and sagebrush tang,
dry hungry wind bearing down
on the coast.

Wind of quick twitchy thoughts,
chafing heart.
Wind of chalk-red despair, dark sparks
and fire in the hills.
Death is always coming. So is life.

Wind of broken sleep, rough gullies where
bones bleach down to pure discipline.
Wind of no disputes, no lies.
Wind of small yellow flowers
like butter curls on a vast arid plate.

Limb-breaker, dream-snagger wind,
big mind of god clearing out small minds
kind of wind,
nothing left but an empty stunned
hum in my ears

when I return from a walk
with the old parched voices
risen from waterless places
and find that fear is a feckless thorn
while the world, the world is a hollow drum.

Don’t be afraid of the wind, my grandmother
told me.

By Regina O’Melveny

desert dust storm and rainbow



Regina O’Melveny’s poetry has been anthologized and widely published in literary magazines including The Bellingham Review, rattapallax, The Sun, Solo, and The Wild Duck Review. Her long poem Fireflies won the Conflux Press Award, and a poetry collection Blue Wolves won the Bright Hill Press award. Little, Brown and Company published her novel The Book of Madness and Cures. She lives with her husband in Rancho Palos Verdes, near her daughter and two wondrous grandchildren who have inspired the chapbooks, New and A Secret.

Photo by Jerry Horn