What do we value most?

With the current pandemic of COVID-19 and the shelter-in-place and other precautionary measures being taken in the U.S. and around the world, it's a question being asked more and more. Family, friends, community, the commitment of strangers—nurses, doctors, first responders, and a host of others risking their health and their lives to keep us healthy and alive—are at the top of the list, as they should be.

At High Desert Journal, on the anniversary of our 15th year and with the publication of our 30th issue, we salute these brave souls, and we send our hearts out to all those suffering and being affected, especially those individuals and populations who are most vulnerable and bearing the brunt of this crisis: the elderly, the homeless, Native Peoples, the black and brown communities, and those with disabilities.

As we weather this storm, together, the question also becomes what do we turn to for solace and hope? Where do we derive inspiration, and the will to go on?

As the editor of a literary and fine arts magazine, I quite naturally turn to the arts. To a favorite poem, a piece of music, a painting or a photograph, something I can get lost in. Even if just for a short period of time, a work of literature can be a salve for my psyche, a place where I can set my worries aside and breathe normally again.

The arts have always played such a role, and I would like to think High Desert Journal can and does too. In the past, I have likened High Desert Journal to a good barn in a storm. I like that idea, and although I never imagined this kind of storm, I think the analogy holds.

With publication of issue 30, High Desert Journal offers you, our readers, a place to shelter at home, out of the storm. Sit with a cup of coffee or tea, a glass of wine, with a spouse or lover or child, or all alone, and let the words and images in this issue carry you to a place far from COVID-19.

Our featured artist for this issue is the Native American artist Dan Namingha. His impressionistic landscapes of the southwest are full of color and light and gravity. They are bold, in a time when we need to be bold, and they are joyful, in this time when joy is hard to come by. Personally, the most important criteria I judge a work of art by is, “Can I live with this day after day, day-in day-out.” I never tire of looking at even one of Dan’s pieces. In this issue, I offer you 13. Take some time to enjoy this important artist from New Mexico. It will be time well spent.

I should also note that the poems, essays, and stories in this issue were all selected before the outbreak of COVID-19 was fully understood. But each in their own way speaks to the crisis. J.T. Townley offers an abundance of zen wisdom in his story High Lonesome. Belly up to the bar and hear one-eyed Tuerto tell his story in Michael McGuire’s And It Was Like This (A Tale Untold). Jeff Jones recalls his growing awareness of the fallibilities of his beliefs in God in his essay, Adaptation, while Ruby Hansen Murray in her essay Wendover’s Ghosts takes a road trip to the abandoned Wendover air-base in Utah to straddle a moral chasm within herself and this country. Yvette A. Schnoeker-Shorb identifies with fear and trespassing when she encounters a rattlesnake in her poem Rattled, and Ian Ramsey burns with passion for the West in his poem Fire. These are just a few of the gems you will find in issue 30.

Joy Harjo, the US poet laureate says, “Without poetry we lose our way.” Indeed, and I would add to that, all the arts. For 15 years High Desert Journal has been helping all of us find our way, and I am proud of all our contributors, donors, and to you our readers too, for the support and companionship offered. It is our sincere hope from all of us here at High Desert Journal that this issue can provide a little something in return, now and going forward.

Be well, all of you, and enjoy this offering.


Sincerely, Charles Finn, editor.