Monday, May 26, 2008


I came to the Petrified Forest National Park in May as a writer-in-residence. I was given a charming cabin built by the CCC in the 1930's – simple and rustic. It was perched across from the old hotel, a spectacular view of badlands stretching out towards the horizon. In the distance, I-40 rolled west along the old Route 66 cut.

fake tepees
on the highway –
painted desert cones
Of course it is illegal, immoral, and all but irresistible to pocket a bit of petrified wood. Walking along the trail and looking at the gigantic fallen logs of the Triassic now turned to rainbow stone – jasper red, mariposa lily yellow, crystal white – I knew I had to go something before the urge overwhelmed me. I went into the curio store and spent fifty dollars on two beautiful pieces of polished petrified wood collected outside the park. I heard my father's approving voice in my head. After all, he was the one who introduced me to the west and encouraged me to buy the mudhead kachina, the Pacific Northwest Indian basket, the necklace of tiny bird fetishes. My father believed in buying a souvenir, a bit of a spirit of a place, something I passed on to my own daughter.

pale blue
in the red grain – tonight
I'll dream of trees

I even bought a little collection of polished chips – so smooth, so many colors – and put them in one of the two bowls in the cabin. This petrified wood exists on a scale of time I can note but not truly imagine – 225 million years ago.

my own daughter grown
I buy mineral souvenirs
just for me

by Miriam Sagan
Santa Fe, New Mexico

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