THE ALCHEMY OF
DUST & SAND AUTUMN 2015, ISSUE 1 FREE
The Raven Journal - Joshua Tree, CA
Issue 1 - Autumn 2015
Photo by Matthew Hall
‘I am here not only to evade for a while the clamor and filth and confusion of the cultural apparatus but also to confront, immediately and directly if it’s possible, the bare bones of existence, the elemental and fundamental, the bedrock which sustains us. I want to be able to look at and into a juniper tree, a piece of quartz, a vulture, a spider, and see it as it is in itself, devoid of all humanly ascribed qualities, anti-Kantian, even the categories of scientific description. To meet God or Medusa face to face, even if it means risking everything human in myself. I dream of a hard and brutal mysticism in which the naked self merges with a nonhuman world and yet somehow survives still intact, individual, separate. Paradox and bedrock.’
Excerpt from ‘Desert Solitaire’ by Edward Abbey
The Raven Journal - Joshua Tree, CA
Editor’s Note In the folklore of the Haida people, Raven brings light back to a world plunged in darkness. He steals the Sun from a powerful Chief who had taken it and greedily kept it hidden away. Moved by the plight of seeing his world and its people struggle on in darkness, Raven bravely restores the sun back to its rightful place, flooding the earth with light and warmth. The light in this desert tells stories of the past, present and future woven seamlessly together like a melody. Raven’s keen eyes take in the liminal magic of the light he has stolen back for us. He will take this desert glow far and wide, his powerful wingbeats audible in the true silence of things, spreading the light of this dusty place. Each morning, when my dog Bodhi and I go out to greet the desert, Raven has been following us. Flying from Joshua tree to Joshua tree, squawking loudly, saying that the time has come for him to let the light of this desert in. And so we introduce The Raven, a free quarterly print journal: a homage by members of a small desert community to our beloved Mojave HighDesert, a conduit for its enchanted light and all the strange creatures who bask in its glow.
Editor: Rohini Walker Creative Director: Xihomara Alvarez Art Direction & Graphic Design: Martín Mancha, www.martinmancha.com For all inquiries, please contact us at email@example.com Printed locally by the Hi-Desert Publishing Co., Yucca Valley, CA. Cover photo by Cody Montogomery. Model: Sarah Harris. Clothing by Totally Blown. Stalk us on Facebook by searching for ‘The Raven Journal’ • Instagram: @thejoshuatreeraven
Thanks to our fundraising donors:
Alexandra McCabe Anastasia King-Jaress Barbie Sommars Bryan Wynwood Chris Unck Cody Montgomery Doug Vernucci JC Jaress Hopper Walker Mercy Clay Keith Kelley Kim Stringfellow Lauren Ell Leslie A. Brown Matthew Hall Nana Taimour Sarabeth Hudson Sarah Harris Taylor Elyse Compton Teresa Sitz
Barbie Sommars Caw Bee Dylan Roberts Gautam Majumdar Iris Sala Jackie Bennett Jane Collis JC Jaress Jelena Sokic Katherine Mercy Clay Kim Nierman-Smith Nancy Klein Ruma Majumdar Sarah Thomas Tara Macpherson Taylor Elyse Compton Teresa Sitz
All material © 2015 The Raven Journal, unless otherwise stated. 3
Issue 1 - Autumn 2015
The Raven, graphite and watercolor illustration by Nana Taimour 4
The Raven Journal - Joshua Tree, CA
Mojave Moon Design
Cactus light, $215, mojavemoondesign.bigcartel.com, also available at JT Trading Post, Joshua Tree 5
Issue 1 - Autumn 2015
Rustic Threads, $52 www.rusticthreadsfiberstudio.com
Journal $6 Coyote Corner, Joshua Tree
Herbal hair oil, 2oz $28 / 1oz $15 Grateful Desert Herb Shoppe, Joshua Tree
Silkscreen on Canvas by Rollo Castillo $450. Taylor Junction, Joshua Tree
Guitar keychain $4 Artfx & Furnishing, Yucca Valley
Patch, $5 Hoof & the Horn, Yucca Valley
Vintage tools Mojave Desert Land Trust Salvage Saturday
Shirt $24 Ricochet Vintage, Joshua Tree
Wood collage, $58 JT Trading Post, Joshua Tree
Sky Village Swap Meet Yucca Valley, $25
Metal skulls, $28 ea. Route 62 Vintage Marketplace, Yucca Valley 6
Metal pulley $98, Built Outpost JT Trading Post, Joshua Tree
The Raven Journal - Joshua Tree, CA
The Guardian Born of granite decaying, Darkness brings its eternity. I speak no evil I am the guardian of your dreams. Forget your shiny floors today I see your poor heart. -Doug Vernucci
Doug Vernucci has been seeking out anthropomorphic images since 1971. He first discovered this image in the â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;80s. He was very moved after developing the film but could not remember where he had taken it. After many days of searching, he rediscovered it. It is only recognizable from a specific stance. It is mystical, changing shape as you pass by it, silently guarding, appearing and disappearing. What he likes most about this image is that it looks androgynous. He has photographed it many times. He is publishing a coffee table book of images from Joshua Tree taken over the last forty years. ÂŠ The Guardian of Joshua Tree, by Doug Vernucci 7
Issue 1 - Autumn 2015
Photo by Hopper Walker
“My buddy Rocky came over to visit me from back east. We were sitting on my front porch and he says to me ‘What do you do out here?’ I replied, ‘You’re doing it.’ ”
The Raven Journal - Joshua Tree, CA
D E S E R T
R I D E S
WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE by Rohini Walker
No road. Just black desert expanse all around and a million stars above wondering if we’ll soon be no more than dust.
“Can I borrow one of your tires?”
Photo by Hopper Walker
Carry and his wife, Patty, were very accommodating. But that’s desert folk for you. If you’re brave or foolish enough to live out here, you’ll get good old-fashioned solidarity in return.
“Keep your arms inside, wrap them around yourself!” they yelled at me. We were about to go down a vertical sand bank in a Jeep without any doors, windows or roof. At that moment, I loved my seatbelt more than anything in this wide world.
A few hours ago, Doc and I had been sitting in Jerni’s front yard, talking to him about the co-subject of this article, his ’97 Ford F250. Not that it looks anything like a ’97 Ford F250 anymore. These days it looks like something out of a Mad Max movie. I think it’s art. Others might think it an aberration. Either way, it definitely qualifies as unique.
We made it down in three pieces, Jerni, Doc and I. And then we got stuck. Out in the desert wilderness, nearing midnight, stuck. Not a GPS device in sight. Doc nearly got his arm run over trying to push the Jeep out. Jerni half-joked that if Doc hadn’t got out of the way, he would have kept going, just to see how deep the sand was. Nervous laughter. But that’s Jerni in a nutshell. In life and war, he takes no prisoners.
“When I got it, it was almost like it was brand new. I bought it in Florida and then towed a bunch of stuff out here. And then, about six years ago, I rolled it over in Big Bear, having way too much fun. My kid says it was testosterone-induced.”
A few hours ago, he had been telling us about how he tries to help people face their fears.
Since then, Patrick Jernigan, or Jerni, as he’s known, has taken it apart and welded it back together again using all manner of found desert treasure. Or trash, depending on your point of view.
Here’s a tip: if you find yourself stuck in sand, let some of the air out of your tires. We finally managed to extricate ourselves and slowly made our way to the chiropractor’s house. Jerni’s chiropractor and longtime friend. Jerni knew exactly where we were. Said he’d ridden home from there on his horse, a rescued Arab also called Doc, in the dead of night many times.
“Parts of it come off a schoolbus, the front is off of a Jeep that I would look at in this [guy’s] backyard for probably ten years, just weeds growing on it. And then I saw him cleaning the yard up one day and went and asked him about the cab. And the back of it was an old tool rack for a flatbed that I had. When I started putting it back together, I wanted to use stuff that was just laying around. I gotta do it with whatever I got, within my means. But none of it was planned.”
One of our tires had a big gash in it, probably from traveling at the speed of light over rocks with pointy edges. We barged in on their peaceful desert night, set the dogs to barking. 9
Issue 1 - Autumn 2015 in the area fix up their homes. There seems to be a growing desire to co-exist and accept each other on a human level that goes beyond one’s ideological and political leanings.
“And you’re not just going to junk it and throw it away?” I ask. “Nooo! I have a goal of 500,000 miles on it. I got 347,000 miles on now and I put 300 of those on there. No, I just keep welding it back together. I bent the frame three times on it. I fixed it the last two times. Ripped the shock towers off numerous times. Knocked a number of windows out… And it’s a good work truck. I haul a massive trailer with it. I just drove it to Florida. I had to be there quick before my mom passed away, so we left here and drove straight through.”
Jerni joined the Marines back in 1984 and served for four years. The son of a combat engineer, he spent much of his childhood in Germany, where his father was stationed. During his own service, Jerni spent time in south-east Asia – the Philippines, Korea, Thailand. “It’s assumed because of my service that I’m a certain type of thing. So I love trying to fight that stereotype. And that truck’s part of it. I present just some dumb off-roadin’ redneck. But I’m not. I’m educated, I’m well traveled. And I don’t mind people thinking less of me so when they meet me, it’s a different thing.”
He says that one of the reasons he keeps fixing it is because he hates waste. “You’d be shocked what’s out there. I spend a lot of my time in that thing, on a dirt bike, exploring, on Doc the horse… I worked at a Mustang ranch for a while, breaking wild Mustangs in, out close to the Marine Base. And my whole job was riding them and getting them to where they’re calm, getting them over their fears. I had eight hours a day just exploring the desert on horseback. So I got all these amazing places logged in my head of these trash piles. Couple of them were probably dumped in the ‘20s and ‘30s. Old cans, old car parts, they’re still the same thing. “
Challenge stereotypes. Question prejudices. That’s a war worth fighting in my book. “It’s human nature. We all do it. I learned at some point that the thing that hurt me most was people assuming I was something I wasn’t. Because of one thing, you know? Being a Marine. I got boxed into a certain attitude, yet I’ve lived a hippy life too. I lived in a tent for a whole winter in Alaska in a little village there…” He drove around picking up trash back then too.
They just look better, the older and rustier they are. The patina of metal rusted exquisitely by this desert. Atrophy at its finest. “In the front there’s a fender, a side fender to a Chevy truck. I found that on horseback, just by itself, just laying there probably thirty years.”
Jerni’s home, which also doubles as his workshop, is testament to that ‘hippy life’, full of the necessary detritus of a creative spirit in his element. He’s been assistant producer at an art show in Joshua Tree, and is getting ready to do a play at the Art Queen downtown, as well as doing some metal sculpture work for this year’s Burning Man Festival. He says it gives him an opening into the artist community, an opportunity to form relationships with people whom he wouldn’t ordinarily get to interact with.
And he drives this mongrel-machine around inhospitable desert terrain, picking up trash. He has, as he puts it, an ‘autistic’ aversion to trash and waste. Out here in the desert, on the bone-juddering dust roads, you need a good old workhorse of a truck. Anything else would break or melt. And a recycled truck that’s welded together out of salvaged parts, and then used to wage war on trash in the desert? Makes the serotonin rush. You can even burn vegetable oil in it.
“I enjoy challenging people on both sides of the line.”
When he first started driving around the desert picking up trash, people would ask him why he was doing it. “I’m a warrior,” was his reply. “I’m not fighting war right now but I don’t know what I want to do so I figure, I might as well just pick up trash.”
And then there’s the whole facing of fears thing. He takes people out on treacherous desert hiking trails and wants to set up his own trail hikes business dedicated to getting people to confront their fears, out here in the wilderness of the desert. He says it has some of the most dangerous terrain he’s ever encountered. I don’t doubt it. You go out on these hidden trails and you come face to face with your own mortality. It’s humbling. Jerni calls himself an ‘insurgent’ here in Joshua Tree. He’s right. Just like the desert, this man and his truck seek to destroy the complacency of preconceived notions. And what happens when we no longer have the safety net of cherished belief systems? What are we left to identify with?
“Just trying to give them a different perspective of what a Marine was.” This impulse to challenge stereotypes seems to be Jerni’s modus operandi, and his truck is an extension of that. A fierce juggernaut driven by a former Marine on a heart-based clean-up mission. A paradox, like this desert. For those not familiar with the social landscape of the area, the town of Joshua Tree, with its vibrant arts community, neighbors the town of 29 Palms, home to one of the biggest Marine bases in the world. Jerni worked on the base for four years after he moved out here from Houston, Texas, right after 9/11.
To the casual observer, Jerni, like his truck, might come across as aggressive and bullish. But his actions prove otherwise. And this is what it comes down to. Beyond the divisions of opinions and ideologies, it’s a person’s actions that define him. This is clearly what feeds this desert wild-man: smashing open the boxes we put ourselves and others in and scratching beneath the surface.
