Andy Nettell felt “immobilized” on Thursday as the Pack Creek Fire devoured acres of the La Sal Mountains. Paralyzed by grief for the aspen forests and green meadows where had gone on his first date and later proposed to his wife, Nettell found himself scrolling aimlessly through Instagram and Facebook as Moab residents shared their sadness online.

“Often when I feel this deep sadness, I turn to art and literature,” said Nettell. “I know words matter. I broker in words.” So he took screenshots of each caption and post that spoke to him.

“Some of these are from friends, and some from strangers. As much as I dislike social media, this was a way the community could grieve collectively,” said Nettell.

On Monday, June 21, Back of Beyond Books will host a community gathering at the store to provide a chance to grieve and celebrate the La Sal Mountains, currently burning from the Pack Creek Fire. The event will be an informal gathering of friends and Moab community members to share their words and art to process what has been lost to the Pack Creek Fire.

Nettell has been working to put together a booklet of the words shared by the Moab community during this time, which will be available at Monday’s event. The booklet will contain 22 short essays and poems, along with original pieces of artwork. All proceeds from the booklet will go towards the rehabilitation of the La Sals.

“We’re all collectively grieving for the mountains, critters and timber. Those of us who have lived here, for any length of time, have so many memories there,” said Nettell. “I’ve really been dwelling in this, and something that stuck with me in a lot of these writings is the thread of hope.”

The event will include a speaking period where community members can share their thoughts, though there is no formal structure or format.

“Some people prefer to grieve in solitude, and others prefer to grieve in groups,” Nettell said. “This is that opportunity.”

Event info:

What: La Sal Mountain Elegies: A Community Gathering

When: Monday, June 21 at 6 p.m.

Where: Back of Beyond Books (83 N. Main Street, Moab)

For more information, go to