(Note: Field Notes is off this week, and the brief email with links I did share seems not to have gone out, so I am resending—apologies if you are receiving a duplicate. (A reminder that I need to find time to try a new platform.))
The bollards are in bloom outside the police substation this week, lush with blue sage, evening primrose, and Texas star. I run by that building all the time, but have never seen it allowed to go this wild. It’s an interesting way to pretty up a labyrinth of steel planters meant to protect the building from would-be car bombers.
The building is named after a son of the neighborhood who joined the force and became known, according to his 2003 obituary, for his gifts at “coaxing information” from others in the community he’d come from. There’s a street nearby named after his son, also an officer, who was killed by a wild driver. That northbound street was previously called Canadian, and was the path the cowboys used to drive the cattle up the Chisholm Trail after they crossed the river, fifty years before the city was divided in two by Jim Crow.
I’ve never been in that building, though I once fought off a loose and aggressive pit bull right in front of it. I see the patrol cars come and go, but they never hassle me. The fortified substation reminds me I live in colonized space, and the lack of fear I have of its paramilitary force as they patrol the neighborhood reminds me I am one of the colonizers.
When I saw the video this week of Daunte Wright’s mother recounting her cell phone conversation with her son as he got pulled over and then killed, I thought about all of that, and of all the times I got pulled over by law enforcement while out exploring far from home, and how I never had any real fear of how that could end up. And how I think the horrors in our news feed are ultimately reflections of our damaged relationship with the land, and the dark history of the things we did to conquer it and then put it to work creating wealth.
I’m off this week, but encourage you to visit (or revisit) my post from last summer about Black Nature Writing and the writers whose work I featured there, and/or to do some of your own research into how race impacts our experience of the outdoors. If you’re in Austin, you might go check out this amazing show of weavings at the Blanton by Diedrick Brackens, which riffs on the Black outdoor experience (and when you’re done you can check out the nearby room of American landscape paintings and see the history they encode). The show, “Darling Divined,” originated at the New Museum, which maintains a great virtual version.
And happy birthday to my mother Sibylla today, from whom (along with her mother) I got most of my love of the outdoors, and my appreciation of textile art. She has her own nature blog here, chronicling her restoration of an Iowa oak savanna.
Have a safe week.