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False Kiva   Pastel on paper   Akiko Hirano

Akiko Hirano & Tim Wong

The instant she climbed onto the rocky ledge, she knew she had found the place. The cave high up on a boulder-strewn cliff held a centuries-old secret. Hidden inside, invisible from below, was a circle laid out with stones. She moved quietly to one side, feeling like an intruder walking into a solemn ceremony.


No one knew who built the stone circle, or what it was used for. Unlike the typical ceremonial kivas, it was not built underground, nor were there pilasters supporting a roof. She walked slowly around the cave, her crunching footsteps echoing from the walls. It was clear the cave had long been used as a gathering place; there were faded markings and handprints along the back wall.


Sunlight reflected off the canyon flooded the cave with a crimson glow. She leaned against the arching wall, looking out to the desert where sandstone towers lined up like giants marching towards the horizon. Except for the clouds, the world stood still. A silence so dense it weighed on her skin. The sun climbed higher, casting a warm arc on the stone circle. Winter was around the corner. Soon, the arc would reach the inner recesses in the alcove. This was no coincidence, the circle was built here for a reason.


In the desert, there are no colorful autumn leaves to announce the change from summer to winter, only the oblique sunlight signals life’s last gasp before the dead of winter. Autumn Equinox is a time when the veil between the living and spirit worlds is thinnest, a time when one may glimpse the other side.

Noon. She entered the circle through its small doorway. She turned at the center and squinted at the horizon. Through the doorway, a tall monolithic spire beckoned far to the south. The sun had reached its zenith directly above the monolith. It cast a shadow that shot towards her like an arrowhead, connecting with her through the narrow entrance of the circle.

She lifted her face to the sun and closed her eyes. A warm afterglow of the pink landscape lingered on her eyelids like a strange surreal painting. The vision slowly faded into shapeless vermilion memory. She felt light-headed, she could not remember how she got there, but that didn't seem to matter to her anymore. She was certain that when she opened her eyes again, the world would somehow be changed. She imagined her body turning into ashes, scattering to the ground like falling petals. She became the land.

Afterglow   Digital image   Akiko Hirano

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