Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Wednesday, 5 October 2005

Naughty Night Bird

Painted Desert and Petrified Forest, Arizona

The pastels of the vast Painted Desert are breath-taking. The huge black raven owns the Painted Desert. It sits quietly, waiting for my arrival. I throw three pieces of bread and it picks these up one by one, places them in a single pile, then gathers all three and flies off into the desert. It is a bird of great intelligence and courage. The raven found light and brought it to the people, according to an ancient Alaskan Inuit legend. It is the center of many Native American legends.

I know the impossible sea
when the dogs bark
I am a death bird
Naughty night bird
-Jim Morrison

The Petrified Forest National Monument is just south of the Painted Desert on Route 66. 225 million year-old Triassic trees and tree fragments litter the desert floor for miles. There are hundreds of letters in the visitor center attesting to the bad luck that befalls anyone who removes a piece of rock. The rock trees contain lovely varieties of minerals, colors and patterns. It takes ten time longer to polish these than it takes to polish granite according to the exhibits in the center. They must be hard.

A ranger at the exit asks if we have collected anything... we tell her only memories and digital photographs. I write a letter later:
Park Superintendent
Petrified Forest National Monument

October 28, 2005

Dear Sir,
Enclosed is a piece of petrified tree that I removed from the forest.

Since stealing this accursed rock I have had nothing but bad luck. The Internal Revenue Service is auditing my taxes for the last five years. My wife discovered my affair with her sister and left me. My daughter has begun dating an ex-convict.

The front porch collapsed and killed four of my hunting dogs. On the way to buy the winning lottery ticket, my pickup truck threw a rod and I missed the deadline by an hour. My youngest son has become a gel-head. Hurricane Wilma blew half the shingles off and I shot myself in the foot with my nail gun, nailing myself to the roof. I'm really very sorry about stealing this rock, please put it back.


Phred Firecloud

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