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That Thing with Feathers: Hope and Literature in a Time of Upheaval

In his forthcoming debut novel, Let the Wild Grasses Grow, Kase Johnstun reimagines the lives of his grandparents Della Chavez and John Cordova as they struggle through historic events—the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, WWII—yet remain rooted in the southern Colorado landscape of their childhood. In today’s That Thing With Feathers, Johnstun chronicles a red rock Utah landscape and a personal milestone in our current historic moment.


Three Runs in the Desert

by Kase Johnstun

Day One, Run One

January 26, 2021

I park my truck at the edge of the Cottonwood Trailhead, just off I-15, after my four-hour drive from Ogden, Utah, to Washington, Utah, an easy drive through the droughted, snow-covered mountains and valleys in the center of the state. We have had so little snow this year, and the new, lacey veil of white that covers the landscape gives me a slight bit of hope that we may get even more before winter ends.

We need it.

Framed by my windshield, a man hikes out of the red rock mounds of earth and across the white desert field toward me. He is done for the day. His truck sits alone in the parking lot next to mine, and I am dying to swap my driving shoes for my running shoes (ala Fred Rogers, like all runners), shake off the heavy feeling in my legs from hours of sitting, and run across that same snow-covered field into the navel of Cottonwood Canyon.