us Inez residents, spread along a dozen
miles of arcing dirt. The North Platte
River glides through the sagebrush and
Russian olives, holding nary a rapid but
many a channel cat, and an occasional rising rainbow.
Here, twenty years ago, Maria and I salvaged a disintegrating 1890s ranch house.
And here we raised two river rats from
pups, now strapping young men who sing
about childhood tree swings, watermelon
parties, the glories of river mud, and beater
pickups driven on hardship licenses at age
fourteen. When they visit, they hug our
laying hens to their chests like old friends.
But things are changing in Wyoming. A
friend used to say that visiting us was a wilderness experience; our major nighttime
intrusion was a neighbor’s sodium-vapor
yard light a mile o=. The stars still blared.
Nowadays, though, the energy colony bordering Powder River coal country bristles
with Okies and Texans in F-350s, here to
fatten their wallets and feed the consumptive empire. Across the river, mile-long coal
trains chug by day and night, and oil and
gas development clutches the land. The
fricking fucking frackers are on us, we say. Giant seismic thumper trucks have crawled
across our pastures, seeking hydrocarbons sequestered in our “split estate.”
Oil trucks, gas trucks, gravel trucks, and
the omnipresent white pickups raise dust
that coats us inside and out. A humongous
triple pile of gravel—a neighbor cashing
in—dominates the horizon atop foothills
of the Laramie Range.
And yet, spring came and summer followed. Male redwings claimed the cattails,
and the bees wintered strong, and will
again provide buckets of creamy sweet-clover honey. In the tallest cottonwood,
fuzz-headed bald eaglets poked their outsized beaks over the edge of a messy nest.
Pelicans fished communally in blindingly
white rafts. And this evening, while I'm
walking the dog, a five-second meteor
sizzles across the sky.
LEAN BACK till you feel like you’ll tip. Take in the sky. Wasn’t it a
steely gray just a minute ago? But now
it’s blue like the eggs tucked away in
the nests, cluttered with clouds that
have broken apart over this one spot
on the edge of Barnstable Harbor.
Soon the marsh cordgrass will erupt,
an emerald carpet reaching up, breaking through the brackish phragmites
pounded flat by winter storms, but for
now, it remains all potential, the wash
of pale shades that defines Cape Cod.
This is how it happens, falling in
love with a place. Mostly gradual, with
short bursts of free fall. Endless discovery, with occasional disappointments
(one more tick, extracted from an abdomen). Round an unexplored bend,
then next time, go farther. Spend a
year, then two or four or forty. Become
accustomed to the rhythms. In the last
ten days, the peepers have begun their
songs. Learn that the pace of their pulsing chorus is a thermometer of sound.
Leaving the trails of the Audubon
lands behind, the trees still skeletal, a
friend and I head to a small island that
rises from the marsh. We seek flotsam
and find plastic, but also one washed up
length of seaworn two-by-six. It serves
as a bridge to traverse the channels
that Depression-era men once gashed
into the wetlands, straight veins amid
the sweeping curves. The salt hay is a
sponge beneath the feet.
The ospreys are back, and infinitely
occupying each platform raised for
their delight. One bird sits on a nest
not far o=, takes flight, travels low
along the open marsh. Then there’s a
second one, a third, a fourth—each a
black-and-white M against azure. They
fly. I free-fall.
This is how it happens. Everywhere
there is death and history. I stand
where the dead lay, an oar nailed into
a tree to mark the spot. The salt marsh
below me an accumulation of eons.
Everywhere there is life and the future,
ospreys returning, peepers emerging.
Each state a reflection on the other.
Each of us in the middle, gazing and
Cape Cod, Massachusetts