“It’s kinda nice. I got friends from the base out here, and I got friends from Joshua Tree. Two extremes. The most deadly place in the world is right over there, and the most loving place is right over there.”
The Sufi poet, Rumi wrote:
I ask how he’s seen it change, what direction he sees it going in. “The artist part of the town, became a whole lot more open to the military. Because they started looking at them as human beings and not as a political view. I’m not saying all of them are wrong or right, it’s just that we all live in our own little box a lot of the time. “
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase each other doesn’t make any sense.
He talks about the organization, Mil-Tree, recently set up in Joshua Tree to help Marines heal and overcome the traumas of combat through art, and of members of the Marine Corps volunteering to help people
I think Jerni would agree. 10
The Raven Journal - Joshua Tree, CA
The Sharing Economy
by Barbie Sommars
attain without putting yourself out of your comfort zone and into someone else’s shoes.” You can check out Ryan’s properties: “JT Village Park Blvd. Experience”, “Starfire” and “360° Private Piece of Joshua Tree” on www.airbnb.com
SHARING - it’s one of the first learned behaviors and a fundamental of human socialization. I was reminded of this while watching a group of children play at a two-year old’s birthday party recently. After all of the presents were open and making their way through six or so sets of l’il hands, parents repeatedly encouraged their tiny humans to share. An early lesson in bridging the inequality gap and fostering trust in this microcosm of society.
Is the Sharing Economy making us better humans? Maybe. Most of us have given friends a ride to the airport or shared our homes with them. These are the basic fundamentals of ride and home sharing apps. It may be a stretch to liken it to an extended family but after using a few of these services, I can say that it makes me feel more connected to my fellow human. Even though these “shared” resources are also commoditized, it seems that it is teaching us how to share and trust all over again. And what about keeping up with the Joneses? Forget about it! Just rent their house!
And then what? As we mature, it seems we tend to become more competitive and untrusting. As a society, we hoard and commoditize resources, possessions and even knowledge. And so the urge to “keep up with the Joneses” begins. Enter the Sharing Economy, brought to you by technology - the almighty matchmaker. Most of us have heard of the apps: Uber, Lyft and AirBnB, to name a few. There are even apps for pet sitting, such as DogVacay and meal sharing via Kitchensurf. Is Sharing Economy the correct term? I’ve heard other clever and arguably more appropriate terms such as WeCommerce, Access Economy, On Demand Economy, Collaborative Consumption, Renting Economy, Peer-to-Peer commerce, etc. No matter what you call it, it seems it is here to stay. The Sharing Economy has become so popular that the Federal Trade Commission held a day-long workshop in June to examine just such platforms and assess whether or not there is a role for the government to play. Should the government regulate or continue to allow these companies to regulate themselves with built-in features like background checks, rating systems and information gathering? Will the middle class continue to benefit from leveraging their assets to make ends meet without excessive taxation and regulation? Only time, public feedback and input from taxi services and hotels chains will tell.
And how does this new platform help the planet? It may not prevent global warming (although most ride-share cars tend to be fuel efficient) but if it reduces waste or the need to own a car, I’d say that’s a major step in the right direction. Taking advantage of under-utilized assets and reducing the need to buy new things tends to be good for the planet and cost-effective for consumers. Clothing and food swaps are the best examples of sharing having a direct impact on the health of the Earth. Tips for a 5-star guest rating: R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Remember you’re in someone’s private home, not a hotel room. So don’t take towels or anything else. Desert Specific - Don’t start a fire unless there is zero wind, a designated area and you have permission from the host.
Illustration by Martín Mancha
Cleanliness - If you have access to the washing machine and dishwasher, go ahead and start a load of sheets, towels or dishes they’ll love you for it!
Host Reviews - Be cool and don’t make a public complaint about something minor. Instead, consider sending a private message to the host if something didn’t meet your expectations.
Local Airbnb Superhost, Ryan Keller says, “For me, short term renting hasn’t been just about making a profit or conveniently renting out my home while I’m away. The places I rent out I turned from vacant dumps into bastions of my hammer and nail, my design, my lifestyle, my heart. Sharing them with strangers makes me feel like part of myself happily gets to leave with each guest. Hearing, ‘Cool idea I’m going to make one of those when I get home’ makes the whole thing worthwhile. The sharing economy is so successful to me as it is an interchange of ideas, expression, creativity and foreign experience. Discovery you couldn’t
The Sharing Economy is playing a very important role in the HighDesert, which seems to be an ever-increasingly popular tourist destination. So much so that there are over 1,000 Airbnb listings in Joshua Tree alone! Whether you’re coming out to see your favorite band at Pappy & Harriet’s, taking in a meteor shower, having a nature escape at Joshua Tree National Park or a Sound Bath at the Integratron, your unique desert experience awaits. 11
Issue 1 - Autumn 2015
Escape... What is your interior design inspiration? We wanted to make the interior minimal. We want our guests to be able to reboot in an uncluttered environment. Clean, modern and simple. We also wanted to furnish and decorate with 100% local art and furniture. I think we ended up with about 80% local furnishings. Route 62 in Yucca Valley probably furnished at least half of everything in both of our rentals. Do you find that business slows down significantly over the ‘low season’ of the summer months? The summer season does slow down but from what I’m told by locals, it’s much better than it was even 3-5 years ago. Honestly it’s not a severe drop off and the break is nice because the tourist season has gotten so crazy out here. If ‘Joshua Tree Magical Desert Escape’ was a set for a movie, what would it be?
The Raven talks to Justin Hosford, who along with his partner, Kime Buzzelli-Hosford, run a successful vacation rental business. They also own the popular vintage shop The End, in old town Yucca Valley.
The movie ‘3 Women’ directed by Robert Altman made me want to go to the desert so I will go with that.
Where did you move to the High-Desert from?
What sort of experience can guests expect to have?
We moved here from Los Angeles
We try to go above and beyond guests’ expectations. As Airbnb renters ourselves, we know how important cleanliness is and pride ourselves on providing a clean, orderly environment. We also provide small details like a record player, books, coffee, mad libs and a fully stocked kitchen. We also have a huge meditation garden in the backyard with old growth mesquite trees. Every year we plant another couple trees and add to the oasis.
What made you decide to move out here? We were both working in television in 2010 when we purchased our desert home as a weekend/hiatus destination after falling in love with the area. We used to come out for shows at Pappy and Harriet’s, overnight stays at the 29 Palms Inn and hiking in the Park. When the show we were both working on ran its course a couple years later, we decided to move out to the desert full time.
What do you think about the growing number of vacation rentals in the area?
How long have you been hosts on Airbnb?
The area has certainly grown a lot in the last few years and a big part of that boom is Airbnb rentals. Tourism is driving the economy here and the more places to stay the more visitors we can accommodate in the area. Last year 1.6 million tourists came through and they are expecting close to 2 million this year. Now, is there a number of rentals that we could hit that would start to saturate the market? Of course. But I also think that it takes an incredible amount of work to run a rental and it’s difficult to maintain success operating an Airbnb remotely. Most of the successful rentals we see are run by local residents. We are a pretty tight knit group in the desert and we help each other out. So I think staying viable as an Airbnb out here is equal parts offering a great product but also being part of this amazing community. If it gets too crazy though we are gonna pack up and move to Amboy.
The year we moved out full time we decided to purchase another house in Joshua Tree and list it on Airbnb. So a couple years. How many rentals do you have? We now have 2 rentals in the area. One is located 5 minutes from the park entrance in Joshua Tree and the other is right in the middle of old town Yucca Valley, down the hill from Pappy and Harriet’s. How much work did you have to do to the properties? The property in Joshua Tree was completely ready to go. The previous owner had remodeled the building from top to bottom including a brand new kitchen and bathroom. We fell in love instantly. The only thing we added was a new AC/heating system. The place in Yucca Valley has been a lot of work. We painted, installed new doors, installed new floors, added new appliances and replaced all the fixtures. The one you’re featuring in the Raven is the remodeled Joshua Tree house. You can find it under “Joshua Tree Magical Desert Escape” on Airbnb.
You can find Joshua Tree Magical Desert Escape at www.airbnb.com/rooms/1404773
The Raven Journal - Joshua Tree, CA
by Anastasia King Jaress
Douglas ‘Buck’ Buckley, photo by Anastasia King Jaress cover shielding it from the sun’s heat. Two repurposed trampolines shade a veranda crowded with ‘70s era patio furniture. A claw-footed tub sits on the outskirts inviting guests to bathe beneath the sky and gaze at the shadows playing on the mountains across the valley.
It’s early in the morning when I drive out to meet Douglas “Buck” Buckley at the Buzzard’s Roost, a five-acre parcel perched ten miles from the entrance to Joshua Tree National Park. I ramble along a dirt road through a broad expanse of classic Mojave scrub - chubby cholla, bushy creosote and a king’s guard of Joshua trees. The sun is quickly establishing its dominance, promising to turn the day into a classic desert scorcher. After two days of monsoon rain, the sun’s rays are reassuring.
Perched between downtown Joshua Tree and the sound bath emporium, the Integratron, both of Buckley’s rental properties earn nearly perfect marks on Airbnb. Visitors adore staying in the Rocket, which is outfitted with ‘50s furniture and dozens of little mid-century Flash Gordon, space race and diner culture touches. Guests appreciate Buckley’s water and energy saving efforts – the passive solar hot water heater on the roof, rainwater catchment, solar panels, etc. Inside, it’s comfortable and quirky; your eye is constantly being tugged along strange tangents. Two more vintage trailers are being transformed into climate conscious AirBnB rentals.
I park behind the house, a tidy one-story “rambler” that had grown from a one-room homesteader’s cabin into five rooms of middle-class practicality. It’s ringed in neat gravel and appears typically suburban, except for the array of solar panels on the roof and two enormous plastic cubes beneath the rain gutter. Several vintage trailers dot the property. Amongst them sit an old van painted corncob yellow, a miniature playground set and a mish-mash of other items, some recognizable, some not.
There are currently 213 comments on Buckley’s Airbnb profile. He has responded to every single one. Most of them go something like this:
Buckley ambles towards me, tall and lanky, with a cloud of sand colored hair, some of which is tied back in a slender ponytail. He’s a no-nonsense sort who prefers doing to talking, so we start the tour.
“Buck was a great host and the Rocket was a funky experience! Buck is doing great work in permaculture. Thanks Buck!” Buckley loves permaculture, a design philosophy for growing food and constructing buildings sustainably. A “permanent agriculture” or “permanent culture”, it coalesces a broad range of disciplines – engineering, agriculture, biology, architecture, and more – to create
“Basically, I like old things,” Buckley begins with a muted smile. We’re gazing at the Rocket, a 1958 motorhome designed after the spacecraft that were popular at the time. Its bold American red stands out against the muted colors of the desert, its presence amplified by a tall aluminum 13
Issue 1 - Autumn 2015 long-term solutions that utilize nature’s forces rather than trying to dominate them. “Stacking functions is what I’m all about,” Buckley avows. “And free energy. And free everything. Why pay for things that are free?” At the moment, Buckley is consumed with water projects. This is where his former career as a licensed plumber and contractor buoys his forays into permaculture. He’s directing grey water –water from sinks and showers – into a cleansing process that mimics a riverbed. The greywater flows into a channel lined to prevent pollutants from leaching into the ground. Then it cascades over rocks and gravel, across a sink full of copper bits that annihilate bacteria, through a net that catches hair and out into a bio-filtration field where drought-tolerant, fruit-bearing trees and cacti clean it before it is returned to flush toilets. “You use Nature to clean the water rather than doing waste treatment plants which is another unsustainable behavior,” he explains. A different system will process ‘blackwater’ from toilets and kitchen sinks.
The Rocket, photo by Anastasia King Jaress sequestering microbes including fungus, bacteria and protozoa. They are aghast when new people “scrape the desert.” Robert: ”People think they’re cleaning up but…they’re destroying the connectedness of the desert.”
Buckley has owned this property only two years, so it’s early in its development. After digging the trenches and pits needed for the water treatment systems, Buckley’s earthmover carved out space for a garden and a sunken greenhouse, or walpini. Walpinis help moderate temperatures for the plants utilizing the coolness of the earth (55-65 degrees) and the warmth of the sun.
I’m thinking about all the trenches and pits that were dug for Buckley’s water and waste treatment projects. Of course, once those projects are finished, the desert floor will again be made whole. Until something needs repair.
Pondering their future, Buckley’s wife, Julia, hopes for many things, including a thriving family business an energy independent community, and a truly local food solution. “We’ve got to figure out how to grow our own food in the desert.”
This dilemma is familiar territory for anyone who thinks seriously about living more sustainably: it’s impossible to live on the planet and leave her alone at the same time. People need shelter, food and community but no one wants to go back to living in the trees. We are constantly faced with having to choose between what nets the greatest good.
