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Three years ago, I published a book called Border Land, Border Water: A History of Construction on the US-Mexico Divide (University of Texas Press). It is about the built environment of the border and how the accretion of fencing and surveillance projects on land, as well as hydraulic engineering projects on the border rivers, came to overwrite the natural environments through which the border passes.
Lately Ive been thinking a lot about Pablo Nerudas poem Walking Around. Neruda begins: Sucede que me canso de ser hombre. This gets translated to English by Robert Bly as It so happens I am sick of being a man. I feel for the enormity of Blys task. For me, the English cannot capture all that I hear.
My investigation of the Llano Estacado started after a freak dust storm in 1970. It was a night event that left an eighth of an inch of dust covering the entire interior of my car. There was no wind involved. Static electricity carried the dust through a sliver of a crack on the driver side window. I remember the night looked like a socked-in corner of a San Francisco street except for the color.
They dont recognize each other. They dont feel each other. They dont listen to each other. There are spaces around us that make up our daily landscapes, but they dont form part of what we are attached to, we will never engage them in conversation. It wasnt until a few years ago that the mountains, the sunny and shady places where I walked, had their own names.
Marginalization is a weird concept. Its not weird for places like Lubbock, Texas. But its weird in a world that is majority minority with more Indigenous individuals, yet Euro-centric views overpower the mainstream media and often our values and belief systems.
In 1880, Charles Darwin published a collection of studies on the movements of plants. One of his experiments led him to describe a circular or elliptical movement with which the plant adapts to its environment, balancing out. He called it circumnutation, a kind of nodding around, and to see it, he did a pre-photographic time-lapse.
TEN YEARS AFTER THAT WEEK on St. Lawrence Island, and after thousands of miles of sojourning in places all over the planet, most of them unknown to me until I arrived, I was working on a story in the eastern Mojave Desert, in Southern California. Hiking across a narrow valley in that basin and range country, I spotted a man in the distance. He was carrying a bright green satchel over his shoulder. Its wide strap cut diagonally across his chest; through my binoculars I could see that he was gripping some loose pages in his left hand.