I came to know my brother for the first time as an adult on a drunken weekend in New Orleans. I returned three winters later in the fall, living in St. Claude for a handful of weeks in a furnished school bus in the backyard of a retired circus performer named Otter.

New Orleans maintains the traditional concept of home, one that is forever unmoored, sinking, rising, sometimes out to sea — somewhere between the loins and solar plexus — constructed on trust not permanency.

Tripping over ghost bodies broken on every block, passing every shotgun house feeling every last…


Returning from the Gila wilderness, over 100 miles of winding roads through aspen and ponderosa pine; in the valley, massive cottonwood trees drink along the banks of the shallow clear-running Gila River. New friends were made in the collared lizards, golden eagles, mule deer, hummingbirds, and a black bear in the middle of the road who took us in, wanted to know why we were there.

Every sighting is a plea.

I felt this in the Gila, in the cliff dwellings of ancestors, standing in the water, taking in the energy of the ancient forest.

Every sighting is a plea…


The sky and the grass were rushing with waves, as was the lake, waves upon waves in the waves, the sky and the grass, my hands, all waves. I waved my hand to wave the waves, waved away they waved. Upon the wavy grass I waved, intermittently running down to the dock to wave at the waving water (little waves); nostalgia in its most pure state overtook me: hearing Pink Floyd’s The Division Bell, over and over again, in the tape deck on a trip to Galveston, Texas, dipping myself into the ocean for the first time as a little…


At a family reunion last year, eating meat sandwiches on a molding picnic table, a massive black fluorescent flying beetle lands on my shoulder. It’s a shock. I jolt, perhaps release a yip. I am at a table of elders, great aunts and uncles, all of whom overreact in choral unison. A few elders defy their bodies and leap from the table. Our responsive roars and screams a family trait.

After a breath or two I regain composure and gently wipe the beetle off toward the lawn, assuming the event will conclude, and attention will return to masticating our soggy…


The mystery and awe of the heron, a bird who can remain so still and move so slowly as to disappear. The heron is a magician, once there and once gone in the cattails. My eyes always attune to their shape, the long neck that stretches in curiosity, and the sloping gait of its middle. As soon as my eyes fall upon a body of water — river, lake, pond — I look for heron.

Blue heron in Mud Lake, adjoined to Fish Hook River & Fish Hook Lake (Minnesota), August 2019

My father’s mechanical obsessions cycle every decade; he is currently in his RV phase. During my first decade was the motorcycle phase, specifically Harley Davidson’s…


Over the past decade I have made it a point to travel, live and write about those spaces we forget in our definition of America. From my second home in Albuquerque, where indigenous culture and history are a daily reflection, to New Orleans, living in a bus for weeks in the ninth ward, where the divisive map of race and privilege fluxes not just block to block, but house to house. America remains hidden for the majority; what we often half-know is topsoil, gleaned through the prejudice of storytelling. …

Adam R. Burnett

Adam R. Burnett writes. More at adamrburnett.com

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