Buckley began seeing a different way of living 40 years ago when he traveled around Europe after high school. He learned that most people were just trying to get by. Much later, the economic collapse of 2007 sent his construction business into a tailspin. Then zeitgeist, a controversial documentary, helped connect the dots amongst his “still forming observations.”
Buckley sees part of his situation this way: “People come here [for vacation] from LA or Europe and they see you can live differently. They’ll take it home with them, take some of it to heart…But as they take their shower, they’re also watering my plants.”
Buckley is compelled by one of the film’s propositions: that the story of Christ is actually an ancient astronomical tale with the sun playing the starring role. Numerous ancient cultures worshipped the sun as a god, the creator and source of all life. Ancient Egyptians had Ra; Incans prayed to Inti; Roman Pagans favored Sol Invictus. “They knew that this guy made everything,” he says, the sun now high in the sky. “Basically, without the sun, we wouldn’t have water. We wouldn’t have fertile earth…. We wouldn’t have anything.”
There is an honorable outcast way about Buckley, like a pioneer from a classic Western whose principles set him against the prevailing desires of the townsfolk. He was drawn to the desert by the light. “Just minute by minute it changes and everything looks different.” He loves that you can see the Milky Way with the naked eye, the wide open spaces and the community. For the last two years, Buckley and a band of dedicated Joshua Tree locals have been struggling to keep the corporate cheap goods store, Dollar General, from opening a location within town limits. Most of the businesses in the tiny village are small and locally owned. Many believe that Joshua Tree’s open, undeveloped spaces and quirky, anachronistic flavor are the keys to the town’s appeal to tourists and thereby to its economic sustainability. So far, the townsfolk are winning.
Buckley’s long face belies some fatigue but the eyes perched in it are sparkling and bright, especially when he gets going on any topic close to his heart. For instance, solar: “I’d like to see distributed rooftop solar on every structure that has a roof and it should be developed further so the rooftop solar components are the roof. In addition to collecting free photons from the sun, the roof could provide drinkable rainwater harvesting and protect the house with a glass roof that is sustainable and will last indefinitely.”
Looking to the future, Buckley is excited about his new business: installing rooftop solar. He views solar energy as the best possible alternative to dirty coal and risky nuclear power plants. However, he doesn’t like wind and solar fields, as they cause more environmental harm than they mitigate and they’re highly inefficient. There is little loss when you capture energy right where it’s needed.
While he loves low-tech solutions – “high tech is what got us into this mess” –Buckley also admires Elon Musk, the entrepreneur behind Space X, Tesla, Solar City, PayPal and the new high-speed, low-energy Hyperloop train. “He has his finger in every technology there is… Everything they learn in one industry he transfers to another…He’s not patenting. He wants other people to do [what he’s doing]…That’s what’s going to change the world.”
“Two minutes of that will power the world for a year,” Buckley says, pointing to the sun. “That’s all you need. Just two minutes of sunlight.” That and millions of building owners on every acre of the planet seeing the net good in rooftop solar.
Buckley and Robert, a neighbor and handyman, talk about the unique mycelium in the Mojave. Buckley says they are light and carbon 14
The Raven Journal - Joshua Tree, CA
Mumsie in front of her hippie van. Photo by Teresa Sitz.
MEDICINE WOMAN OF THE DESERT by Teresa Sitz
Mumsie: Yes, I am, but I’m not active. I’ve gone far beyond that. I don’t believe in the same things I used to, but I still practice a lot of the teachings.
Suzanne “Mumsie” Buckley is the 81-year-old matriarch of the Buckley family, all 76 of them (7 children, 36 grandchildren, and 33 greatgrandchildren). Mumsie lives in Joshua Tree, on a neat-as-a-pin desert homestead, full of native plants and creosote, next door to her son Buck’s vintage trailer Airbnb rentals.
Teresa: I went to the LDS girls’ program, Mutual, when I was a teenager. We weren’t LDS but we lived right next to a church so I was swept in briefly.
Mumsie has lived in the desert most of her life. She grew up in Burley – a desert community in Southern Idaho, not far from where my family settled. She learned from a previous generation of miners and desert rats how to love and live in the desert. It was from them that she learned about the healing properties of creosote. She brews creosote tea to heal herself and her friends and has had great success treating her own fibromyalgia with the ubiquitous herb. She has had great success treating her own fibromyalgia with the ubiquitous herb. Recently, she threw a creosote ‘tea party’ and shared with others how to select, harvest, steep, and drink tea derived from the native desert tree.
Mumsie: Yes. Mutual is really good. I liked the programs for the kids. I had seven kids: five boys and two girls. One of the girls died. Buck is my #4 son. I called them by numbers. I could never remember their names. It’s really hard when you have to go through all of those names to get to the one you want. I had five children in seven years. Teresa: I ran away from Idaho after high school. I looked around and saw all my friends having kids, and many of my friends became alcoholics, and I thought, that’s not for me. Mumsie: I was an alcoholic, but when I quit, I quit. I’ve got 36 years sober and drug free. I’m very active in Alcoholics Anonymous. That’s my religion now. I drank for almost 32 years, so when I hit my 32nd year of sobriety I said, “Now I’ve been sober as long as I drank.” That was pretty neat.
Mumsie showed me the original cabin in her house – a standard 200300’ cabin, now her bedroom. To this was added a kitchen, a living room, and a studio, making it a classic desert ‘built-more.’ Inside the studio are display cases for a gift shop she hopes to open someday. I sat with Mumsie at her dining room table, where she was surrounded by her art works: god’s eyes, earrings, paintings, sculptures, drawings, pine needle baskets, and more.
Teresa: So you were raising your kids by yourself? Mumsie: Yeah, pretty much. I was married four times. I was trying to find a dad for the kids but it was kind of hard to do. I wouldn’t stand for anyone being mean to my kids, because I wasn’t. I got some great kids – seven children, and every one of them is a keeper. I wouldn’t throw any of them back. They’re just great human beings.
Teresa: Mumsie, when did you leave Burley? Mumsie: When I was sixteen. I got married and went to the big city of Ogden, Utah. I’d never been out of Burley. The buildings in Ogden looked like skyscrapers to me.
Teresa: How do you feel about the desert?
Teresa: The Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS) is very prominent in southern Idaho. Are you LDS?
Mumsie: I love the desert. Burley was a desert and when I was growing up I didn’t like it. I always said the only way to get through the desert 15
Issue 1 - Autumn 2015 is real fast. I thought it was hot, ugly, miserable, everything was dead, no trees, no water.
Mumsie: They always have. The Indians did.
I left Burley to go take care of my mother. She lived in Bouse, Arizona, and there I learned to love the desert. I just really fell in love with it, the things that grew – and you don’t see them when you’re driving in a car. You gotta get out and look at the ground. There’s little tiny flowers growing everywhere. And there’s animals everywhere. But when you’re driving through fast, you don’t see any of that.
Teresa: But they didn’t sit in one place, like we do. They wandered around. Mumsie: They had to look for water. They didn’t have toilets, so they’d leave and let the ground heal itself and go find another spot.
Living in Bouse was a good experience. We had a really nice yard. I was trained as a caregiver and that was my job. There were 15 people in Bouse that I cared for until they died. It was quite an experience. I also took care of their yards. I was really good at landscaping. I followed my mother around when I was little and I learned from her. And the people I took care of taught me. They were wonderful people. Every one of them was a friend.
Teresa: We pretty much sit still now. How do we let the earth heal from our presence? Mumsie: We don’t know how to Suzanne at 14, Burley, Idaho live here. I try to utilize everything in the desert. People just dump stuff. My refrigerator and stove came from out in the desert. They work. I use them.
There was an old miner I took care of, close to 80. He’d had seven operations on his leg for cancer, and every time the cancer would come back. They were going to amputate his leg. I was working in a health food store in Haley, Idaho. He came in because he didn’t want to lose his leg. I had been studying and told him about creosote. We drove to Arizona to pick creosote and he drank the tea three times a day and he died at 93 with two legs.
The first time I went to the dump in Irvine, cars were lined up for a mile. It was incredible the amount of garbage. I had nightmares. We’ve made this earth sick. We’re the ones causing all this chaos in the world. Teresa: It’s probably too much to ask, but do you think there’s an answer?
Teresa: Tell me about your creosote tea party.
Mumsie: Someone asked Gandhi how to heal the earth. He said, “Quit making her sick. She’ll heal herself.” It’s very simple. So we have to stop what we’re doing and be aware. We have to learn to make do with what we have – stop buying everything new.
Mumsie: People came to the tea party and they collected creosote and they made tea and everybody drank some. I use honey, ‘cause honey’s good for you, too. A lot of people don’t care for the taste of creosote, they think it’s too strong. I love it. I love the smell. When it rains, the smell is Heaven.
Teresa: Has your concept of death changed, living in the desert?
Teresa: Would you say it’s an acquired taste?
Mumsie: I had to work on that with my religion. I’m not afraid of dying. I’m not afraid of death anymore. I just accept it. It’s a part of life, and it will be what it will be and there’s nothing you can do to change what will be.
Mumsie: [Laughing] There are some people that didn’t like it at all. I love it. Usually I drink it in the spring like a tonic, and then if I’m having problems with fibromyalgia, or problems of any kind I drink it.
I call myself a spiritual being, here on earth trying to be human. And being human is very difficult because it’s very restricting. I believe all people are basically good and what happens to them along the way is what makes them change and be what they are. You have to bless them with love.
Teresa: Do you think creosote helped your fibromyalgia? Mumsie: I know it did. I don’t have it anymore. Teresa: How did you first start getting involved with creosote?
Teresa: Any last words to The Raven’s readers?
Mumsie: From one of the fellows that I took care of in Bouse. He taught me a lot about the desert. He’d been a master gardener. He taught me about composting. He was really brilliant. That was when I had fibromyalgia really bad.
Mumsie: I love life. I really love life. When you get older you learn to be the way you want to be. You accept yourself and everybody else. Teresa: Thank you, Mumsie.
Teresa: How long did it take to subside? Mumsie: Probably about three years. After that, I went down to one cup a day. Now I just drink it as tonic. You don’t want to pick it when it’s seeding, but when it’s dormant – in the fall or spring. You take the green, tender tips Teresa: The LDS made tea out of ephedra. Have you used it? Mumsie: My mother had chronic bladder infections. I’d pick ephedra every spring and give it to her and it helped her more than the medicines they gave her. And she liked to drink it. God put these herbs here for us to use. Teresa: Do you think people are supposed to live in the desert?
The ubiquitous creosote bush. Photo by Teresa Sitz 16
The Raven Journal - Joshua Tree, CA
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bread by Anastasia King Jaress
I’d always dreamt of baking the perfect loaf: deep nooks for butter and a crust that crisped up in the toaster; a hearty, slightly tangy, chewy bread, the kind you want to tear off in hunks and gnaw on. The first time I tried to make bread, I attempted a sourdough imbued with wild yeasts. It came out flat, brick-hard and basically inedible. That was the year JC and I worked on organic farms and I had only just begun to understand what living “more sustainably” means.
Then Julie shared her secret: the Artisan Bread in Five Master Recipe. Mix flour, water, salt and yeast. Let it rise. Make a dough ball. Stick it in the oven. Seriously, it’s that easy. Julie kept a batch in the refrigerator. Just before mealtimes, she’d scoop out a ball and bake it. This is now our daily bread.
Sustainability isn’t just about the environment, one’s carbon footprint. It’s also about what’s emotionally, socially and economically viable in the long term. For me, the food part of sustainability means choosing ingredients that are as organic and local as we can afford, while maintaining a diet that is healthy, diverse and most importantly, f ’ing delicious. Why save the planet if you can’t enjoy the life you live on it?
Granted, my loaves aren’t exactly what I’d dreamt of. They aren’t truly local and they certainly aren’t pretty. But they are organic, they make delicious toast and they fit in our budget. Each large loaf costs about $0.87.
In this regard, bread proved problematic. Buying organic loaves was absolutely out of our budget. Meanwhile, I had always believed that making bread was too hard; it required impossible skills, special equipment and too many steps.
We’ll probably never achieve 100% sustainability. We’ll always be striking a balance, finding new ways to move towards that goal while maximizing the pleasure in living.
Enter: Julie Hurley of Kentucky bluegrass country. While we worked on the Hurley farm, she somehow found the time to make all kinds of delectable, organic foods: cinnamony, semi-sweet granola; ricotta pancakes with homemade cheese; and, at nearly every meal, crusty, delicious, freshly baked bread. I was in awe.
Find my favorite bread recipes - Artisan Bread in Five Master Recipe, Chocolate Bourbon Bread Pudding, Best Breakfast Ever (aka Strata) here: www.goodfootproject.com/bread-recipes
Forever Is a Very Long Time by JC Jaress Sustainability...it sounds so right...but what does it mean? Is recycling sustainable? Riding a bicycle? A small organic farm? LED light bulbs? What is sustainable?
