I peer out the window, neck craning to see if it’s snow, or sand, or the prairie.
The Sierra Nevadas give way to smaller mountain ranges, then rainshadow deserts, the great salt flats. The western Rockies like spikes, unsettled and inconsistent, moving inches every year but where are they moving? Getting older and younger at the same time. So many peaks and crevices it would take many lifetimes to walk every square mile. There are no foothills east of the Rockies. it drops down suddenly, steeply, in a plateau, one of the longest I know. A gradual, gentle slope down down down down towards the Missouri and Mississippi and Illinois rivers. Their collective river basin, the watershed visible from space, ribbons of water threading together into the place that is my cradle. The pulse of summer expanding and the cold of winter contracting.
The patchwork quilt comes into view. Greens of every shade. The chartreuse of the young soybeans, the emerald of the mature corn stalks, the olive of the silty creeks and streams, the jade of the deciduous trees, flaunting their riches, inhaling for the season.
People came to this continent down from the north to the south, and then from west to east. There is a language in eastern Siberia Russian – the Ket language of the Yeniseian language family – that parallels the Hupa language in modern day California and the Apache and Navajo in one in Arizona and New Mexico.
I dream of their journey and then my own homegoing. And how it’s the reverse of the one we’ve been conditioned to think of – go west!
But the wind, this wind, blows from west to east. It blows me back home.