RESETTLING, OUT WEST

Being uprooted also strips you of so much of what you’ve clung to. You need new words to describe many of the unfamiliar birds and plants. Uprooting also opens perspectives on places you’ve left, in addition to initial trysts with an unfamiliar arid climate. …

There was no way of imagining the expansive eastern forests that had been cleared, largely by stripping and burning by the earliest settlers. Much of its best topsoil already washed away by the time of my birth. Yet my great-grandfathers as youths could have walked the sixty miles from their farms to Cincinnati or St. Louis without ever leaving the shade. There was still a sustainable balance. But everywhere these days, people burn black rock seams and oil sucked from the earth. The populace largely clusters in rings around cities they leave rotting. Having already destroyed much of what our ancestors built, we’ve all become uprooted, to whatever extent. Lack holy rivers. Even a Jordan. Hollywood, Wall Street, Las Vegas, the White House, Fort Knox, Yankee Stadium, Graceland have instead become America’s sacred temples. Even in the Bible Belt. No wonder I was uneasy, anxious to flee the workplace, to race anywhere. In that regard, I was hardly different.

As we speeded past a bead shop at the edge of the reservation, I speculated whether I’d truly chosen to relocate across the continent or was merely a victim of some cosmic joke.

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