Flaming Sky Bird Lighting My Path
And other cosmic atta girls
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There was no place to pull over to the side of the road to capture the most magnificent sky cloud — it was fierce and commanding and shaped like some sort of prehistoric bird.
I had just brought a New Yorker to sunset at Keys View in Joshua Tree National Park.
The sun and the sky and the clouds put on a dazzling light display for us.
I could hear the descending sun whispering in the wind, “And now for my next magic trick… ”
And everywhere we looked, there were color palettes that can only be created in the beautiful natural world — nature and physics and some kind of magic — things seen and unseen — things that make me cry because beauty.
I come to the desert to wash my spirit clean, to recharge on the sun and the moon and the stars, the glory of the vastness and the reminder that I am small.
I write through the night to make a deadline — an important story on media’s role in accelerating global fascism and how we defend truth. I don’t sleep because I need to see the stars at 2 am and 4 am, taking notes that the 4 am stars double in multitude to the naked eye.
I don’t sleep because my friend Audrey turned me into a sunrise junkie — the sunrise over the Cholla Garden in JT is so beautiful I want to cry.
Instead, I remember to breathe, and then I type.
Fighting for the survival of birds — things in trees — I hurt because each time I return to Joshua Tree more fallen trees that aren’t trees — resilient yuccas crying for us to be better stewards of the land.
I fight fascists because they are bad for the birds and the trees that aren’t trees.
When my spirit animal, the Saguaro, can be found collapsing, it reminds us that to defend democracy is to take a stand for all living things.
I have returned to the desert to find my talons.
I am here so often that Joshua Tree Coffee gives me the locals’ discount, even though I am not a local and I tell them so. Karma is everything in the desert.
Coming down the mountain I was in acceptance. I would not be able to capture that magnificent flaming sky bird, and I would have to allow my words to paint it for you. I would search my adjectives archives to describe the color — accepting that some sort of combination of ‘nuclear orange sherbet swirl’ would have to do.
A Magical Mystical Bird
But when I arrived back in Joshua Tree’s downtown, I looked up at the sky, and it was still there. The sky should have been inky black, but it was still blue and the bird was still there. It had outlasted every magnificent sunset I have documented, and I knew it to be a magical mystical bird.
The bird was telling me something, as birds often do.
The flaming sky bird was lighting my path, as my friend Audrey who loves sunrises told me.
My friend Wes Clark Jr. said that climate change is delivering us magnificent sunsets.
The flaming sky bird reminds me why I fight fascists.
Cranes In the Sky
I am typing on my pink old timey keyboard — a sticker on the back of my iPad announces to god and the world ‘This Machine Kills Fascists’ — a quote from an Oklahoman who knew a thing or two about Old Man Trump.
I hear the sound of music — a little girl’s giggles remix Tom Petty’s ‘American Girl’.
An artist I know sees me and whispers, ‘Why don’t they just kill him?’ And I know who she means. I shrug and say, ‘We’ve been infiltrated.’ And make a mental note to finish part two of my 2016 election attack series, and no. 13 of my American Monster series.
My podcast partner Jim Stewartson tweets out a post about American Monster No. 12 — Tucker Carlson — looking like an angry bird as he debuts a new psyop. I realize in that moment how much his former colleagues must have hated him to not have taught him to smile with his eyes.
I wrote through the night to Bette member Oisin Lunny’s latest Geek Pie Radio show — I wrote about media and fascism to the lyrics of Bertrand Russell, Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, the Bees, and Solange — whose ‘Cranes in the Sky’ was playing when I was first sought the words to tell you about the sky bird.
Just Like Heaven
After I captured the moment in the sky — and before I looked at the image — I walked into my favorite pizza place in Joshua Tree.
The Cure ‘Just Like Heaven’ was playing.
There was a man doing magic tricks with a cup — how could it be that the spoon and a fork could be suspended in mid-air. Some kind of magic.
He’s an artist, and I tell him I am afraid to paint. I feel safe with pencils — pastels and soft Prismas — but paint terrifies me.
He asked me what I am scared of.
I said, ‘Failing.’
He told me, ‘The only mistake you can make painting is to not paint.’
So I will paint.
I show him the flaming sky bird.
He says they only appear for people who notice.
He says the flaming sky bird is telling me it’s got my back.
I am carried.
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