A “Where I Came From” Story

It’s the end of October, and that means that I’m spending most of my nights sitting in the tin-roofed-shed that houses our bird banding station. A loudspeaker broadcasts the monotonic and musical notes of the Northern Saw-whet Owl and offers a steady drone of white noise. My coworker Maren and I have wide-ranging discussions full of long quiet pauses and startling non-sequiturs. Our conversation reminds me of Savoy and her writings, in a way.

In the chapter “Migrating in a Bordered Land” of her book Trace, Savoy jumps around in physical location—from the National Archives in DC, to Arizona, to the San Pedro River basin, to Fort Huachuca itself. Throughout this, there is a relatively common thread for her discussion, though. She is tracking her history, hunting it almost. She follows her mother and through the land and through the history of people, both her people and others (whether those people are Americans, or African-Americans, or others).

I see Savoy’s task as very autobiographical. I suppose that, as we’ve discussed before, essays may be inherently autobiographical. But I almost feel something of Kaysen in this. It’s a tracking of a history of self and family. It may be more nebulous than Kaysen’s story, but it’s similar. It’s a “where I came from, how did I get here” story, just like Kaysen’s. And like Kaysen, the non-linear discussion reflects this. She’s still putting pieces together, working on her past like a jigsaw puzzle.

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