By Brenda Norrell
SOMEWHERE ON THE BORDER -- For a couple of years now, I've had this romantic image of a journey from the southern border of the United States, to the northern tip of Alaska. In a perfect world, I would get in my very own camper truck and drive out of Tucson, then to the border at Lukeville, Arizona, and finally to San Diego, before heading north.
In a not-so-perfect-world, I began this journey five days ago, in a rental car with a discount coupon and really sick with a lung infection. Of course, I could have never imagined that when I reached San Diego, a few small fires would turn into all of southern California engulfed in flames. However, when I arrived Sunday afternoon, it was the hurricane force winds tossing the car around on canyon bridges that was the most terrifying.
Still, in just five days along the border, I've learned how extremely complex and different each region is, from Lukeville, Ajo and Yuma in Arizona, to the port of entry at Quechan. Then, there's my new personal favorite, Calexico, California. Driving through town, I had to ask myself, "I wonder if the Minutemen get in their faces here." Later, hanging out around the border wall west of town, a border agent wandered over. Looking at the border wall, he said, "They jump it pretty easy."
Looking back over the past five days, there's two things that stand out in my mind now: If you want to terrify a biologist on the federal payroll -- just ask how the border wall will effect the endangered jaguars, bats and Sonoran Pronghorns migrating along the border. (Their minds seem to take a quick accounting: "Will I be able to get unemployment?") They are terrified to speak the truth.
Second, there's a reason that the people of San Diego are often voted the most beautiful in the United States. There's a beauty of spirit within the people. While evacuees were watching their homes burn, or waiting without any news of homes and loved ones, there was a gentleness and sweetness of spirit that is rare. Yes, they said, they would rebuild. The place is too beautiful to leave.
Last night, I tried to drive back to Viejas to write about the humanitarian efforts there, but the dark smoke, blowing out to the east from the fires, was too heavy to breathe. So, I'm back to asking those questions about the border wall, jaguars, bats and Pronghorns.
And, I'm back on the road.
Photo: On the border near Calexico, California/Photo Brenda Norrell