In San Antonio, in the taquería down the street from my work where I meet him for an early-birthday lunch, my father asks if I’m sad that he and my mom are moving away from the house in Bulverde. We moved there when I was seven, one county north of San Antonio, after we were bought out and forced to move. But now my parents are aging, looking for a home in the city again after 30 years out in Bulverde. I tell him how funny it is to realize that for my 9-year-old daughter they are moving away, while for me they are moving back.
Never my home, but a place I lived from seven to 18 that shaped me significantly nonetheless. The land most of all: when we moved there in the late 80s it was unincorporated, rural, wild. The Texas Hill Country, the middle of nowhere. Now it’s incorporated, suburban, but still plenty wild. On the night before my dad’s 70th birthday I go for a late evening walk around the neighborhood and see cactus paddles heavy with ruby tunas. I see bushes of silvery-leafed sage in the surprise of full bloom. Sage is funny that way, flowering right when you forget it has ever rained. Beneath the coming night the chicharras burr, an understory of sound slow as syrup and constant as bagpipe drone, so constant as to be inconspicuous. As I pass one roadside juniper it suddenly bursts into cacophonous chorus: the chicharras are so thick here that they buzz around the tree in surfeit, like an electron cloud around an atom.
Back near the house again I see a family of white-tailed deer, ubiquitous out here, three patchy-furred does—it’s August and water’s been scarce—and three spotted fawns, their white tails saluting jauntily as they bound away at my approach. The deer here are so populous they’re no longer novel. Overdevelopment has removed their predators, triggering a population explosion. They’re so prolific it can seem like they must be invasive or non-native, but they’re not. We are the ones who are not from here.