David Seibert (left) with John Walsh and Thomas Jonsson

David Seibert, who is the director of Borderlands Restoration, rented a small house on the outskirts of Arivaca while doing restoration work and research for a doctorate in cultural anthropology. On February 19 he gave a talk about that research at the Patagonia Library: the mysterious and interesting title was “The Things They Leave Behind: Placed-and-Found Objects Along the US-Mexico Border.” Every seat in the room was taken.

While a series of images of the wilderness along the border were projected on a screen, Seibert talked about what it was like to live in a remote place near the border. He said that he never knew what might happen when it got dark—who would come to his door, what travelers or traffickers were nearby. He said it was dangerous, but he was more curious than fearful. He gave his audience a glimpse of what it means to move in darkness in strange territory without connections, language, food, or water, and with only the determination to find a safe harbor in a place where you are not wanted.

The overreaching sense of Seibert’s talk seemed to be that we have found no way to deal with this tragic situation in which men, women, and children must somehow prevail or die in the desert. He also mentioned that there are areas on the Tohono O’odham reservation where even the Border Patrol does not go—the violent business of drug smuggling is the other reality of life and death on the border.

Many people raised their hands when Carolyn Shafer asked how many in the audience had had personal encounters with border crossers. So, we are not unaware of the desperation and danger, but, as Seibert pointed out, there’s no apparent solution, and thus we don’t talk about it very much. In the hope that we can look more closely at this American conundrum, Seibert has said he will share some of his stories and ideas with our readers. Look for his writing in the April issue.