Postcards from My Future Self

Tucumcari, New Mexico

Of course, the aliens choose this place to land their saucers. Each night, the sky looks like it was painted by an aggressive splatter artist, a star storm scattered across the black canvas. Altitude, longitude, latitude, and darkness set the scene, but it’s the last that has the greatest impact. At home not far from Hollywood we turn on lights, then televisions or other screens to amuse ourselves after the sun drops. In the sprawling metropolis, we complain about traffic (loud honking of many cars) and bump against each other in crowds (“hey, watch where you’re walking, lady”), all the while casting a glow so bright that we lose our North Star. But, the fix is simple. Take the 40 until you reach Tucumcari. Turn off the engine. Power down. Gaze up.

Chimney Rock State Park, North Carolina

A sign at the trailhead of Chimney Rock State Park warned us not to harm the snakes. Both Mom and I worried about what might slither ahead of us. When we asked a ranger, he added to our fear by naming every type we might encounter. “We’ve got brown snakes, black snakes, copperheads, water moccasins, king snakes, and timber rattlers.” I was ready to leave but Mom went into the gift shop and purchased a walking stick as defense. Then, we slowly climbed stairs to the lookout, cautiously watching the ground. Once we reached the summit we could see peregrine falcons nesting on a granite precipice where they remained safe from predators while risking that eggs or offspring might plummet to their death. Is this how some species falter? Faced with mortality, they choose protection while edging closer to extinction?

New Orleans, Louisiana

When you think of New Orleans, you think of excess. You think booze and beads, young women barely able to walk after Mardi Gras revelry, drive-up daiquiri stands and college-aged men stumbling along Bourbon Street. You think of spicy food, the celebrity chef that adds extra by yelling, “Bam!” You think of a mélange of French, Spanish, African American, Native American, and Creole culture. You think of jazz, Zydeco, and blues. But when you finally visit, what stands out is abject poverty. It’s not the too much but the too little that you notice while driving to tour an antebellum plantation in St. John the Baptist parish. Just one month before Katrina hits, you see barefoot children standing on rickety porches of houses with no doors, broken windows, gaping holes in their roofs. When it rains, it’s the poor that can’t escape. You will hear people ask, “Why didn’t they leave?” and you will know it was a luxury to outrun the storm.

Given the name Many Trails Many Roads Woman by the medicine man of her Northern Cheyenne tribe, Sheree Winslow embraces a life of wander and wonder. Her work is published/forthcoming in Storm Cellar, Memoir Magazine, Beecher’s, Past Ten, and Wanderlust. A native of Montana, she now lives in Southern California where she’s completing a memoir about her recovery from food addiction. Sheree holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. shereewinslow.com