My new Trailhawk, sandcrabs, sunflowers, and busing
by Rob Tiller
When I was in Maine at the and of June, I had a rental car I really liked: a 2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk. It was about the same size as my Mazda CX-5, and drove similarly on the highway. But there were things I liked more about the Trailhawk: its seats, which fit me well, and its instrumentation, including a big touchscreen. I liked its off-road capabilities, including a locking rear differential and towhooks to get pulled out of the mud. Also, I really liked the color: velvet red pearlcoat.
So I read some reviews and did some market research, and the day after I got home I traded in my Mazda for a red Trailhawk. Later that week we took it to the Outer Banks to visit sister Jane and her family. We watched the 4th of July fireworks at the Currituck lighthouse from their deck, and shot off a few Roman candles. I got up before sunrise with a plan to take pictures of sanderlings and other shorebirds at first light, but didn’t find the necessary birds.
I did, however, see a lot of sandcrabs. They’re small and well camouflaged, and they can skitter quickly. In places where I glimpsed a couple, I got down on my belly with my large zoom, and waited for them to get comfortable with me.
I’m sure the families walking by on the beach thought I was a strange bird as I lay there. But it was worth it. Eventually the tiny crabs came out of their holes, and I saw them working on different projects, like finding food and scaring off their enemies. Though I wouldn’t call them beautiful, they are fascinatingly complex.
I was reminded of a sweet essay in the Times a few weeks ago my Margaret Renki titled Praise Song for the Unloved Animals. Renki writes of the hard work by some of nature’s relatively unphotogenic pest controllers and garbagemen, like opossums, vultures, bats, and field mice. She even finds a kind word for mosquitoes who are food for chimney swifts and tree swallows. She appreciates the complex interconnectedness of life. I’m sure she’d be happy to add sandcrabs into her list.
We took the Trailhawk up to the beach area where cars are permitted, and verified that it will go on the sand without getting stuck. We hunted for the wild horses that live there, and managed to spot eight of them.
Back in Raleigh, I got up early three mornings this week to check on the sunflowers at Dorothea Dix park. There were many of them! I tried to look at them in different ways. These pictures were my favorites. I also got a shot of a little fawn on the edge of the sunflower field. It was bleating loudly for its mommy. It watched me for a long moment, then started to run towards me, perhaps thinking I could help find her. I waved my arms and told it I didn’t know where mommy was, and the fawn turned and ran into the woods.
I never particularly thought of myself as a sunflower person. And definitely never thought of myself as a Jeep person, or a person who liked red cars. But if we’re attentive, we sometimes discover things about ourselves we didn’t know, and get past our prejudices.
Speaking of prejudices, there was a very fine essay in the Times yesterday by Nikole Hannah-Jones about school busing. Hannah-Jones has a great short summary of US system of separating black kids from white ones in our schools, which we still haven’t fixed. She also decodes the political language. Back in the sixties, and now, Instead of saying, we don’t want our white kids going to school with black ones, we said, we don’t like school busing. Using the language of “busing” allowed us to conceal from ourselves our racial prejudice, of which we are — and should be — ashamed.
Hannah-Jones points up that busing was pretty effective in places and at times in undoing some of our legacy of segregation. I think schools are only one part of repairing the damage of that system. Facing up to extreme inequality in income, jobs, housing, and health care are still on the to-do list. But desegregating our schools is important, and doable. It is likely to involve buses.