Recycling is an enabler. The plastic bottle industry proudly reported producing over 30 billion bottles last year...and a fraction of them got recycled into dog toys and park benches.
In 2013 we sold our house and most of our home’s furnishings and our cars. We grabbed what we considered essential, bought a 1990 Ford Jamboree motor home and spent a year living and working on family farms, permaculture centers and intentional communities. We sought, and learned many ways to live more sustainably, but we found no one who actually lived 100% sustainably.
This is the truth of it: We are currently failing the only planet we have. Unless we dramatically scale back our consumption of resources, it will get worse and many more people will fail the test of survival. The USA may be the poster child for non-sustainability, but the consumer class is a global phenomenon now. The consumer class burns through an inordinate amount of the world’s resources to support a lifestyle that only a small percentage of the people can afford. Ironically, this privilege is earned on the backs of the very people who cannot afford to enjoy it with us. (Visit slaveryfootprint.org to find out how many slaves are required to maintain your lifestyle.)
By definition, for a process to be considered sustainable it must be environmentally, economically and socially sustainable. These three legs of sustainability are necessary to support any long-term plans for human survival: If a product, solution or lifestyle works economically and socially, yet destroys the environment, then eventually the system, and the planet, will fail. Likewise, if it is not economically feasible, it will fail. Or, if it fosters inequality, sub-standard wages or slavery, not only is it unjust, it is also unsustainable.
So then...what are we to do? Each of us must reduce our consumption and petition our fellow men and women to do the same. It is that simple.
Given this understanding of sustainability, how sustainable is your life? But wait...this sounds like I will have to change my life, to give up some of my stuff...where do I draw the line?
We are using more than our fair share of the world’s resources. Scale down your lifestyle. Buy less. Grow more. Be resourceful. Be creative. We must all lead the change.
Plastic water bottles. Hosing down your driveway. Processed foods. Drive-thru meals. A new phone every 12 months. Designer clothes. Your car. It is up to you to decide what level of sustainability you can support...but doing nothing is plainly selfish, short-sighted and indulgent.
Remember this - you live in a terrarium and no one is coming to feed you and change your water. Or recycle your new plastic toys. On the road to sustainability one step at a time. Follow our journey at goodfootproject.com
“But, I recycle.” Go to the back of the line. Recycling is not sustainable. 17
Issue 1 - Autumn 2015
Community, Communication & Progress by Lauren Ell
‘Communication’ is a word that has become prominent in my vocabulary during the last five years of my life. I am increasingly fixated on determining ideal methods and mediums for individuals and groups to effectively exchange information about events and activities happening in the community for positive development. My fascination with communication primarily stems from living in a poorly planned part of the Coachella Valley, CA, for the first 20 years of my life. This area was a strange place where commercial buildings and homes randomly sprouted up despite looking completely different from surrounding structures. The inconsistency in building design made the main road look unattractive especially when compared to a neighboring city that was a modern architectural paradise. In my hometown, neighborhoods often consisted of a few streets of groomed homes with lawns and sidewalks while the next streets were run-down homes with cracking asphalt roads crumbling at the edges. People from nearby cities would snicker with sarcasm when I told them where I lived and even the residents themselves would often say they chose the wrong city to live in.
Lauren Ell, photo by Xihomara Alvarez I am thrilled to report that my broadcasting project has received positive support from Morongo Basin residents and even residents in the Coachella Valley, Los Angeles, San Diego and out of state. People have thanked me for sharing information about activity in the area; many were unaware of what was happening. Additionally, the Lauren Ell of the Hi-Desert Facebook page consistently obtains followers whom I personally do not know, a good indication that awareness is spreading.
It’s no surprise that I grew up with a negative outlook on my community and did not venture out in the town much because I really saw no reason to. I dreamed of living in a community that was engaged in its development.
I have even received support from members of prominent local groups such as Transition Joshua Tree, Morongo Basin Conservation Association, Joshua Tree Chamber of Commerce, Morongo Basin Municipal Advisory Committee (MAC), Radio Free Joshua Tree and more. Radio Free Joshua Tree, a local online radio station, actually broadcasts my weekly podcast recording five days a week, which widens my exposure while I am able to provide them with free content. At this point in time, Lauren Ell of the Hi Desert is the only local news segment broadcasted on Radio Free Joshua Tree. Needless to say, I see a positive future in stimulated communication in the Morongo Basin.
After graduating high school I bounced around a bit in California and even overseas, thinking I would live somewhere far from home. However, lo and behold, the Morongo Basin became a primary topic of interest to me as I began hearing about residents combatting major power line installations, poorly planned housing projects and unwanted commercial ‘progress’. I observed community members come together and initiate their own groups to bring undesired development to a halt. A major blow was when I learned that the corporate chain store Dollar General was attempting to build in Joshua Tree, one of the most artistic and scenic locations I know of, right outside the beautiful Joshua Tree National Park.
My story demonstrates the value of communication to engage, energize and motivate people to take the future and development of their community into their own hands. In this age of technology, it couldn’t be easier to begin implementing change through communication and the dissemination of information. I strongly believe that the more strategic and conscious people are in sharing information, the faster positive change will occur whether it is on the individual, familial or societal level.
In no time I began searching online for information about the project and soon came across the NO Dollar General in Joshua Tree Facebook group where I was able to read comments made by members about tasks being worked on such as communicating with lawyers, attending county meetings, and raising funds for filing legal documents. I was amazed to observe people come together in such a pro-active way to combat a store that had been built in so many other places where residents did not lift a finger in opposition.
Information can be shared in many ways. Sharing methods include word of mouth, hosting events, giving presentations to groups, or even presenting a dance or theater performance. The Internet undoubtedly is a powerful tool for transmitting information quickly to large groups of people.
After living in communities where any form of development was accepted by locals, I felt drawn to Joshua Tree and wanted to help residents’ efforts in halting the construction of Dollar General and supporting them on other pressing issues as well. I knew I was good at spreading information online via social media, blogging and related methods and I also felt that communication is important in sharing information with the community about the type of activity happening in the area.
If you would like to contribute to communication initiatives in your community, my suggestion is to determine a topic you are passionate about, such as art, permaculture, fitness, education or whatever really gets your mouth talking. The next step is to recognize what skills come naturally to you. Is it writing, painting, speaking, dancing? Whatever it is, there is definitely some way you can use your skill to promote communication on a topic that you are passionate about. You could also launch a project on your own or with a group of people you feel connected to. We live in an age of communication, which now more than ever calls for us to take our future into our own hands, effect positive progress and be the change.
As a result, I launched my own podcast and blog, LaurenElloftheHiDesert. com in October 2014. Here, I would cover local news relating to commercial development, resource management, conservation and local events that bring residents together. I set up a website, made a broadcasting account and within no time was able to record podcasts and publish blogs online. I utilized social media to share podcast recordings, blog posts as well as photos from local committee meetings and events.
Lauren Ell is a podcaster, reporter and online marketing consultant based in Joshua Tree, CA. 18
The Raven Journal - Joshua Tree, CA
THE MOJAVE PROJECT K I M
S T R I N G F E L L O W
The Mojave Project is an experimental transmedia documentary by artist and teacher, Kim Stringfellow. Its journey across the Mojave Desert explores the physical, geological and cultural landscape of this complex and surprising place.
Stringfellow, a Joshua Tree resident, was one of the beneficiaries of the 2015 John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, the elusive accolade and grant which this year selected 175 applicants out of 3,100. The Mojave Project is also supported by and has received funding from San Diego State University and a Cal Humanities California Documentary Project grant- the latter awarded annually to documentaries about California. Currently on sabbatical from the School of Art & Design at San Diego State University, Stringfellow began production on The Mojave Project in August 2014. It’s due to be completed in March 2017 when the exhibition and accompanying publication will be launched at the Museum of Art & History (MOAH) in Lancaster, CA. During this period, Stringfellow will conduct research and field inquiry involving interviews, reportage and personal journaling supported with still photography, audio and video documentation. Noah Purifoy’s Outdoor Desert Art Museum, Joshua Tree, CA. Photo by Kim Stringfellow
The Mojave Project will focus on eight core themes. Field Dispatches around these themes will be shared throughout the production period. The Raven is collaborating with Kim Stringfellow and The Mojave Project to publish a field dispatch in each quarterly issue.
more than 50,000 years old. The fact that Neotoma lepida does not conserve water like other more evolved desert rodents is the primary reason why their midden nests have endured over time. For example, packrats relieve themselves frequently in a not so sanitary manner; they discharge their highly concentrated urine within their living quarters, where it then permeates into bottom layers of the den forming a tacky dark residue known as amberat. This resin-like substance hardens into a blackened shellac, cementing the midden and its entombed contents over time, layer upon layer (reminding me of the black wax that Bruce Conner used to encase his controversial 1959-60 assemblage CHILD). The amberat’s natural antibacterial properties, along with the dry desert climate, help to preserve varied and continuous repositories of vegetal and climate changes in diverse and now nonexistent former microclimates. The study of ancient midden formations has supplanted pollen records used for climate research where available. Functioning as ecological time capsules, these ancient middens “provide a complex and continuous fossil record in parts of the world where fossils are scarce and continuous records unheard of.”
For our first installment, we’re featuring Packrats and Possum Trot, which explores the issues of culture, environment and people. All the existing field dispatches are available to read on mojaveproject.org.
Packrats & Possum Trot The Desert woodrat (Neotoma lepida)—more popularly known as the packrat—is by design not well suited for desert living. Compared to other rodents of the Mojave Desert, such as the kangaroo rat (Dipodomys deserti), they do not tolerate high temperatures well, requiring ample water and succulent food sources to survive within their arid environment. To prosper, these desert denizens must construct elaborate multilayered dens called middens (an archeological term for a domestic trash heap) where they can escape the heat of the day or perhaps a hungry predator looking for a late afternoon snack.
The paleoecological value of Desert woodrat middens was first recognized by botanist Philip Wells and mammalogist Carl Jorgenson while doing a field survey in 1961 for the Atomic Energy Commission on Aysees Peak in what is now the Nevada Test Site. While hiking the two men spotted a large formation among the rocks above and proceeded to investigate the dark, resinous outcropping. Jorgenson, aware of its origin, broke off a piece that surprisingly revealed preserved juniper seeds and twigs encased within the amberized material. The specimen was sent to a lab at UCLA and ran through Carbon-14 analysis, which dated the sample at nearly 10,000 years. Their initial finding and consequent research established how examination and radiocarbon dating of Neotoma lepida middens— some up to 50,000 years old—could provide “a very powerful tool for reproducing past biotic communities at a specific site.”
Compared to its packrat cousins living in more temperate climates, Neotoma lepida is rather small in comparison, ranging from 11 to 15 inches in length, including its tail, and weighing in at around a third of a pound. With their dark eyes and tawny brown coats they are quite handsome as rats go. Their geographic range is quite vast, extending far south into Baja California and northwestern Sonora; northward throughout the deserts of the Great Basin; and east into western Utah, Arizona and Colorado. Neotoma lepida is for the most part a nocturnal and solitary creature, which hoards for very practical and specific reasons. Instead of burrowing underground, packrats construct dens in a variety of locations—for instance, a protected ring of woody yucca, or better yet a rocky outcrop located in a cave or under a shady boulder overhang. Given the opportunity, packrats will build nests in human castoffs like a car engine compartment of a vehicle that has remained in one spot too long. Within the one-acre zone surrounding the den, packrats— as their name designates—gather materials of all sorts of desert debris. Their assemblage is a collection of mostly organic materials, including cholla cactus bits which serve as a prickly deterrent to those beforementioned predators, as well as twigs, leaves, fruits, rocks, bone, seeds and on occasion a few shiny human-made mementos when they happen across them. Much of what they collect provides sustenance and what they do not consume becomes part of the midden along with the rat’s own fecal pellets. Together this collected assortment of material helps to protect, insulate and maintain a comfortably humid climate for the packrat inhabitant in the upper reaches of its nest.
Far earlier accounts of encounters with middens of Neotoma lepida include a curious if somewhat revolting tale told by William Lewis Manly when his group of starved and possibly delusional travelers in 1849 stumbled upon what they thought to be some sort of Native American delicacy previously cached away in a rocky outcropping near Papoose Dry Lake about 70 miles northwest of where now lies Las Vegas. “Part way up we came to a high cliff and in its face were niches or cavities as large as a barrel or larger, and in some of them we found balls of a glistening substance looking something like pieces of varigated [sic] candy stuck together. The balls were as large as small pumpkins. It was evidently food of some sort, and we found it sweet but sickish, and those who were so hungry as to break up one of the balls and divide it among the others, making a good meal of it, were a little troubled with nausea afterward.” (Manly 126).
