Photo by Vic Hinterlang / Shutterstock.com
We drive south, in the direction of the McAllen Foreign Trade Zone, where my husband’s machine shop is nestled among many others of similar vein, and the international bridge—one of twenty-eight conduits of sanctioned traffic between Texas and Mexico. This time, going to the National Butterfly Center of Mission. The drive down Conway Avenue is littered with sights attractive to my toddler, still fully immersed in destructive phase: the garbage trucks lined up outside the sanitation department, the cars hoisted on poles advertising body shops, the construction vehicles forever digging and moving dirt. I lower the window to give my children a better view, but they immediately complain about all the dust—vagabond particles of earth caught up in the swirling air. It hurts my eyes. I can’t see. We come to a swath of land left wild, trees and brush that lead to the entrance of an R.V. park. In the distance, I see a city water tower, one that confused me as a child. Leading me to believe we were right next to my elementary school when really, we were miles away.
The turn off onto Military Road brings you past fields, both green and barren, the United Irrigation District, and the partial length of wall between them. This free-standing barrier embodies all that the National Butterfly Center has been battling—the expansion of the border wall, seizures of property. They fight to maintain access to their full tract of land, to prevent the walling off of river which would make desert and false floodplain of the natural greenspace, impede migration paths. A scattering of border patrol and police vehicles crouch along the fields across the park entrance. Where we’d no longer be allowed if construction commenced in full.
Once on the grounds, flat at first for the flowers that attract the insects that give the park its name, we are greeted by retamas in bloom. Honey-bright blossoms beckoning from languid branches. We pay our entrance fee, receive a map and directions to the bird-feeding area. The orange halves tacked on trees, seeds sprinkled on stumps and platforms, nourish the seasonal migrating species, attract year-round inhabitants. We arrive just in time. My children are bickering over the binoculars on our first approach. We try to quiet them, but it is no use. The green jays and red-winged black bird I spied from a distance disperse. Only the grackles and white-tipped doves, denizens of every neighborhood and parking lot, remain.
We loop around the trail, and I return on my own. This time, to three red-winged blackbirds and a pair of green jays. Trilling amid the gulp and gather.
Then comes the whistle-call of cardinal as he appears from the brush of granjeno and mesquite. There is even a cottontail on the ground foraging the spill off. From the tops of the hackberry tress, the chachalacas add their gobbling laughter to the mix. Then comes a low drone. The menace of mosquito in your ear, homing for attack. But the source is from a distance you cannot swat away. It grows louder and soon overtakes even the chachalaca cries. We all look up to the CBP helicopter on air patrol. When I turn back, the rabbit is gone. The jays and cardinal dart for darkness, the shadowy recesses of thornscrub. Only the grackles and doves remain.
Melissa Nunez is a Latin@ writer and homeschooling mother of three from the Rio Grande Valley. Her work has appeared in Acropolis Journal, Sledgehammer Lit, Yellow Arrow Journal, and others. She is also a staff writer for Alebrijes Review. She is inspired by observation of the natural world, the dynamics of relationships, and the question of belonging. You can follow her on Twitter @MelissaKNunez.