Monthly Archives: August 2017

Chasing the Sundogs

I find the way I feel about the state of the world right now difficult to put into words most of the time. How could things be seemingly so bleak, but also so charged with beauty and meaning at the same time? How can I consistently feel hopeless and and also hopeful in the same moment? I start essays and other pieces of writing on a pretty consistent basis, only to leave them unfinished, languishing in the “draft” category halfway through, thoroughly tired of them and also unfulfilled by them. It’s the fiction and the poetry that hold my attention right now. The artwork, the songs, the photos, the works. I’m so hungry for stories, for telling them and soaking them in. I’m starving for them.

At a time when our culture is literally drowning in facts and figures, inundated by article after article and fact after fact, flowing with pieces of information presented as objective truths, I find myself wanting the opposite. I want subjective. I want stories from the heart, imagined and real. I want experiences. I want to know the inner workings, hear the gritty details, feel the mistakes, watch faces light up with the tellings, of secrets and adventures, of longings, of legends, even lies. Facts can feel so bland, so lifeless, so clinical; bled dry. What I crave is thumping, still-beating heart. Life.

So I find myself always turning to fiction and poetry in my own writing, and that feels like home. I’m sharing an excerpt from my new novel here, working title Chasing the Sundogs, but that’s apt to change. And it’s a draft, so beware! Any of it is apt to change. But I feel like sharing a bit of it now.

And our guest post tonight is from the loveliest soul Michelle, who just celebrated a birthday and actually, truly makes the world a better place by being in it. Her work is beautiful and inspiring and I love it so much. This whole project and blog never could happen without her.

We’d like to put out there again that this project is on-going and it feels like a good time to breathe some new life into it and enjoy some fresh perspective. So please, please, please, if you feel moved, send us some of your original work to share (email, writing, poetry, artwork etc. around the theme of mourning, solidarity, and/or rebellion. It would make our hearts very happy.

Below is the excerpt from my new novel, Sundogs, followed by Michelle’s poetry and incredible photo from her newest photo project.

(“Sun dog” (or sundog, or mock sun) refers to (from wikipedia) a parhelion (plural parhelia) an atmospheric optical phenomenon that consists of a bright spot to the left and/or right of the Sun. Two sun dogs often flank the Sun within a 22° halo.” It’s an amazing sight.)

This one’s a story about our beautiful planet, climate change, resistance, betrayal, and love.

Thank your for listening,

Chasing the Sundogs
by Natasha Alvarez

I can feel myself disappearing.

Here in this hall of ghosts the water climbs outside and still the wind howls and I am already gone.

This story will never be read. I can scrawl words onto this page all night here in the dark with no light. I can carve letters and shapes into the lined paper, collage sentences one on top of the other in a tangle and it won’t matter at all. This story is for me.

And you, of course.


I dream. We are at the beach. Your toes make depressions in the sand where you walk and you are laughing. We’re playing in the surf, rushing in to catch the waves and then turning to run when they get close. We’re digging for sand crabs; they tickle our cupped hands when we find and hold them. You kiss me; your lips are soft. Your eyes are the clearest blue. You smell like sun and wind. Suddenly, out of nowhere a monster wave appears. It blots out the sky as it rolls relentlessly towards us. We turn to run but it’s upon us, crashing down around us, pushing us this way and that, tossing us, like pebbles high, into the clear blue sky, and then pulling us down so my bones crunch against the sand and shells underneath the sea. Then I’m back on the beach, choking and sputtering and coughing up water. I get up and look around, comb the shore, searching for you. But you are gone and  the dream is over and I am awake and alive and alone.


There was a moment once when humans had the chance to live forever, you said to me that first night, under a dark moon sky, rubbing the back of my hand ever so slowly with your potter’s thumb. You told me a story about the sun creating the earth, sculpting land, and sea, and sky, and water out of a bit of mud scraped from the bottom of the deepest lake.

“They say the sun made the plants, and trees, and animals, and finally the humans, a woman and child.” you told me. The sun gave the humans the ability to speak, you explained.

They woman asked the sun, “will we live forever, or will we die?”

“I don’t know” the sun said. “I suppose we must decide. If I throw this rock into the water and it sinks, humans will have an end. If it floats, you will live forever.” The rock floated. “You will live forever.” the sun said.

“But wait, “ the woman said. “I want to be the one to decide.” She threw the rock in and it sank. “So it is decided.” The sun said.

Three days later the woman’s daughter grew sick and died. The woman wept. She wailed. She pulled her hair and tore her clothes. She lay down by the river and almost died herself.

“Let’s change the rule!” the woman cried. “Let’s change the rule and bring my daughter back!”

“It is decided.” The sun said sadly. “The rule cannot be changed.”

And so it is you said. The unbroken rule of life.

“That is so sad.” I murmured. “Imagine living with that kind of regret.” I spoke slowly, gazing at Orion’s far off belt, and his great weapon held high.

“The lesson of impermanence.” you said.

You were Buddhist then. You leaned in and we kissed, the sound of silence ringing in our ears.

But the grief. I thought, shuddering a bit. The awful grief.


It is important to use a very sharp point. Hardened steel is best, heated and hammered into a broadhead about an inch, inch and a half across. The point must be secured onto an arrow, at least 600 grains, maybe more, with fletching at the end and a nock that hugs the bow string easily. Or a prod will work too, shorter than an arrow but just as heavy, ready to be shot out of a crossbow made from the steel leaf spring of a truck.

You will carry the bow slung over your shoulder and move on silent feet. Darkness is best,  because only then is it possible to hide in plain sight.

From a few yards away that sharp point will tear a clean hole in the flank of barrel chested steel. While you will not be able to see your hit under the cover of darkness, you will hear the ringing clang of metal hitting metal and you will smell the unmistakable scent of mineral oil filling the air.

Then you have two options. You can retreat, to sit in the darkest shadows counting constellations and patiently waiting for the show to begin.

Or you can strike the match yourself.

To be continued…

And then this beautiful piece by Michelle:

when you see me again ask me how the ocean
brings the full moon to lap at my ankles
directly below where i’ve rolled my pants

or ask how the moon beckons me to the sand’s edge,
brightens an exact path to follow,
downward, downward

or how the sand shines like a moonlit candle
in the balmy seconds before the next wave breaks like an egg,
scatters into pieces
the full moon yolk, runny, spills across my feet

and i feel a tingle,
of course I feel it,
the electric moonlight-filled waters of this enormous great ocean, the moon herself,
me on my moon time, the waters and bloods of my body pulsing like waves, calling,


matching some ancient pulsing heartbeat that used to be felt among all living beings but now is only felt by the special ones, the ones who are listening, ears wide open, eyes and hearts wide open,


when you see me again
you don’t have to ask me how that feels,
you know how it feels,
of course you do.

Michelle Johnsen Photography