Packrats have a profound tendency to use former midden sites to the extreme; paleontologists have documented middens of desert woodrats, protected from rain and elements, which have persisted over thousands of years with some of the oldest confirmed by radiocarbon dating at 19
Issue 1 - Autumn 2015 Interestingly, some websites suggest that amberat is the source of the Ayurvedic folk medicine variously named shilajit, shilajitu, moomiyo, mummie or mumiyo also alternatively referred to as “mountain tear,” “blood mountain,” or “balsam of rock.”
1964, after he grew tired of this endeavor, he and several others had founded the Watts Towers Art Center alongside Simon Rodia’s magical landmark installation. Purifoy became the center’s founding director, which brought together his own interest in social causes with community art making.
Like packrats, humans more often than not seem intent on either collecting or discarding what is around them, especially when they reside in the desert. Perhaps these activities are more noticeable here because everything seems so much more exposed. Rusted and discarded machinery from abandoned mining claims with other forgotten remnants of habitation, common trash and illegal dumpsites are common and readily observed throughout the Mojave Desert.
After witnessing the 1965 Watts Rebellion firsthand, Purifoy was moved to work with the physical results, the found objects of detritus from the historic event. This body of work formed the basis for his seminal effort, 66 Signs of Neon, a landmark group exhibition that Purifoy coordinated, which combined the energy and frustration of the rebellion with postwar creative sensibilities found in the art of contemporaries Bruce Conner, David Hammons, George Herms, Ed Keinholz, Robert Rauschenberg and others. This exhibit traveled to nine venues between 1966 and 1969.
Hinterculture, a creative collaboration between Larissa Nickel and Karyl Newman, through an associated project called DEHSART, has documented and transformed assemblages of trash throughout the greater Antelope and Victor Valleys since spring 2013. This particular region of the western Mojave lies in both Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties—areas where the native desert landscape has been particularly disturbed by excessive agricultural and military use, suburban sprawl and just poor planning. Indeed, some of this “desert” is hardly recognizable depending on where you stand.
Seemingly frustrated with the limitations of the fine art world, Purifoy returned to social work during the mid-1970s only to be appointed by then Governor Jerry Brown to the California Arts Council, where he initiated the Artists in Social Institutions, bringing art into the state prison system. Short on funds, Purifoy had taken up an offer from a female artist friend and moved permanently to her 10-acre north Joshua Tree property in the late 1980s where he began constructing his large-scale site-specific sculptures and tableaus from scavenged materials and objects found across the desert. He was said to enjoy how the harsh desert climate aged his works and wasn’t bothered by the various animals and birds taking up residence within them. He prospered here until 2004 when he died from complications resulting from a fire at his home.
DEHSART is an acronym for “Desert Engagement: Hinder Swill Achieve Recycled Trash” or TRASHED spelled backwards. In a recent email exchange, Larissa clarified the “Hinder Swill” part of the title: “Swill is a term for pig feed, which was a kitchen waste product for people, but can also be considered as a vital resource for the pig.” The duo’s aim is to transform discarded human waste into something of value instead of simply moving the refuse from one repository to another; e.g. organized community cleanup to local landfill. They suggest that human generated waste is “not just as an environmental problem, but a process and a convergence of humans and nature, of rejected material, cultural, social value judgments, infrastructural and economic challenges, and most potently a source of creativity.”
Reflection on Noah Purifoy’s late career sculptures and tableaus found at his outdoor museum in Joshua Tree brings us full circle. This body of desert work harkens back to folk-art traditions of vernacular roadside assemblage along with the sophisticated urban conventions of postwar American Art, suggesting that both humans as well as other species are purveyors and taxonomists of discarded refuse, inorganic or otherwise.
A Doll Show for People Who Like Art
This opportunity to reflect on what the desert preserves, these artworks alongside the Neotoma lepida’s complex nesting and survival strategies with their urine time capsules (which mirror the human urge to collect, organize, transform and preserve), grants us insight into the creative impulse and a share in the value of everything around us.
Arrangements of discarded stuff in the form of folk art roadside attractions were numerous throughout the Mojave Desert and much of the U.S. during the mid-20th century. One of the more unique installations found along California’s Interstate 15 was Possum Trot, located in Yermo just east of Barstow, created by Calvin and Ruby Black, southerners from Tennessee and Georgia respectively, who met while Calvin was working for circuses and carnivals down South. After marrying in 1953, the couple decided to migrate west suspecting that the dry desert air would improve Calvin’s overall health. They purchased their land for $25 down with $10 monthly payments, sight unseen.
Visitors can view Purifoy’s distinctive oeuvre during Noah Purifoy: Junk Dada at LACMA in Los Angeles opening June 7th and running through September 27th, 2015. On display are artworks chronologically representing “distinct stylistic periods” over Purifoy’s diverse career. A dozen assemblages from 66 Signs of Neon are being shown showcasing several artists that contributed alongside Purifoy to this landmark exhibition. Noah Purifoy: Junk Dada is co-curated by Franklin Sirmans, Terri and Michael Smooke Department Head and Curator of Contemporary Art at LACMA, and Independent Curator Yael Lipschutz.
Using lumber found at the local dump, Calvin with the help of a neighbor constructed his home and outbuildings (including a rock shop) to take advantage of tourist traffic along the newly constructed I-15. Additionally, he built a whimsical train, stagecoaches and merry-gorounds along with the “Birdcage Theater,” featuring over 80 automated dolls whose heads and bodies were lovingly carved in wood by Calvin and dressed in finery by Ruby. It is said that Calvin would consult with Ruby to determine the particular personality and appearance for each figure, which individually fetch $80,000 or more in auction today. Ruby designed and sewed each doll’s costume, fitting them with wigs found at the dump. Harnessing ample desert winds, these kinetic folkart sculptures welcomed and cajoled visitors into donating money to buy a doll’s favorite perfume while the figure rode a bicycle. Calvin, through ventriloquism and later using tape recording devices housed in the dolls’ heads, performed the “Fantasy Doll Show” with music that he himself had scripted and scored. After Ruby’s death in 1980, the site was completely dismantled and no trace of their creation remains at the original site. Many of the dolls are now part of private folkart collections.
This article is co-published with KCET Artbound and is supported by Cal Humanities.
Artists have continued to source “obtanium” scrounged throughout the desert for diverse creative works. Assemblages of bottle trees and other vernacular ornamentation are viewable in many roadside compounds and home sites. Noah S. Purifoy, a latecomer to the desert, did not arrive here until age 72 when he began building at his Joshua Tree Outdoor Museum in north Joshua Tree in 1989. Trained early on as a social worker, Purifoy had attended Chouinard Art Institute (now CalArts) during the mid1950s, later designing modernist furniture for a wealthy clientele. By
Noah Purifoy’s Outdoor Desert Art Museum, Joshua Tree, CA. Photo by Kim Stringfellow
The Raven Journal - Joshua Tree, CA
Mojave Night by Teresa Sitz
A car travels down a dirt road on a clear night, with a long exposure.
Photo by Ben Gould
We pulled the rollaways onto the porch around 11:00 p.m. It was hot, over 100 degrees yet, and humid, but worse than that, it was still. The clouds above were thick and heavy and promised rain, but broke their promise with an obstinate shrug.
into the sand but didn’t feel anything. Could rain fall on the roof but evaporate by the time it got to me two feet below?
A full moon failed to punch through the clouds, but its light shone as if behind a thick curtain and the sky looked bruised and the light looked soiled. We tried to sleep.
When I opened my eyes again it was still dark. The moon sat directly overhead behind the thinnest veil of clouds. Then it broke through and the sand brightened white and glittered like snow, reflecting light back up to the sky. I looked across to our native plantings, brave and stoic inside their cages. They looked like abandoned suitcases on the tiled floor of a train station, out of place and self-conscious.
I slept awhile.
At 1:00 a.m. I woke to the sound of all-terrain vehicles tearing up the dirt roads near us. They stopped at the corner. About ten minutes later a truck drove up the dirt road and stopped at the same corner. I’d heard the truck from two miles away, from where the pavement ends and the dirt road begins and the washboard rattles up through your bones and you think to part your teeth in your mouth because it feels like if you don’t, they might break. From two miles away I could hear the tools, or the metal scrap, or both, clanging around inside the truck bed.
A young mesquite tree stood alone at the end of the porch, its two slender trunks rising to a feathery canopy, looking much like a ballerina en pointe, spotlighted under the moon. A few hours later I felt chilled and tugged at my sheet, trying to cover my shoulder. Half-awake I closed my eyes tighter against the dawn and savored the pocket of cold air that the rising sun pushes forward before it takes over the day shift. I tried to memorize the chill because I knew I’d need that memory later when the heat and humidity made me panic and consider fleeing this place for the summer, like other people with more means and sense.
Sound carries at night in the desert. I’ve listened hard to conversations a quarter mile away and heard snippets of things I should not have been privy to. I know more about coyotes than I’m sure they want me to know. Why people drive out to that particular corner so close to a great nothing, I have no idea. It only makes sense in some logic of despair, some logic that depends on a lifetime of careless losses, and unpredictability, perhaps made personal with a festering grudge, a despair that can only be broken out of with violence of one sort or another.
Every day in the desert heat is lived singly and no one person on any one day can say decisively what will happen next, or may draw a moral from it. In the heat of the day we listen to each other with a little more patience, and overlook the forgotten words and names, the delays, the repetitions, and sometimes we just stop talking altogether, being in the same boat and all, sunbeaten, and just wait out the heat.
I watched the vehicles from the cover of my porch until they drove off and I lay down again. A breeze passed through as if it were lost or scared. I wanted it to stay so badly that my lips were moving. I heard tiny taps on the metal roof. They continued. I stepped off the concrete porch
Taken from the author’s blog saturnsands.blogspot.com 21
Issue 1 - Autumn 2015
Joshua Tree Modern Real Estate Photos by Rachel Bujalski
Authentic 1959 Mid-Century Modern
Copper Mountain Mesa Homestead Cabin
Nestled in the Friendly Hills neighborhood of south Joshua Tree – close to downtown and a short drive to the National Park entrance – this house boasts a large fireplace in the center of the living room made from volcanic lava rock and fossilized corral blocks. A fine example of the much sought-after late ‘50s design aesthetic. Ceiling composed of tongue and groove paneling with exposed beams in the living, dining, and kitchen areas. Mature landscaping with 50-year old pines – rare in the local market. Three bedrooms, open kitchen, 1,461 square feet of living space and a large 2-car garage/studio with shower. The property also features a large covered porch with a privacy fence and sculpture garden that offers mountain views. A two-hour drive from downtown LA, this property represents a rare chance to own an authentic midcentury modern for under $200k.
Located on 2.5 acres in north Joshua Tree, this cabin - originally built by a desert homesteader – has recently been upgraded with a new roof, septic tank, bathroom with open shower and rock flooring. Includes a separate guesthouse for visitors. Original outhouse has been converted with a modern toilet for guests. Lush desert landscaping provides privacy from neighbors. Metal sculptures. Forever views. Perfect for a vacation retreat or an Airbnb rental. Priced at $79,900.
JTM: Joshua Tree Modern Bryan Wynwood, broker & owner of Joshua Tree Modern, has bought and sold properties in Joshua Tree for over a decade. He has lived in over 60 locations around the world, before settling permanently in the desert. He loves driving around during heavy storms to search out local flood issues and is well-versed in the area’s different micro-communities. Clients include an Oscar winner and an international novelist, among many others. All JTM transactions, from initial contact to after close, include a binding auto-nondisclosure agreement to ensure client privacy. He invites you to come experience the desert serenity.
760-808-4806 • firstname.lastname@example.org 22
The Raven Journal - Joshua Tree, CA
The Muralist by Rohini Walker
Photos by Cody Montogomery, clothing by Totally Blown and as things progressed, it created the balance.” He says that the actual painting of it didn’t take him all that long. Instead, it was the seeing part of the process that took more time. Listening to him talk about that, one is reminded of the seers of old, who would wait patiently for symbols and messages to make themselves known from the emptiness. “It’s not that it took me very long, it’s just the time it took to perceive what wasn’t there and what was already there,” he explains. Black and white triangles surround the Sacred Hoop, a depiction of creation emanating from the circle, constantly drawing our focus back to this message of balance. The mural is a symbol for the balancing of the energies of light and dark: the inescapable dualities of this world that need to harmoniously coexist in order for us to climb those steps and bring balance back to the earth.
