13 Chapters
Medium 9780253000958

Mind in the Forest

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

I touch trees, as others might stroke the fenders of automobiles or finger silk I fabrics or fondle cats. Trees do not purr, do not flatter, do not inspire a craving for ownership or power. They stand their ground, immune to merely human urges. Saplings yield under the weight of a hand and then spring back when the hand lifts away, but mature trees accept one’s touch without so much as a shiver. While I am drawn to all ages and kinds, from maple sprouts barely tall enough to hold their leaves off the ground to towering sequoias with their crowns wreathed in fog, I am especially drawn to the ancient, battered ones, the survivors.

Recently I spent a week in the company of ancient trees. The season was October and the site was the H. J. Andrews Experimental Forest, a 15,800-acre research area defined by the drainage basin of Lookout Creek, within Willamette National Forest, on the western slope of the Cascade Mountains in Oregon. It’s a wet place. At higher elevations, annual precipitation averages 140 inches, and even the lower elevations receive 90 inches, twice the amount that falls on my well-watered home region of southern Indiana. Back in Indiana the trees are hardwoods—maples and beeches and oaks, hickories and sycamores—and few are allowed to grow for as long as a century without being felled by ax or saw. Here in Andrews Forest, the ruling trees are Douglas firs, western hemlocks, western red cedars, and Pacific yews, the oldest of them ranging in age from five hundred to eight hundred years, veterans of countless fires, windstorms, landslides, insect infestations, and floods.

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Medium 9781574416367

The “Boys” in the Bunkhouse

Gayle Reaves, Editor UNT Press ePub
Medium 9780253000958

At Play in the Paradise of Bombs

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

Twice a man’s height and topped by strands of barbed wire, a chain-link fence stretched for miles along the highway leading up to the main gate of the Arsenal. Beside the gate were tanks, hulking dinosaurs of steel, one on each side, their long muzzles slanting down to catch trespassers in a cross-fire. A soldier emerged from the gatehouse, gun on hip, silvered sunglasses blanking his eyes.

My father stopped our car. He leaned out the window and handed the guard some papers which my mother had been nervously clutching.

“With that license plate, I had you pegged for visitors,” said the guard. “But I see you’ve come to stay.”

His flat voice ricocheted against the rolled-up windows of the back seat where I huddled beside my sister. I hid my face in the upholstery, to erase the barbed wire and tanks and mirror-eyed soldier, and tried to wind myself into a ball as tight as the fist of fear in my stomach. By and by, our car eased forward into the Arsenal, the paradise of bombs.

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Medium 9780253020659

Introduction: Mediterraneans and Migrations in the Global Era

Hakim Abderrezak Indiana University Press ePub

I am neither French nor Moroccan, I am in between. I am Spanish!

—Mustapha Al Atrassi

The end of summer at the port of Melilla, a Spanish enclave in northern Morocco. Arabic music played loudly, drowning out the conversations of families in cars and vans. It was late at night in this remnant of Spain’s protectorate. About an hour earlier, the drivers were directed to form lines near the ferryboat so that Spanish customs security employees could check vehicles and identification papers. I was seventeen years old when, at this same port, I watched a dog sniff out a teenager hidden in a bag tucked under the feet of the rear seat passengers in the car parked in front of us. As my family waited to be searched, we observed the entire episode. From inside our car, we saw the frightened teenager being taken away, gasping for air and sweating heavily. We never knew what became of him or the other people in that vehicle. Every September on our way back to France, we would see young men walking back and forth on the rampart that overlooked the docks. They would get as close as possible to vehicles waiting to board the ferry in hopes of catching a ride. The vigilant agents of the Guardia Civil relentlessly chased the migrant hopefuls away. On one particular trip, I saw a young man try to board our ship by climbing up an anchor rope. Alerted by the cheering of travelers, agents ran to the ferry and attempted to shake the man off his precarious perch on the rope. The crowd grew anxious when he seemed likely to fall to the ground. Moroccan strangers were imploring God’s help. Some women covered their eyes, anticipating a tragic end. A few passengers were screaming. Two couples, however, who happened to be taking an evening walk took in the scene with seeming amusement, probably because they were accustomed to witnessing such events. The man was finally captured upon reaching the deck and then escorted into the rear of the patrol van and driven away in the night. This was one of several encounters I had with this type of chase on both sides of the Strait of Gibraltar.

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Medium 9780253000958

Doing Time in the Thirteenth Chair

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

The courtroom is filled with the ticking of a clock and the smell of mold. Listening to the minutes click away, I imagine bombs or mechanical hearts sealed behind the limestone walls. Forty of us have been yanked out of our usual orbits and called to appear for jury duty in this ominous room, beneath the stained-glass dome of the county courthouse. We sit in rows like strangers in a theater, coats rumpled in our laps, crossing and uncrossing our legs, waiting for the show to start.

I feel sulky and rebellious, the way I used to feel when a grade-school teacher made me stay inside during recess. This was supposed to have been the first day of my Christmas vacation, and the plain, uncitizenly fact is that I don’t want to be here. I want to be home hammering together some bookshelves for my wife. I want to be out tromping the shores of Lake Monroe with my eye cocked skyward for bald eagles and sharp-shinned hawks.

But the computer-printed letter said to report today for jury, and so here I sit. The judge beams down at us from his bench. Tortoise-shell glasses, twenty-dollar haircut, square boyish face: although probably in his early forties, he could pass for a student-body president. He reminds me of an owlish television know-it-all named Mr. Wizard who used to conduct scientific experiments (Magnetism! Litmus tests! Sulfur dioxide!) on a kids’ show in the 1950s. Like Mr. Wizard, he lectures us in slow, pedantic speech: trial by one’s peers, tradition stretching back centuries to England, defendant innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and so abundantly on. I spy around for the clock. It must be overhead, I figure, up in the cupola above the dome, raining its ticktocks down on us.

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