Into the After

My husband was a contradiction, a man who savored working in the wilderness but never developed an appetite for weeks-long solitude. As a wildlife biologist for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Steve would return from a trip and tell me he wished I had been with him while he surveyed rhinoceros auklets in Washington State or dangled from a rimrock to band golden eagles in southeastern Oregon. I offered to help whenever I could, once holding a spotlight while the two of us, along with a handful of Steve’s colleagues, zipped along a Nevada slough, in an airboat, in the dark.

Here’s what I remember: flashing my light on a canvasback duck so Steve could capture and then band it, prior to fall migration. (The spotlight was necessary because it confused the ducks, making them easier to catch.) I remember too the determined set of Steve’s mouth. He loved his job and was absolute in his commitment, as well as his opinions. Our love was improbable, at best. He was a Republican, and I, a Democrat, an atheist married to a believer. If we had met in 2016, it’s hard to imagine how we might have navigated our relationship, but we’d gotten together long before that, when we were sophomores in high school, in Sacramento.

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