You can’t miss it: the huge mural on the walls of the JT Trading Post in downtown Joshua Tree. An owl and a raven keep watch over the entrance in the middle. Around the entrance is painted a red circle, the Sacred Hoop, the Native American symbol for balance. This is the powerful meaning imbued within it by Tommy Wonder, the artist who painted it. The Sacred Hoop speaks of a certain way of living to keep things in balance, and the coming of such a time. Its potency as a symbol is enhanced by the fact that people physically enter into this state of balance, painted as it is around the entrance to a doorway. A black and white staircase rises up into the unseen. Tommy explains that these represent the climb to a more evolved state of being, a more aware state of living. And the dreamscape of colors filling up the rest of the space is this desert in all its Technicolor glory; colors that have been intuitively combined to summon a state of balance in the observer.
And the result is epic. It exudes a strong energy, whether you’re aware of it or not. A gift to this desert and its community, given freely; and the transformation of a landmark building into a beacon, intended to conjure balance into its surrounding environment and beyond.
Drawing on the Shamanic traditions of Native Americans, with Owl and Raven, two of their most widely recognized totem animals, Tommy has crafted an offering to this desert and its people. It took shape over the course of several months, as he had to leave for stints of paid work, returning to Joshua Tree for days at a time to continue on the journey that the mural was taking him on. It’s his nod of respect to this desert, “for everything the land gives you, the clarity. A lot of Shamanic teachings happened here, a lot of mystical Native traditions have come from here. It’s all gone now, but some of it still remains, the energy of the land still holds it.” Beyond the intention of an offering to this land, Tommy didn’t start out with any clear idea of what he was going to paint. Instead, this symbol of balance as a focal point materialized over time, “I didn’t draw anything with a plan. Everything was kind of done within the moment, 23
Issue 1 - Autumn 2015
Indie film in the High-Desert? by Sarabeth Hudson Cinématique…we all seem to come to the Mojave’s High Desert seeking new visions, alternate horizons. So it seems only natural that we are now heralding the Joshua Tree International Film Festival (JTIFF), which will host film screenings, panel discussions and encapsulating events speckled about several venues along Hwy. 62 in downtown Joshua Tree, CA, commencing on Friday September 18, 2015. It’s quite a feat to manifest such an impressive reel of films —— over 50, I’ve counted —— to be screened at the first annual JTIFF. It appears that a lot is spurring overnight around these parts of the desert, and the Film Festival is one of many. But upon meeting the master of this carousel, Eric Quander, or Q, I realize that all of these tributaries being carved here are many years in the making. Q began his journey into the vastness at an early age, just freed from high school in Virginia and guided into the Seminary at 19 years old. “I was supposed to be the next pastor of our family church,” he says.
Q, photo by Keith Kelley towards [the path home], I says, ‘Brother, I want to thank you so much for asking me to join you on this walk tonight because I feel revived and energized!’”
After one semester, he realized that he had to extract himself from these traditional Southern Baptist ways, sensing that there was more to experience: “That was a big step in my enlightenment and awakenment. A big step because I stepped away from everything that I knew.”
His friend replied with ease, “Aw… Brother, that’s the rocks’ energy coming up through you.”
Before meeting Q, I had come across an Op-Ed piece in the NY Times where the author stated that a good philosophe must leave home at least once, but the more times the better. For if they continue to step away from what they know, they will evolve and develop deeper empathy, which will aid humanity in immeasurable ways.
Embrace the gratitude. “Dispel the city mind and release the fear,” Q says. This concept surely aids him in his daily task of building the JTIFF. One must walk straight through fear to create an event that hasn’t been done before. Q began by funding this endeavor out of his pocket, but has gained support locally.
And so the time came for another expedition into the unknown. Q and his wife, Alzoraa, decided that they wanted to remove themselves from their lives in Los Angeles in order to usher in a new phase for themselves. Enter: the High-Desert.
The JT Chamber of Commerce office, the Beatnik Lounge, the JT Trading Post, the Starlight Patio (behind Pie for the People and the JT Coffee Co), Ricochet, Art Queen and the Station will open their doors to multiple screenings throughout the weekend of September 18 -20. Speakers will include philosophers, social commentators, filmmakers and a myriad of other specialists on the weekend’s agenda. All of these panel discussions will be open to the public for free.
The desert has a way of bringing two people together when their minds are clinking around similar topics. And my encounter with Q was no exception. He and I immediately dove into the discussion of how this emphatic, encapsulating, yet isolating desert captures all minds in a way which evokes cinema or makes one look up or around for spectral entertainment or rather, enlightenment. We talked about the desert’s way of re-connecting humans to emotions which they have held too far from themselves due to work, cities, past trials and so on, and how it gives one the ability to assimilate and meditate on the digested matter.
“Film is an emotional journey of sound, texture and nuance,” says Q, “What I’m concerned with is building a community that sparks dialogue and change. We don’t want Joshua Tree to become another Sundance. But we do want Joshua Tree’s reputation as an oasis of creativity to continue to flourish.”
Q says that through his journey in pioneering his desert life and the Film Festival, he is learning the difference between actuality and imagination.
This year’s films spotlight regional film-makers, Women in Film, Cinema des Americas (focus on indigenous communities of the Northern hemisphere), JT Pride Block (focus on the LGBT Community in Film), a screening about a fascinating Vietnam veteran (co-sponsored by MilTree, an artistic healing organization for veterans).
“Anyone can imagine it, but to make it happen, you gotta do it!” he asserts. “One of the things that I think about the desert, it’s a dangerous place and once you accept this, you realize that your literal survival and the survival of your creative spirit is completely up to you. No-one else. It doesn’t really care if you survive. The desert constantly challenges you to become a pioneer in your own life.”
The Festival is also going to be featuring a film that is being touted as one of the most influential documentaries on the history of black people in the United States, ‘Hidden Colors’. The director, Tariq Nasheed, will be in attendance, talking and answering questions about his work. Filmed in Los Angeles, it interviews some of the most prominent black scholars of today. It promises to be a controversial and thought-provoking film, which will definitely challenge some of its audience. Most importantly, it will provoke debate and dialogue, which is Q’s hope for all the films being shown.
One of the first things he noticed upon transplanting to the HighDesert was the epic oscillation of creative energies and of artists residing, moving to or visiting the area. “Like the old Crosby, Stills and Nash song goes, ‘Maybe it’s the season or maybe it’s the time of man,’” Q explains, “It’s just the time of man. The cities are losing their magnetism because the human spirit requires something else as we evolve as a species.”
The first Joshua Tree International Film Festival (JTIFF) takes place from September 18-20 2015. Tickets are available at jtiff.org.
He tells me about a walk he took the previous evening with a friend, a seasoned desert-dweller, into the rocks and the setting sun,“We went for a walk out in Coyote Canyon. We walked in silence, but as we walked 24
The Raven Journal - Joshua Tree, CA
SHOT TO SHREDS
Cody Montgomery and Sarah Harris, photo by Nancy Neil culture...from multiple perspectives. It’s also about creating clothing that reflects the times in all its flaws and entanglements as well as an interesting Zen-like process where we spend all this time making the perfect clothing...and then blow it all away. It’s like some weird modern therapy course. It’s complicated and controversial...and I think that’s what makes it thought provoking.
Local clothing line, Totally Blown, hand sews and hand dyes all their one-of-a kind pieces, and then shoots them to sweet shreds with a shotgun. The Raven interviews its co-founder, Cody Montgomery. The Raven has heard that Totally Blown came into being because of a mouse. Tell us more.
Which one of you is more adept with a shotgun?
Well the story goes...while living at the Danger Shack, a small cabin in remote Iowa, one of my T- shirts was chewed up by a mouse. That shirt quickly became my favorite and I started thinking about new ways to get more holes in my clothing without getting more mice in my cabin. And one day it clicked...quite literally.
I do all the shooting. Practice makes perfect...or in this case...a lot of perfectly holey clothing. What are your aspirations for Totally Blown?
How did you find yourselves in Joshua Tree?
To inspire people to go for it. To rebel against everything that is no longer serving us. To get people to follow their dreams, take risks, do things that have never been done, live each day to its fullest, make rad art that people can use, and call out all the bullshit. It’s radical times... let’s get creative and have some fun with it!
(Co-founder, Sarah Harris) brought me out to have a look one weekend shortly after we had met two summers ago. We came out and I immediately feel in love with the place. It felt wild and free and completely surreal. Like visiting a cooler new planet. I went back to Santa Barbara and just couldn’t see myself there anymore. We moved to Joshua Tree less then two months later and started working on Totally Blown full time. The concept behind Totally Blown is pretty thought provoking… Yeah, the concept is that we shoot clothing with shotguns. The purpose is to make super-original utilitarian art objects that people love to wear...but that also challenge people to see complex issues...such as gun 25
Issue 1 - Autumn 2015
musical interlude by Bryan Wynwood
those places that are hard to get to when there are so many distractions, and this really lets people shine a light on their creative and weird side if they surrender to it and the desert. B: Where do you place yourself in the local musical lineage, regarding Gram Parsons, Queens of the Stone Age, U2’s influence or others? S: I place myself as just another human taking on the desert’s vast hardness of the heat, cactus and open dry air. It amazes me that all these people have been affected by the desert in different ways and you can see and feel that in their music. The desert really makes you look at yourself and what’s going on in your life and it’s a clear filter that isn’t super-congested and it lets you breathe it in and breathe out the art. An interesting part of that question is that I didn’t really know most of those musicians when I first started playing. I mostly just loved the openness of the desert. When I first started listening to Queens of the Stone Age I was not aware that Josh Homme was born locally, though his music is amazing - the heaviness and the vastness of the desert, with a night sky kinda feel and long open desert roads. B: Did these or any other local musicians influence you? S: Totally…definitely influenced by Queens of Stone Age, Donavan, more recently Gram Parsons. Being raised out here I’ve had the honor to meet and play with all kinds of musicians who I grew up with or met here. This has definitely influenced me in so many ways coz there is not just one style of music out here so it made me grow and morph into the music that is in the air and be open to the different ideas and journeys that music takes us on, no matter if we play or just listen.
Spencer Keizer, photo by Hilary Sloane This interview with local musician Spencer Keizer is the first in a series in which The Raven sits down with musicians and bands at the forefront of the new music scene in Joshua Tree. The local area has a rich history dating back to Gram Parsons, largely credited for spearheading countryrock, who lived and died here. Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age was born in Joshua Tree. The British folk musician Donovan of Mellow Yellow fame raised his kids here. And of course U2 named their most famous album The Joshua Tree. Rancho de la Luna, the local recording studio, produced The Desert Sessions featuring a series of influential musicians. We’re also fortunate for such a small town to have unique venues such as the JT Trading Post, Beatnik Lounge and Furstworld opening up their spaces for live shows, as well as the more established Pappy & Harriet’s in nearby Pioneertown, which hosts a vast array of local and touring bands, such as The Pixies who played there not long ago. This past winter, Calliope Musicals, a touring band out of Austin, Texas, stopped through and played a set in Joshua Tree. The show was small and personal, yet the band traveled out of their way to make the appearance despite little economic incentive. When asked what inspired this sojourn, co-founder Matt Roth replied, “Traveling around you hear a buzz [about Joshua Tree] and we want to be part of it.”
B: How do you write a particular song? S: Each song is different. I sometimes start with a guitar or banjo. I write poems everyday. Sometimes I do free form singing over it. But the music comes first. It’s mainly taking a chord and playing it over and over and seeing what feelings and colors come to my mind and see how those merge into other colors and feelings in my mind. I just love to play and try to find what I see in the energy of the music. B: Do you feel that geographic location - in this case being born and raised in the desert - has formed or altered your musical vision, songwriting or composition? S: Yes I feel it has. Since I was a kid I could see the Milky Way and I’ve been blessed to see some heart-opening sunsets. I could walk out into the desert and hear absolutely nothing and as a kid I would hear the music of the desert in the silence. It put this idea of creating and healing in me and made me want to pursue my passion. Also the beauty of just living in a place where I can be very loud or very quiet at any time of the night or day.
Spencer Keizer is one of the locale’s many musicians creating the sounds that are so particular to this area.
B: The Raven has heard the term ‘healing’ related to your music. In the past, many might think of New Age music in relation to healing. Is ‘healing’ incorporated into your music?
Bryan: Tell us about your relationship with music? Spencer: Music has always been around and inside me. My journey with instruments has been long and hard but I am a true believer in growing everyday in the craft you love. You have to put in the hours and go through the whole color spectrum of life to be able to express it in some harmonic way, to connect with yourself, other people, your environment and the cosmos.
S: Yes, healing is a big part of my music. I use it to heal myself and speak my heart out loud to myself and the universe through the sounds and music that I am creating alone or with friends. The beautiful thing about healing is that if you’re open to it you can receive it. I feel we all can be healers in our own craft if our heart is living its smile.
B: We’re seeing something of a musical boom in Joshua Tree. For example, this past weekend, in the height of summer, four different bands played at different venues. In the past, summers have been dead. What is your take on the sudden local interest?
