Everything is Mystery

Words are made for a certain exactness of thought, as tears are for a certain degree of pain. What is least distinct cannot be named; what is clearest is unutterable.

~ Rene Daumal ~

The fictional Arkansas town I created and wrote about in 2017 was on life support from the outset. I think COVID-19 would have turned it into a ghost town, had I allowed the pandemic’s grip to take hold.  Since then, I’ve made at least nine posts in which I’ve written short fiction or mentioned the town and its key gathering spot, a tavern which serves as a gathering place for an unlikely mix of intellectuals and backwoods rednecks. That tavern, despite the fact that it does not exist, has become something of my Third Place. A town in Colorado where we stopped for lunch on the way home from our west coast road trip reminded me of my Arkansas town. Though much larger and more vibrant than my struggling little town, a few blocks of the downtown area of Trinidad, Colorado could serve as the setting for much of my story. Trinidad is much livelier and obviously more prosperous than my town, but its bones are, in many respects, the same.

The similarities between my little Arkansas town and Trinidad prompted me to explore a bit more about the Colorado town. I learned that the town became known nationally in the early 1900s for having the first woman sports editor of a newspaper, Ina Eloise Young—who was the only woman sportswriter to cover the 1908 World Series. Mine disasters, fires, and floods afflicted the town during the first few years of the twentieth century, but the town recovered from each. For a small town—the population peaked at more than 13,000 in the early 1940s, dropping to just above 8,000 today—Trinidad has been home to quite a few “famous” residents, including Bat Masterson and Stanley Biber, the latter a physician who pioneered and practiced sex reassignment surgery in the town, resulting in the town being labeled the “sex change capital of the world.” The website, historycolorado.org, says “For more than forty years, “going to Trinidad” became slang for undergoing gender confirmation surgery, and this otherwise quiet and previously little-known Colorado town found itself on the map, not just in the United States but the world over.” Another bit of national recognition came to the town, beginning in 2015, when the marijuana business got a foothold. Some residents of the town credit marijuana with reviving the “dead town.” A 2018 article in High Times quotes a restauranteur, Nick Cordova, as saying “Without weed, half this town wouldn’t be here. Literally.”  Stories about the exceptional rebirth of Trinidad were published before the 2021 legalization of medical and recreational cannabis in New Mexico, so it may be too early to say Trinidad is stable. But it looked good as we passed through not long ago.

But, back to my little Arkansas town. It remains in the back of my mind all the time. And it surfaces fairly often; more frequently than I write about it. Yet I want to write more about it. And I will. I will breathe life into the little town on life support. I will, somehow, replicate Trinidad’s rebirth in my little town. Whether the resurgence of my town lasts remains to be seen. Only after I write it into a believable existence and give it a period of life will I know where it is going. At the moment, I envision a series of stories that could, conceivably, be made into chapters of a novel. I haven’t made mention of the characters in my town; they are at the heart of the stories. My characters, as I see and hear and talk to them, are quirky—to say the least. They are larger than life in some ways, but in others they are absolutely as real as anyone within my sphere. When will I get back to this? When time-consuming obligations stop gnawing at me night and day. When I can devote the time necessary to put myself in the right frame of mind and get myself energized about writing nonstop for a while. When the time is right. If ever it is right. Time will, eventually, tell.


The printer I ordered last week arrived a few days ago. Yesterday, I opened it and tried to set it up. It does not work. I am sending it back. I have a love-hate relationship with technology. Maybe it’s not technology I hate; maybe it’s the lack of quality control. Or maybe it’s ineptitude in manufacturing. Or maybe it’s manufacturers’ propensity to cut costs by slashing component quality. Or maybe it’s all the above. On one hand, I wish the “old timey” product quality would return. On the other, like everyone else, I would bitch and moan about how much quality costs.


Yesterday, I set up a game camera on our deck in an effort to capture images of raccoons or whatever other creatures are devouring bird-seed at an ever-increasing rate. I have not yet viewed what, if anything, the camera may have captured. That will be an interesting undertaking. Maybe. But, first, I should shower and shave and get ready for church. I have to make a pitch for committee membership at the beginning of the service today. If not for that, I would not go. I am not in the mood for church. I never am in the mood, though, but I always seems to appreciate being there when I convince myself to go.


I do not at all understand the mystery of grace—only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.

~ Anne Lamott ~

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Everything is Mystery

  1. Penny Beed says:

    I really like the quote about grace by Anne LaMott, John. I made a copy of it and will be sharing it with some of my friends. Thank you!

  2. Meg+Koziar says:

    PS Thanks, your mention of Trinidad, CO, brings back vividd memories of the only real vacation my family ever took. A friend who had moved to Trinidad took my parents and 4 of us kids in his pickup to a hunter’s cabin in the mountains and picked us up a week later. Wild horses, an old Victrola with thick Caruso records, and target practice with a 22 are vivid memories from that week.

  3. Meg+Koziar says:

    Hope you found going to church was a good choice today. The zoom quality, especially the audio, was by far the best it has ever been. Thanks for any part you had in that!

I wish you would tell me what you think about this post...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.