By Robert Root
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Extra resources for Landscapes with Figures: The Nonfiction of Place
One about the horned lizard In the Territory of Birds who had gone out to gather ﬁrewood, loading it on his back as he climbed into the ironwood tree. Come here, come here, the people in the village called, bring us that ﬁrewood. But ants had begun to crawl up his legs and bite him. With all that wood on his back, he could not get them off, lost his balance, and fell out of the tree. ” Poor little one. The lizard, it seemed, carried their burdens along with his own. He shared humanity with them; they shared animality with the lizard.
I understand that purgation and surrender are about nothing so much as letting go: of control, of dread, of desire. I think sometimes that what we long for—what we desire—is the very life we are living but can’t yet recognize. Like the major in Hemingway’s story who has lost his wife and cannot reconcile himself to her death, my grief for the past often causes me to separate myself from the present. I mourn that “other country” I am no longer a resident of. The future is a narrative that does not yet belong to me, and so I ﬁll that void with what I have known, cannot let go of, and fear I may never regain.
He shared humanity with them; they shared animality with the lizard. ” Then an older woman sang its song. The others laughed so loud we never caught the words, but the woman was too modest to sing it again. She would only say that it was very dirty. It was in this place that I found myself an accidental tourist in the territory of birds. I did not plan for this to happen, nor did I regret it. We set out across the Inﬁernillo Channel for Isla Tiburón, ﬁve visitors in all, in the care of Ernesto Molino, our Seri guide.