On The Hilltop

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There’s a hilltop in Bisbee, Arizona, just a few miles north of the Mexican border. It sits over Brewery Gulch, casting its shadow over the canyon homes. The last several months I lived in Bisbee I was in a deeply disturbing relationship and everything around me seemed to be in chaos, but I would hike up to the cross on the hill every morning with my dog and enjoy the quiet and the peace.

I’m not a religious man, but I believe in the power of intention. I’d heard stories about the man who built this shrine, decades ago, and about the effort it took, hauling concrete and materials, an armload at a time, from Tombstone Canyon up to the hilltop. In the years since the cross was erected, other people have added onto the shrine. The ashes of peoples’ loved ones have been spread there, piles of candles have been left on the backside of the hill where a shrine to the Guadalupe Virgin has been built. A mural of Jesus is painted on the side of the hill and a monument to the people who have died in the desert trying to cross into America has been established; at the site, people deposit items found in the desert, left behind by border crossers, from backpacks and worn-out shoes to tooth brushes and baby bottles.

My heart is still in the Mule Mountains, even if it’s no longer in Bisbee. I will never forget the brief moments, sitting on the hilltop on those silent mornings, watching the sun rise over the desert.

The Dead Flower

Dead Flower post“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”
~Albert Camus

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I was reminded of this painting, based on a photograph, by an unlikely figure: Facebook.

We all have a profile and engage in it’s meticulous, brilliant distraction. Over the past several weeks, I’ve plucked the crust from my eyes each morning and reached over to quell the grating sounds of my alarm clock – which would also be my phone. Usually there’s a recommendation from our social media overlord to reminisce and share an old memory – I’m guessing they’ve been pulling at your nostalgia-strings too. The catch, at lease for me, is that the past twelve months of my life have been, mildly put, troubled.

Facebook’s algorithms have yet to filter out the job losses, financial woes, marital strife, and death. It’s hard to fault an equation for hoisting my life’s misery back upon me, even as I scramble to escape the sense of demoralizing defeat, but there it is, like a mirror, holding your failures as a civilized man right up to your face.

Today, thankfully, brought a different narrative. Rather than a friend-turned-enemy or a recently-deceased compatriot, I was reminded of a painting I’d made and quickly forgot about. I made a simple picture of a crisp, lifeless twig; I was satisfied. The canvas of the earth shifts during the winter time; colors turn from vibrant to monochrome. A very good and close friend, deeply religious, often speaks of God’s divine design, proclaiming that “the colors of His palette never clash.”

I certainly couldn’t be described as a religious or faithful human being, but my friend is right. The colors of the natural world do not compete for glory – they sit side-by-side in exquisite harmony, promoting a sensory experience that is indeed “miraculous,” and can easily be described as “heavenly.”

And now I spread my gospel to you.