Steinbeck used pencils while they were long and slender, when they felt to him to provide the correct balance—a shape that could propel him forward, like good running shoes; a size to help him pick and prod the right forms, like chopsticks.
Desert lights buzz like cicadas, the fluttery rumble of all those wings and photons shuffling against each other and stretching into an air so thin you wonder if it is even there. When all else is quiet, there is still that soft, eternal flickering. The night was hot. And quiet, for a time.
If you sliced open a caterpillar’s cocoon, you’d expect to find a tiny beast, a creature that would look new to you yet somehow familiar. Half caterpillar, half butterfly, perhaps a shiny and squiggly green grub just starting to sprout wings; wet, furled, squished into its soft, shrouding casing. But that is not what you would find.
There is something haunting about a rip in your skin. It reminds you that the whole thing could fall apart, turn to ribbons and dust. It reminds you, in fact, that one day it will. And then you are left with that to think about.
Journalists are a lot like scientists, really, seeking an objective truth, trying to put pieces together. No one does it for the money. It’s a longstanding joke in the industry that most of us make very little. Some might do it for the power, or a hopeful slice of fame, although both are unlikely. I do it because information matters, because while there are some relative truths in life, often the answer is strictly “true” or “false.”
A letter isn’t a book. A letter is simple. A letter is something you can write throughout the week or in one great, long breath. And if a few people expected it at a certain time on a certain day—well, that I could do. And I have loved it.
The first time a boy pinched my ass I was in the fifth grade. His name was Spencer. He probably did it on a dare. I slapped him across the cheek as hard as a 10-year-old girl can slap. I stomped away, red-faced, to find a corner where I could cry.
The day we found Rokan, the sky was blue, that sort of crisp, surreal cerulean that might only exist in New Mexico and other arid, sweeping landscapes that offer nearly nothing in the airways between you and the vastness of the beyond.
I caught it by chance, happened by the window at the right moment. The colors almost surprised me. It’s like I’d forgotten that once every 24 hours the world has a chance at that kind of drama, all fuchsia and violet and tangerine.
The holidays tend to divide us every year. You love them or you hate them. They’re easy for you or hard for you. A time of comfort or stress. One thing is almost guaranteed, though: Whatever your usual sentiments are about the holidays, they’re probably magnified in 2020.
I discovered a magical combination of writing tricks that have changed everything. Well … changed my writing life. And sometimes that feels like everything. While all of these tips are clearly aimed at writers, and at breaking that thing we call writer’s block, the same principles can be applied to almost any craft.
I remember one summer in New Mexico when so many forest fires ignited across the Southwest it was impossible to escape the scent, and the detritus, of burning land. I’d take my dog on our evening walk around the block, watch the sun blaze red as it sank to the earth against an ashy sky, and then return inside to wipe soot from my face.
I don’t think I’ve ever told you about the fireflies. Now, here in the middle of a pandemic, seems like absolutely the right time. Before I tell you the story, I want to take a moment to repeat a truth that, while being said a lot these days, can never be said too much:
Tonight we moved our bodies and danced like teenage gypsies, with all of the self-consciousness and none of the rhythm, and because it was the first time we had really moved our bodies in days, it felt like freedom.