Tag Archives: Hanna Johnson

Return to Raft River

By Hanna Johnson

Wind was whispering in my ears,
icy secrets that made my head hurt.
Endless hills surrounded me 
carved out by wind and 
covered in low growing florid bursts, 
Castillejas, called Indian Paintbrush,  
effloresced in shades of blush and blood
harbored beneath branches
of bitterbrush or sage. These parasitic creatures
sought shelter from the wind, owing their
stunted growth, to an aeolian world. 

My mud covered boots carried me farther 
from dark thoughts and somber memories,
footprints marked my path as it wound 
up and up the steeply sloping bluffs

I reached the jagged quartzite outcrop
atop the ridge, out of breath and 
nearly hidden from blue eyes I 
perceived to be below.
The wind whistled through the 
perforated stone keys, trilling at me. 
I sought shelter in the space 
between boulder and cliff 
a warm, silent fissure in stone 
I leaned my back against,
orange and green ringed lichen.
My soul sighed sanctuary
as my head rested against the crag
a flutter from deep within 
this crack caught my eye.
A small painted lady, with
scarlet and black dusted wings
yellow lightbulb tipped antenna, her
velvet wings tickled the air 
between us


Hannah Johnson is a botanist working in the red rock vistas and plateaus of Southern Utah. The landscape surrounding her is infectious and filled with awe. Much of her work is inspired by the landscapes and plants she encounters while working and playing among the rocks and flowers.

Plateau Catchfly

By Hanna Johnson

In the morning we awoke to the songs of
Thrushes and warblers, and a melody from the nearby creek as it stumbled over smooth rocks. 
We sipped on bitter coffee from specked, blue, 
enamel mugs before leaving camp. That day we 
searched for the Heliotrope Milkvetch, 
rare and small, it’s large salmon pods and pinnate leaves
are only found on the crests of Heliotrope mountain. 

I clambered over fallen logs, avoided large boulders,
and wove my way around tributaries that 
meandered in aspen groves. These tiny creeks had carved 
small, green canyons in the bed of fescues and wheat.
When my boots–dark at the toes from stepping in streams–
reached the final step up, I found 
that the ridgeline was flat, not a peak,  
but a plateau. Like deep red waves 
the small blooms of fat leafed sedums, 
and dark purple penstemons
broke on the edges of stone. 
My feet scampered around the edge of cliffs
Looking out at the surrounding flat topped mountains 
Whose sloping bases slid into a landscape 
Dotted with small lakes and coated in firs.

As we made our way to the rocky site 
Where bolts marked the presence of our milkvetch
I encountered a ruby red flower. Silky hairs covered a 
Terminal inflorescence, and a narrow bell shaped calyx.
Dark purples ribs ran down the bell and reminded 
Me of delicate lattice work on chapel walls.
The pink petals spread their lobed fingers
As if to extend warmth and welcome to bees and butterflies.

I can’t remember what Heliotrope milkvetch looks like
I don’t have any photos. But silent silene, 
the plateau catchfly, who is rare but not endangered 
keeps her own perfect image in my head.


Hannah Johnson is a botanist working in the red rock vistas and plateaus of Southern Utah. The landscape surrounding her is infectious and filled with awe. Much of her work is inspired by the landscapes and plants she encounters while working and playing among the rocks and flowers.

Globe Mallow Bee

By Hanna Johnson

I lay my body down 
on orange sands 
the sharp remnants of dead weeds
prick at my vertebrae.
Eye level with a scarlet globe mallow 
I whisper Hello,
as we both wait for the 
hum of wings and
a grey bodied bee.

Bees in the genus Diadasia 
are exclusively found in
deserts and grasslands, the west, 
where cacti and globe mallows
dominate arid landscapes. 
They carve tunnels in well packed soil
people don’t expect bees 
to nest on trails and roads.

I tell all this to the pink haired artist 
as the needle punctures my skin. 
She nods How fascinating 
After an hour, 
I leave the parlor 
and take another desert dweller with me.


Hannah Johnson is a botanist working in the red rock vistas and plateaus of Southern Utah. The landscape surrounding her is infectious and filled with awe. Much of her work is inspired by the landscapes and plants she encounters while working and playing among the rocks and flowers.

Origin Story

“I surrender my body to water now red, red is the Colorado, blood of my veins

Terry Tempest Williams

By Hanna Johnson

Course sands that mimic crushed ginger 
combine with turmeric and cinnamon 
in a tall terracotta bowl.

That same claret colored soil courses through
river’s body, 
the water churns spiced, iron red earth 
and turns everything to rust.

Petals of desert marigolds drip like honey
from a cracked wooden dipper
as they slide into lumpy red dough.

A pair of callused hands reach into the 
fat lipped bowl and tear off tiny 
portion of thick dough.

Ancient fingers knead the deep orange loam 
until a they form clay arms and legs, 
they give the figure smooth river stones for eyes.

I was born the moment water mixed with this
warm and sweet spiced land.


Hannah Johnson is a botanist working in the red rock vistas and plateaus of Southern Utah. The landscape surrounding her is infectious and filled with awe. Much of her work is inspired by the landscapes and plants she encounters while working and playing among the rocks and flowers.