restricted access Out of Place
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Out of Place

Birds of prey weren’t new to me. Driving through southern Utah, I’d seen them from the car, sitting on fence posts that had been put up to keep the cattle from wandering onto I-15 and that now provided perches for Red-tailed Hawks. On the way home from Capital Reef one winter, I saw five Bald Eagles, standing as tall as fence posts by the side of the road. On the ground, they were undignified, tearing at a roadkilled deer. But when, in my review mirror, the head of one eagle turned nearly all the way around to make sure I was on my way, its white head eclipsing the thin, exhaust-dirty snow, the eagle made it clear that I had interrupted them. On the side of the road tugging meat was where the eagles were supposed to be. I was the one out of place.

I wonder if this is how the world ends, climate change revealing origins, transplants, hybrids. The end-of-the-world spoiler: we are not as original as we thought we were.

Compared to southern Utah, western Michigan seemed like the last place you’d see birds of prey. Once, my husband Erik, my daughter Zoë, and I tried to go camping. We drove and drove until we found a campground far from the city. As we unpacked the car and began to [End Page 47] set up the tent, I saw a basketball hoop. The campground was next to a neighborhood.

No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t make Grand Rapids feel like home. Grand Rapids was not Salt Lake, where I had lived for most of my life. I’d left for college, stayed in Portland for a few years, went back to Salt Lake for grad school. Now in Grand Rapids, having moved for a job, I wanted to go home. In time I would get used to this place, I knew, in the same way one gets used to oneself: You learn to like the way your hair parts on the left, the way your left eye is smaller than your right, the way you bite your pinky fingernail just like your mother. You learn to adapt to the place you live. But as the climate changes, as even your native land changes—butterflies in November!—I wonder how you’re supposed to get used to that.

But I also felt as though I should stay away from Salt Lake. That place has a way of domesticating even the most wild child, and Zoë, my three-year-old, though stubborn with her love of square food and her rabbit-like dialect, wasn’t particularly wild. She liked her face and her hands clean, her hair brushed. She folded cloth napkins straight from the dryer. She suggested that we get out the iron before company comes, like my mom did. I wanted her, even if it was a pain in my ass, to be more stubborn, less acquiescent. Fierce. If we went back to Salt Lake, I was afraid my daughter would follow my path—would fall for boys who said they liked the way she laughed at their unfunny jokes, the way she asked which direction to turn, right or left, although she knew full well already, the way she put her pinky finger in her mouth. Just like I do. Just like my mom does.

Grand Rapids, April 5th. And this was the first time Zoë and I, except for one freakishly warm week in January, had seen the sun. There was only residual snow on the ground. We could finally see grass. We looked for early flowers over at Aquinas College across the street from our house. The college’s budget was hemorrhaging but the hemorrhage had become beautiful. The unfunding let these typically manicured lawns and flower beds turn back to wild. [End Page 48]

On the campus, we found purple-striped crocuses. Zoë wanted to collect all this newness. She said, let’s pick the flowers. I told her, no, the flower lasts longer in the ground than in your hand. Not much longer...

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