B: How might you describe your music? S: I’ve been playing a lot of different kinds of music lately, so the music changes frequently. Adaptable, somewhat airy, on a journey. Soundscapes. Going in the middle of self-doubt and re-seeing oneself. Lots of improvising. Raw emotions transcribed upon the moment, to breathe in all that life has offered and breathe out this moment of now.
S: Yes, it’s been so beautiful seeing more and more people being able to come out here and play but I feel people have always wanted to play out here, and now we are getting awesome venues and people to come and enjoy these venues. The music out here is wide open and creative. Always something new to be heard out in a venue or in someone’s home studio or living room. The desert has no bounds and lets people go to
Listen to Spencer’s sounds at soundcloud.com/spencerkeizer 26
The Raven Journal - Joshua Tree, CA
New American Design by Rohini Walker
Rendering of Artist Studio Project Designer John Sofio headed west to Los Angeles in the early ’90s from his native New York with a thirst for the organic modernism of masters such as Albert Frey and John Lautner. He arrived at a time when Los Angeles was submerged in a deep recession; undeterred, he went ahead and founded Built, Inc. The company has thrived to become a wellrespected and sought after design/build firm with a diverse roster of clients. To date, Built’s portfolio includes over 400 projects throughout the US.
landscape ferociously. Sofio understands this all too well; indeed, he’s on our side. “What I want to do is tread lightly on the land, and use the environment, the surrounding mountains, the slope of the hills, the distance of the view, the pattern of the sun, the prevailing wind, I want to use all of those elements as guiding forces for the solution of design that we come up with.” The landscape evidently feeds Sofio’s creativity and one gets the impression that this is no aggressive urban developer. On the contrary, his vision is to create in symbiosis with the land, not to try and dominate it.
Undoubtedly, Sofio is a successful businessman, but it would be safe to say that he’s cut from a different cloth than many of his peers. His business enables him to pursue his passion for the unadulterated creative process. Free from the burden of having to defer to a client, Sofio now finds himself in the enviable position of creating for the sake of creating. The only deference he’s paying is to the unique landscape and physical environment of the Mojave High-Desert, an area he’s been visiting regularly since 2000.
The south side of Joshua Tree, close to the National Park and around the Highlands area will be home to Sofio’s Artist Studio Project. The structures will house students of design and building from around the world coming here to learn about New American Design, a movement pioneered by Sofio. Based on the handmade culture of human design and uniquely American in its historical tradition, New American Design rejects the theory that new design must be generated by a computer, disconnected from the designer’s hand. Computers will only be used as a drafting tool, not as a solution to actual design. This movement seeks to reconnect the creator with their creation in a very direct and necessary way. In the process, it connects the artist to their physical environment so they can work in partnership with it. Embracing the thoughtful detailing of a craftsman, New American Design demands the artist to be present in the project from conception to completion. The High-Desert, with its power to draw out truthful and authentic art, seems like the ideal nexus from which to disseminate information about this movement.
This respect for and desire to work in harmony with the environment is the foundational principle of Sofio’s Artist Studio Project in Joshua Tree. I breathe a sigh of relief when he tells me this, wary as I am, like so many others here of any significant new building and development. The community here in Joshua Tree guards the desolate expanses of this
Sofio’s desire is to create structures that, along with the surrounding landscape, inspire and speak of a new way of living; structures that focus on proportion, balance and beauty. The Artist Studio Project will draw on theories developed during the modernist architectural tradition of the late ‘40s through to the early ‘60s. It’s about small-scale living and an organic modernism that is an integral part of the physical environment. Sketch of Artist Studio Project 27
Issue 1 - Autumn 2015 Currently, Sofio has three sites. His vision is to ultimately procure ten of these in and around the same area of south Joshua Tree, with a view to “really focusing each design as an individual study”, and with each site’s specific surrounding environment dictating its design. Of the three existing sites, one is the Artist Studio Project, another will be a small series of sleeping quarters close to the rocks and boulders and another one nearby which will be a ‘desert shelter’.
The Built Outpost is also an organic extension of the Artist Studio Project. As the latter is being built, Sofio plans to hold talks and seminars at the Outpost, a place where “we can gather and talk about how the studio’s being designed and built, how it affects the environment, from where have we designed, where the original thought is from, how we think through each thought to create the inspiring spaces as a finished product.” It will also be a place where, once the Project John Sofio Photo by Fiore Bose is complete, visiting students will have classes and seminars. Sofio was impressed with what the JT Trading Post’s owner, Xihomara Alvarez, has achieved with the space over the last year since they took it over. After visiting the shop and meeting with her multiple times over the last several months, Sofio found that their visions were very much aligned in terms of creating an authentic and accessible hub for the area’s vibrant creative community.
The latter is an inspiring concept. According to Sofio, a ‘desert shelter’ is “a singular thought, a space where you contemplate, meditate, decompress. Small, minimal and connected to the earth.” I am heartened by the fact that as a designer, he clearly has a deep respect for and connection to this landscape and wants to instill that in and share it with others. The desert shelters will be available to the wider public, as weekend rentals for retreats. They will also be available to buy. The structures will be positioned to take advantage of the energy of the land so that the most organic feeling of being in a state of nature is perceived. Energy efficient passive heating and cooling systems will be utilized. Domestic solar hot water panels will be used to heat the concrete slabs to provide warmth during the winter months, as well as heating the water for domestic use. Underground piping will be buried to transfer the coolness of the earth into the slab of the structures to provide comfort during the summer. Adhering to the Modernist design tradition of using a limited palate of materials, the Project will utilize steel, glass and concrete. One can well imagine experiencing this desert’s inspiring light just as beautifully inside these buildings as outside.
The importance of pursuing ventures that are an integral part of Joshua Tree’s community is not lost on Sofio. He understands the importance of osmosis in the creative process, “I think creativity spurs creativity, and I’ve met so many artists over the last few months here, doing amazing work and living amazing lives. And it’s separate from the commercedriven art world of the ordinary man.” And that is what makes this community so special. Of course, one needs to make a living and if that can be done through one’s art, that’s magic. But there is a very real sense of needing creative and artistic expression here as one needs oxygen to breathe, that goes beyond the caveats of finance and commerce; and driven in no small measure by the expansiveness of the landscape.
Proximity to Joshua Tree National Park was also a key consideration. As anyone who has ever visited the Park would concur, it’s a concentrated energetic microcosm of the powerful vibrations of the wider HighDesert. You cannot help but be changed for the better when you spend time there. As Sofio states, “The energy of Joshua Tree National Park exudes itself out into the surrounding community, and it’s an inspiring feeling, being close to it. So the Artist Studio Project is allowing us to explore design in a highly charged atmosphere.” We meet at John Sofio’s other new High-Desert venture, a showroom and experimental creative space at the JT Trading Post in downtown Joshua Tree, called The Built Outpost. It’s a striking homage to the rustic, repurposed aesthetic of the High-Desert, full of beautiful old salvaged wood, distressed textures, and vintage art pieces that are for sale. As far as interiors go, this is classic desert. His vision for it is “a venue for us to explore creative thought inspired by the desert. We’re going to use this space to meet and gather with other artists and collaborate on artistic ventures. We’re going to use it as a laboratory for creative thought and design. I wanted a space in Joshua Tree that allows us a public face, where we can meet other artists in an open environment.” Think collaborative, accessible, inclusive. The very essence of Joshua Tree’s thriving artists’ community.
This desire to connect and engage with the local community is demonstrated in practical terms with Sofio collaborating with Copper Mountain Community College in their internship and scholarship programs, offering opportunities to young people in the creative fields, even if not directly related to design and architecture. Such investment in local talent will surely go a long way to bolstering and supporting this community in the longer term. As Sofio concedes, Joshua Tree is at a tipping point. We’re all painfully aware of a certain corporate chain store that has its sights set on the area, and which residents are bravely rallying together against. It’s important at this time to focus on the type of development that we as a community would like to see take place, because it’s clear that it’s happening, whether we like it or not. It’s an opportunity for a thriving community to galvanize itself and direct the course of its future in this beloved desert. Says Sofio, “I think there’s definitely a community out here that’s engaged in its own space, and as long as you’re doing the right thing by them, and for them, and with them, it’s going to work out great.” John Sofio is palpably affected and inspired by the ideals of a utopian society. He mentions it numerous times during our conversation in different contexts. And out here, one can give voice to these lofty principles. Fundamentally, his tenets of design adhere to these utopian values, to creating structures and dwellings that are inspired by and exist in harmony with the physical environment, not in spite of it. It seems no accident of fate that the High-Desert has summoned him here at this time.
Rendering of Artist Studio Project 28
The Raven Journal - Joshua Tree, CA
To Find Our Life
by Chris Unck
I had been coming to Joshua Tree on and off for the better part of eight years. I would get time off from touring, rent a car and shoot out to the Inn and enjoy the stillness and the stars, write songs and say to myself “I need more of this”. After moving from the Appalachian Mountains of North Georgia, I was living in Hollywood with my girlfriend at the time. I would escape the city on weekend excursions to the High-Desert with my friend Stew Heyduk who knew someone out in neighboring Rimrock. I never could find time in L.A. to create, constantly bombarded with the city and angry neighbors. I could hardly record, write or even think. Stew and I would literally go insane trying to make music and we even fashioned a drum-kit out of cardboard. It somehow still managed to piss off the neighbors. I’ll keep it simple by saying that when the shit hit the fan, we both decided that the desert would be our home. I packed up my VW Beetle and made trips from Hollywood to Rimrock twice a week for six months, gradually moving to the High-Desert and loving every mile.
Bobby Furst, photo by Dino Archon, styled by Sarah Renner something here that anybody, doesn’t matter if you’re old, young, black, white, Chinese or Russian, that reminds them of something and then that presents a dialogue and once that first interaction happens then potentially it can continue.”
I met Bobby Furst through long time desert-dweller Gabriella Evaro, who introduced us after telling me for months that we had to meet and that we must have known each other in a past life. She was right. When I talked to Bobby about getting together for this article, he was preparing for a concrete pour. Anyone who’s worked with concrete before knows it’s high stress, expensive and a lot of prepping. I was surprised at how calm and cool he was. But then again that’s Bobby, a combination of Salvador Dali and the Dalai Lama. One thing you immediately notice when meeting a prolific artist like Bobby is that his studios and creative space are clean and organized.
“Focus on now, be here now, yesterday and the past are your learning experience, not a ball and chain. Cut the chain, get away from that D.R.A.G and then turn it into a piece of art or gold!!” We both laughed as we looked at his huge ball and chain art piece in the yard. Desert conservation is an important topic out here with the locals in Joshua Tree. Beauty is the desert just the way it is, not with billboards and fast-food chains. Artists here are conscious of their carbon footprint, mindful of recycling, conserving water, living streamlined lives with pure, honest intent. Fighting for that beauty requires staying informed and actually bothering to care about your mind, body, spirit, home, thoughts, the food you eat. Bobby is an enthusiastic activist, known for mirroring his intent by hosting informative gatherings at his studio space.
On an average day, Bobby wakes up to his cat licking his face. He then puts on a 14-cup pot of coffee, cruises the Internet for maybe an hour and then begins working on his ‘progression’, moving things out of his own way so he can move on, constantly building and organizing and reorganizing his space. “Function and then form” he says and laughs stating, “I’m a carpenter by trade and an artist because I can’t help myself.” Pretty humble for a man who sold an art piece and procured his desert dream.
Bobby’s dad, Peter Furst, had a huge part in his shaping and upbringing, taking him on expeditions into Mexico in the early ‘60s. Bobby used to collect various rocks, shells and driftwood, and “raided neighbors’ trash cans on the way to school for plastic containers and boxes” to store the various things he found. At the time, his dad was a documentary film-maker working on a show in Los Angeles called ‘Expedition’. Then, in ‘63 he landed a job filming an archeological dig in Mexico which allowed Bobby to leave school for four months. In return for school credit, he had to keep a diary of the adventure. Inspired by the dig, when Bobby’s dad was in his mid 40s, he enrolled in an archeology class at UCLA. Four and a half years later, he had his PHD and became Head of the Latin American Center at UCLA. In ‘67, they both went back down to Mexico to make a film on the Huichol Indians’ peyote ritual called ‘To Find Our Life.’ “That experience definitely changed my life and perspective. Basically we are a product of our life’s experience and we experience what our parents allow us to, so I was really fortunate to have very open-minded parents who had a lot of creative, talented & intelligent friends who exposed me to some rather amazing things in my youth, it’s definitely a part of who I am today.”
