The Social Lives of Tree Spirits: A Kinship

“We’ve learned a little about a few of them, in isolation. But nothing is less isolated or more social than a tree.”― Richard Powers, The Overstory “Space, outside ourselves, invades and ravishes things:If you want to achieve the existence of a tree,Invest it with inner space, this spaceThat has its being in you.”―Rainer Maria Rilke… Continue reading The Social Lives of Tree Spirits: A Kinship

“Getting Over the Color Green”

Wallace Stegner said that to appreciate the arid west, "You have to get over the color green; you have to quit associating beauty with gardens and lawns..." I sometimes call Albuquerque the Big Brown. Not as an insult. Not with full affection. Perhaps somewhere in between, depending on how I feel. Tan, chocolate, taupe—there’s a… Continue reading “Getting Over the Color Green”

Don’t Argue with Desert Mountains in the Winter

We ascended in deep snow. The trees relinquished their embrace and the air’s rare moisture crystallized and was made visible, glittering in the sun. As our view expanded, the flickering spirits of ten thousand small gods swarmed us. Their gentle flurry felt like a greeting. Here’s the thing. I haven’t crossed frozen earth or traversed… Continue reading Don’t Argue with Desert Mountains in the Winter

Social Distancing: Reflections on a Border Hike

Restless for depth of field, and eager to gaze beyond the myopic viewshed of a blue-lit screen, we set out to hike a stretch of the Sonoran Desert near the border. I craved beautiful things. And a distant horizon. This captivating landscape is, however, punctuated by human desperation and a nationalistic fantasy equating a rusty… Continue reading Social Distancing: Reflections on a Border Hike

Drinking the Water: Nankani Witchcraft and Ordeals

“Witches catch the soul of the person,” said Abanga. “They hide the soul somewhere and wait to see what the family members say, their reaction. If the victim is very hard, difficult, or strong, the witch will talk to other witches to get a better view of the family—to see what the family members are… Continue reading Drinking the Water: Nankani Witchcraft and Ordeals

Witchcraft, Language, Power

Elijah and I followed the path from Ayisoba’s compound, threading our way around the millet stubble from the recent harvest. We talked with Ayisoba that morning about spiritual matters while smoking the crumbling remains of last season’s tobacco. Elijah, my assistant, and Ayisoba, an herbalist, were becoming more comfortable with my questions. Yet, despite our… Continue reading Witchcraft, Language, Power

Anchoring the Unspeakable: Trauma in Younger Onset Dementia Narratives

“Before the dementia diagnosis, Marcel and I were at dinner with some Jewish friends from South Africa,” said Ruth, Marcel’s wife. I was interviewing Ruth about Marcel’s younger onset dementia. “Marcel started talking about things he never talked of before,” she said. “He told stories about himself during the Holocaust as a child. You know,… Continue reading Anchoring the Unspeakable: Trauma in Younger Onset Dementia Narratives

Passing the Flame: Narrative Trajectories of Trauma

This essay was destined to be a commentary on an article for a small journal I occasionally contribute to. However, my commentary was lost (likely buried in a chain of emails) and not published. To not be a complete loss, I am posting it here. While this version reads better when paired with the article… Continue reading Passing the Flame: Narrative Trajectories of Trauma

Between Two Worlds

“It was, according to my father, a test to believe in the Sky Chief, the Kollinsuitan, the Amotqn, the God. And his son Jesu. Jesu Christe. Converting Indians to Christianity in the name of Jesus… there were some casualties. Big time.” “Nick Si John, that’s what the rolls call him. The rolls were the official… Continue reading Between Two Worlds

Contesting Identities: Historical Trauma, Loss, and Cultural Authenticity

“Where do the Coeur d’Alene people come from?” asked Richard. Richard, the Coeur d’Alene Nation's cultural resource manager, was interviewing me about my research proposal. It was 2001, and I was beginning an ethnographic project with a Coeur d’Alene family on intergenerational relations and identity. I was new to anthropology. Intimidated. I wondered why he… Continue reading Contesting Identities: Historical Trauma, Loss, and Cultural Authenticity