Monsoon Season

The gray on the horizon isn’t wildfire smoke anymore. It’s rain. Heavy, thick clouds bearing blessings. Everything is new. Everything has changed. Turtleback Mountain wore a double rainbow this week instead of a brown haze, and every wrinkle in its rocky skin was visible when sunset sliced through the clouds, painting the mountain gold.
The sand in the desert is damp, dotted with the footprints of raindrops, marked with flowing rivulets and the slender tracks of snakes. A humble puddle is a miracle. A wet lizard clings to a rock, trying to get warm. I feel a bit sorry for him. He looks grumpy. But I’m joyful. Monsoon season. It’s always a cause for gratitude and awe, and this year even more than ever.

A Poem for the Burning Times

As many of you may know, New Mexico is enduring two enormous wildfires. One of them, the Black Fire in the Gila National Forest, started on May 13, 2022 and has consumed 296, 895 acres so far.  The first rain in many months fell today in brief scattered storms, giving us hope for an early monsoon season. As the storm found me at the tail end of my run, I was overjoyed to be pelted with huge drops and to see the horizon blurred by clouds of moisture instead of clouds of smoke. It was nowhere near enough, but it was a start.

The title of the poem below comes from a phrase in the Forest Service updates on the fire.

 Human Caused, Under Investigation

 In the first days after the start of the fire,

Two friends and I found ghost leaves.

One leaf each.

Perfect, charred-black, carried on the wind to land

In their hands

or at my feet

and then crumble.

The last words of dying trees.


Memorial Day weekend, 2022, Elephant Butte Lake State Park, New Mexico.

Smoke rolls along the northwest horizon.

A truck rolls down the road at the top of the hill, two giant American flags flapping.

The flags at the park hang at half staff

For the victims of more mass shootings.

Buffalo. Uvalde.

A bend in the trail leads toward blue sky.

Then it curves back toward the haze.


A smoke-red sun glows sick and strange

between the branches of an old desert juniper.

A cloud of tiny wings,

A crowd of western pygmy blues,

the world’s smallest butterfly,

flutters in the arms of the tree


Like the souls of dead children.