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Environmental Boundaries

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.

Wondering Around

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about Pablo Neruda’s 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 Bly’s task. For me, the English cannot capture all that I hear.

Llano Estacado

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.

Mesuras de luz / Moderation of Light

They don’t recognize each other. They don’t feel each other. They don’t listen to each other. There are spaces around us that make up our daily landscapes, but they don’t form part of what we are attached to, we will never engage them in conversation. It wasn’t until a few years ago that the mountains, the sunny and shady places where I walked, had their own names.

Truckload of Art


Lubbock, God Love It, So Do I



Marginalization is a weird concept. It’s not weird for places like Lubbock, Texas. But it’s 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.

Expression of a Common Touch

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.

On Location

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.


The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 22–JAN 23

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