In the morning I took my visiting parents just past the limits of the northwest suburbs for a nature walk. The place we went is a wildlife refuge carved from old ranches to protect two endangered species of songbirds who rely on this very specific habitat threatened by encroaching subdivisions. The drive took about forty-five minutes as we passed through a series of landscapes—urban freeway, frontage road, suburban chain sprawl, county road, and finally an old ranch road that followed the course of a gorgeous creek flowing clear and full over denuded limestone. A sanctuary of ecological recovery, where even the invasive ash juniper trees whose noxious spores fill the winter skies were finally being cleared out.
We walked a trail that followed a beautiful stream lined with cottonwoods and live oaks and dotted with the long-haired muelys we have growing on our roof but which I had never seen in their native riparian habitat. My mother, who lives in the woods up north, is more interested in mushrooms than people, and does not own a mobile phone, found a spot that I would have walked right past where there was a small redbud tree with the first fresh fuchsia blooms of spring. She sat down on a rock and watched the different butterflies come and visit the tree, slowing the walk into a long stillness that required no spoken language to communally summon.
I looked at my phone as I was taking pictures and noticed I had no signal, after hours of nonstop breaking news bulletins while the regime drama of the day unfolded. And I realized the butterflies had momentarily replaced the phone alerts, and the only thing streaming was the burbling creek. Some kind of pointer in how to secure liberated territory in the age of atemporality.