These 20 words were assigned to Pam Houston by her friend, the writer and photographer Kyle Wolff, as part of Project 2020 (Quarantine Edition). She gave Pam and others a word most mornings, and the assignment to write to that world and either take or find a photo to go with it. These 20 words and photographs by Pam Houston are appearing daily in Terrain.org through June 20, the summer solstice.
April 17, 2020
It never was linear like all the dead male writers said it was. This happened then this happened then this happened and therefore this happened was never a way I was going to write a story. They call that realism, but it’s not how reality works in my head. I see a hawk, and that reminds me of the time when I lived in California, and I was in love with an osprey, who was really a man who bore the same name as my best grade school teacher (and my now husband), back in New Jersey, in a time when telephones were still attached to the wall.
Time during Covid warps and stretches. All time warps and stretches but maybe now we see it more. The light from the stars I see from the ranch at night left those stars anywhere from one to 16,000 years ago. So if there is someone looking up at us from some other galaxy, we might all be dead by the time our image gets to them.
It is weird to have made it to the end of the world, and by the end of the world I mean only the end of the world for the so-called apex predator, which is real consolation and the form that hope takes for me these days. I read this morning that the Colorado River corridor is full of birds and bears, eagles and weasels, no boats full of drunk and sunburnt tourists to scare them away.
Covid measures time in two-week increments, two weeks after these “liberation” rallies as they call them, the “libbers” as they call themselves, who say “my body my choice,” will begin to die. Again, one wants to laugh, except mass death isn’t funny.
May you live in interesting times, says an oft-quoted Chinese proverb. All the narratives will be shattered, in both good and bad ways, from now on.
Pam Houston is the author of the memoir Deep Creek: Finding Hope In The High Country, which won the 2019 Reading the West Advocacy Award, as well as five other books of fiction and nonfiction, all published by W.W. Norton. She lives at 9,000 feet above sea level on a 120-acre homestead near the headwaters of the Rio Grande. A book co-written with activist Amy Irvine, Air Mail: Letters of Politics, Pandemics, and Place, is forthcoming from Torrey House Press in October 2020.