The season of grapefruits is succumbing to the season of sand winds. On my return to El Paso, the sand wind greets me with a slap on the back then a slap across the face. It grates me in the oldened crevices of my fingers, it spits on my lips and in my eyeballs, its lashes parting my lashes.
I return to El Paso from a place where spring comes with less violence. The Appalachian ridge’s bristles of trees stick up through a white scalp of snow. Now there is only vastness. There are no longer the alien irrigated circles, no longer the winding rivers with their brushy riparian zones. The marks on the earth are shallow scratches like on an old floor or abruptly, an iconic cone muscles its way out. The ground seems to seal, grimacing against winds. The arrival is a fumble through a foamy shoreline, the slant of light parting the dust. Each wind wave tears over us and we submerge our heads and then it’s only yellow.
El Paso assumes an unmooring akin to being at sea. It’s a video game where all the blocks are constantly changing their places-- the post office at Rencom is moving to the zoo, the nursing home shelter is closing for renovations, Josh has arrived to sleep in his trailer at the church parking lot, and Sigred is leaving for Guatemala. It is all coming and going.
It’s like canoeing in Maine on the dammed reservoirs over the bones of drowned forests and everywhere trunks protrude the wind-pushed waves. The danger in the coves is not so much being swept, but crashing into what is still in the sweeping, the hull thrashing against the trunk which doesn’t give way.
At first I felt that El Paso was an easy place to create stillness, because it doesn’t take being here for long, to be here for longer than many others. But it demands a stillness that is nonetheless pliable, the buoy over the jetty. In the bluster of gusts and sunlight it’s an ocean, the Mesa strip malls a trough in the mountainous rim of the Franklin and Juárez peaks.
The voter registration form defines a home as a place of intended return. My entire work at the shelter in El Paso has been facilitating departures from this place, the sooner the better we say. Where we put our bodies is an announcement and a promise. When the sand wind had howled itself to sleep, the mountains cool their arms in the dawn of late sunrise and the flutterless morning is shining and cool.