Bobby’s world is a massive living room consisting of four metal Quonset huts. It’s a welcoming sight to whoever walks in at any time, assembled to facilitate the myriad of friends dropping by to throw a show, premier a film, hold a ping pong tournament, a wedding or just to have a simple conversation. A brief back-story is needed. Bobby moved from Laurel Canyon in the late ‘90s needing space to work, create and build a studio. After visiting the musician Victoria Williams who was his neighbor in Laurel Canyon, at the time had just recently bought a beautiful place of her own in Joshua Tree, he started looking around. His search took him from Morongo Valley to Wonder Valley and Burns Canyon and finally to Joshua Tree before he found his home. For five months Bobby drove back n’ forth in a Toyota truck with a lumber rack and a 5x8 foot trailer, several times a week, bringing small piles to organize in order to not get swamped. It took him another four months working for people in the community to help him build the main Quonset hut. “I had no clue that it would turn into what it has now. We would just have a few friends over for a BBQ and then someone would say we should do music events and I said ok, called a company and installed tiered theater seats, extended the roof-line. I later realized that the bigger building would best suit the performance art and theater usage as well as double as my gallery of finished art”
As Bobby reminisced and rambled over my questions what I really wanted to do was watch him and witness his mind and his thought process. Some people think that if they had the chance to ask Einstein or Lennon ‘How did you do this?’ or ‘How did you write that?’, that they could somehow tell you their secret. The trick is observation. Watch someone work, if you’re lucky. A true artist doesn’t really know where it comes from.
“Get over it and then make it happen” were the words that Bobby told me one evening at one of his legendary gatherings. He didn’t say it to me as a statement, as if I were whining about my situation but rather as a little mantra. Bobby promotes facilitating outcomes and working things out through thought-provoking art or conversation, having a laugh or calmly shedding light on important political and conservation acts. “I bring in all kinds of people here that are the opposite ends of the spectrum but they come here and usually leave with a different perspective on how people who don’t believe the way they believe just might not be as bad as they might have thought they’d be. There’s
“There’s enough for all of us, people kinda spread around out here because there are some magical environments and for some people it’s more about finding some structure, any kind of a structure because they are writers and musicians and all they need is a little space to create.” -Bobby Furst Chris Unck is the owner of the High Lonesome Recording Studio and Silver Company in Joshua Tree. www.highlonesomeproductions.com 29
Issue 1 - Autumn 2015
Desert After Dark Photo by Matthew Hall
Perhaps this is why some are called to this place. Because illusions have been shattered, sending them searching for this core, this paradox. To know that you are an animal, with a fallible physical body, that lives and will one day die, to really know this and make peace with it, awakens you from the trance-like state. This remembering drills you into the ground of the present, where lie unimaginable treasures. Stake your claim. Death will come.
This desert draws you in to confront your own core, your innermost paradox of physical creaturliness; and that something intangible, boundless. Your mortality and your immortality. It has the power to reduce you to a cowering animal, naked and vulnerable to inevitable death, and elevate you so you feel like a god, standing on top of the world. The acknowledgment of our creaturliness leads to knowing our boundlessness. But this knowledge is hard won. It demands the transcendence, destruction even, of our carefully curated selves, of our altars to security, our denial of death. For man is a weird animal, both self-conscious in his mortality, yet in perpetual denial of it. He creates social structures and cultures and protocol that deny his fundamental creaturliness, that ignore change as the essence of his existence.
- The Raven
The Raven Journal - Joshua Tree, CA
Companions in Solitude by KEITH KELLEY
Kelly & Aaron by Keith Kelley Their new home brought Aaron and Kelly new opportunities to refuel their creative endeavors. Aaron wrote a solo album in the first three months. Kelly began working for a well-known design artist, scaling up paintings to billboard sized pieces. She is now the artist’s studio manager. Kelly’s current work at the studio has introduced her to the art of weaving, helping create minimalist rug designs. At home, Kelly has been inspired to explore weaving rag rugs. Both are done on a traditional weaving loom.
For Aaron and Kelly, their move to the desert three years ago was about finding the reset button. They had spent four years in a gritty New Orleans neighborhood, Kelly teaching at an elementary school and Aaron serving as president of their neighborhood association. Eventually, Kelly’s dedication to teaching had exhausted her emotionally. The overwhelming concerns that come with a big city had begun to take their toll on Aaron’s active music career. A westbound road trip led them here, the High-Desert, where vast spaces and wind-torn landscapes provided solitude long overdue.
Traditional weaving as an art form has roots in nearly every ancient culture, and yet a few contemporary artists have found refreshing inspiration in the simplicity of the loom. For Kelly, she gets to explore two different applications of the technique. Working in the artist’s studio, she crafts clean, minimally designed sculpture pieces. In her personal work, Kelly pulls from her quite varied collection of fabric, and tears the fabric in strips to weave rag rugs of a more rugged beauty. Her designs range from bright neon chevron rugs to subtle earth tones where texture speaks louder than color.
“We were expecting to be each other’s only friends” said Kelly. It wasn’t long before they found community, where they met people who migrated for similar reasons, whether recently or 20 years ago. “It’s nice to live in an area where everyone acknowledges that people move out here to kind of be by themselves, to work on stuff on their own. So there’s never an expectation that you have to be social.” Aaron explained. “It’s not as lonely as you think it would be, it’s actually much more close-knit.”
“I really wasn’t setting out to make rag rugs, it was kind of a means to an end. There’s a certain point where you look around and say ‘what do I have and what can I make out of it?’” 31
Issue 1 - Autumn 2015
Photos by Aaron Hawn The style of the series is simple: beautifully lit scenes that could have been pulled from the silver screen, every one of them graced by Kelly. Altogether, though the images are quite stark, these scenes feel familiar and relatable.
Kelly hopes to eventually weave with hand-dyed wool. “I don’t think there’s a huge appreciation for the craft; you just kind of think of it as an old-timey grandma thing. But we forget most of the things in our house are still handmade, even the rag rugs I got at Wal-Mart”.
“I realized I’ve been taking a bunch of pictures of Kelly in this style, so now I’m going to focus on a series.”
Meanwhile, Aaron has spent his time producing scenic landscape photographs and video that he has melded with his music. His latest finished project is called Lesser Lands, a compilation of cinematic motion clips ranging from still life to landscape set to a self-produced musical score. He’s also been working on a collection of environmental style portraits, featuring his friend and partner in life, Kelly.
When I asked Aaron if he considered Kelly to be his muse, he replied, “Yeah, I think it’s generic, but it’s also why people say they have a muse. It’s who you share your life with.” As we talked, Aaron and Kelly both expressed how life has changed, and what they’ve learned about themselves, since their move from big city to small desert town. Their journey serves as a reminder to all of us: savor the solitude where you find it, but share it with someone you love.
“Since I normally do landscape stuff, I don’t like having human beings in my pictures... For me it is adding a human element to landscape photography, and if I’m gonna pick a human to be in the shot, it’s going to be Kelly,” said Aaron. 32
The Raven Journal - Joshua Tree, CA
LAND & SEA Knife at my back cuts me open, relief! I nod and let him take my heart, it must be allowed to roam free, unhindered. Shutting it away in the safety of myself is no life for it. I know not what will become of it. I let it go. It is brave, I must also be brave. Birds swoop and soar above and I feel light. The ground below me moves like water, I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know where it is taking me but I surrender to it. My breath is my faithful companion, never leaving my side. I listen to its ageless wisdom and I am ageless too. Tell me, ancient Lies, will you bow in the presence of Truth? She is your mistress, be humble before Her. My heart is free now and I can hear its cries of delight and pain. The eyes I see before me are the ocean, I will go all the way out to sea and not look back, for my eyes are the earth and I can never drown. Time came and went and came and went and on it went. Standing still, I find red feathers in my hand. ~ Serafina Moon
Issue 1 - Autumn 2015
© Mixed Media Artwork ‘Red Rose Rising’ by Leslie A. Brown, leslieabrown.com 34
The Raven Journal - Joshua Tree, CA
The Most Beautiful Night by Mercy Clay
I walked through a Savannah nightfall and it was there that I saw him alone in the square tall, slender, hungry as hell.
He cried a lullaby to the dark and slept on flowers of night by a white-capped river watched over by those felt but unseen.
He was the palette of dusk so much so that I nearly missed him. Skin like clouds eyes, Spanish moss and bark-colored hair.
When the black plush sky heard his song it answered back and promised him the most beautiful night. 35
For the Sake of Magic
Issue 1 - Autumn 2015
by Mercy Clay
Within two weeks, I gave away my belongings, said goodbye to friends and went out on the road. A quest that would end up taking me all around the country, in search of the pulse of life inside of me, a little beauty, a little magic. I drove to Pennsylvania, to the gray stone farmhouse where I was raised, kissed my newborn nephew on the forehead, and headed south the next day, bound for New Orleans. My older sister and I had always dreamed of living next to each other in the Garden District. We were drawn there without knowing why. Could this be the place I find our younger sister?
I still remember the first time I saw this place. I was invited to the High-Desert to stay with a friend. I wasn’t sure what to expect as I drove in from Los Angeles, but when I saw the windmills I was captivated. Hundreds of them. Majestic structures. I took the climb that is Highway 62 through the mountains. Driving under a veiled moon beneath the brightest stars I had ever seen, silhouettes of desert green flashed on either side of me. Cinnamon-colored kangaroo rats darted in front of my headlight beams, the only sign of life within miles. I slept in the reverent quiet of the desert that night. The next afternoon we went to Pappy & Harriets to see Shelby Lynne play. We parked behind the building, walked in the sand past the barbecue smoke and gathering of cowboys. Inside, we were led to our table in front of the stage. I kept trying to figure out what movie I had walked into. It was too great, too fantastic and beyond any scope of reasoning. A blood orange sunset filled the room and I could feel the rhythm of the wind all throughout the place. I was subdued by song: “You look like an art piece floating in my mind, and I am told fortunes are gold, fortunes are gold.” In that moment I felt as though God had given me a present, and I unwrapped the moon. Magic found me, right on time. A year prior to that I had suffered devastating loss. My younger sister had died, and I’d begun to look for her everywhere. Her absence was a forever silence, an abyss, and I didn’t know if I’d ever emerge. But something happened in that roadhouse, on that mountain, in that desert. In the midst of darkness, I felt the first spark inside. And the heart has a way of knowing things.
When I arrived, I took refuge in a three-story Greek revival house with a double-tiered porch not far from Lafayette Cemetery, and a few blocks from Magazine Street. I slept on a bed in the middle of the library, surrounded by floorto-ceiling bookshelves and Haitian Loa flags. I spent countless Line engraving by Ian Hugo hours walking the Garden District and the French Quarter, haunting coffee shops and bookstores and seeking out music in the Marigny. But the place held an enchantment that I couldn’t reach. The depths still held me. In this tapestry of magic, I still longed for her. I sat by the Mississippi one night watching a riverboat, and quietly whispered, “Where are you?” and stared out through the rolling fog for several more hours.
After that weekend I went back to Los Angeles, back to my usual life in film and music, the one I would lead for seven more years, until the day I realized that if I continued on that path, I would disappear. It wasn’t the city. The earth and spirit of the place very much deserve the title, City of Angels. It was the way I’d chosen to make a living that no longer suited my soul. If I was only half alive to begin with, this place was going to finish me off. And if my spirit was going to die, it was going to happen there. I don’t know what it was about that morning, in that month, in that year that it all became so clear. My friend describes it as this: “At the perfect moment, under the perfect conditions, lightning strikes, and illuminates all in its path, everything that has to be seen.”
That night back in the library, at the moment before sleep, I remembered my night in the desert, the night I was given the moon. The week after Mardi Gras I packed my Jeep and headed west, to the place I now call home. Here in the High-Desert of Southern California where the bright violet sun warms my bones, I have emerged, my sister alongside me. And fortunes sure are gold.
Tourism, Hose Goggles & Bullet Cats
by Hopper Walker
We must provide the heathens with a Digger tag of their own. Gone are the days of number 7 breakfasts, covering craw holes with alkaline and fornicating in bastard marmalade. The Mogadishu bowling chips have become hysterical; the generations of ill-tempered and malnourished blubber will spread out from a rolled or folded state in order to open themselves to the wind that confines its detestation in the break machinery.
washers and a terminal repair slip lies in wait, as the dull hum of the bullet cat stifles your movements. You find yourself foraging for fish, this will only target the narrow interval between the reel of enjoyment and a seamless recovery; handing down those violations to the window lickers.
This is not the first time we’ve sought cultivation inside the peptide glass without prior consent. A solitary life holding a handful of broken
Now, let us take a moment to discuss the Byzantine pretext to aggrandize the rivaling Fatimid Caliphate of 1071.
The window lickers do not subscribe to well known tried and tested techniques of modern living, like the motorbike, the dolphin and the Buffalo turn. They prefer to supplement their subscriptions with mandates regarding agnostic clemency in the newly established warren of Holy Roman banditry.
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Issue 1 - Autumn 2015
Issue 1 - Autumn 2015
‘Reach’ by Keith Kelley