I like the smell of manure but can't stand the sight of it. The memory of a feedlot can make me homesick for green dung and the nostalgic whiff of ammonia. But when I go home to visit I seldom work in the stables. Walking behind a horse with a shovel reminds me why I wanted to leave home in the first place.
As a member of the English Department at UCLA, I specialize in the field of western American literature, yet I confess that many regional political issues, and even certain aspects of western history and literature, don't really interest me. Although I grew up on a ranch, I don't care much for animals. The debate between ranchers and government over the right to lease grazing land leaves me feeling sort of ho-hum. Dolly Parton's disco version of "Downtown" made me want to learn how to line-dance, but I neglected to sign up for lessons. I can never remember the date of the Homestead Act, when the transcontinental railroad was finished, or when the '49ers went West. I know the frontier ended in 1890, but only because it ended in a convenient round number. I thought Cormac McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses romanticized violence and stereotyped Mexicans, and groaned when I learned it was the first installment in a grandiose trilogy. But though I reject western clichés, I know that I do so while at the same time embracing pastel cow skulls, tin sheriff's badges, and politically incorrect items of clothing, including anything that wiggles fringe when it moves.
My most cherished possessions are two pairs of cowboy boots, handmade in red alligator and diamondback rattlesnake. I hope alligators and rattlesnakes aren't endangered species (and here I should say something about natural resources and our precious environment), but why not be honest? I wanted those boots, I got them, and that's all I care about. Wearing my
dyed alligator boots I feel the same way that Dorothy did while wearing her ruby red slippers. I seem transported from Kansas to Oz—to the West of my fantasy.
As a gay man who grew up on a ranch where (and I'm estimating now) only 10 percent of the livestock were thought to be gay, I had few role models and no alternative culture to draw inspiration from. Feeling alienated by or bored with the West as I found it, I made up a West that was more appealing and personally relevant. It was the West of my imagination, one which questioned western ideals, mythic archetypes, tradition, and received information; one which glorified the marginal and fetishized things that were transgressive, outrageous, or camp.
All of us recognize a West whose history is represented by certain dates and hard facts; whose literary heritage is embodied by a canon of literature; whose images are communally recognized, shared, and experienced; whose geographic identity is sketched as a series of immobile boundary lines. But at the same time, each of us makes up the West for ourselves. We interpret historical facts, individually experience works of fiction and film, and transgress those seemingly immobile boundary lines in peculiar, often quite profound ways. To argue that there is one West, one frontier, or one borderland—that we know where it is and how to make sense of it—is to claim the fragile authority of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
During my childhood in a tiny farming community in the Imperial Valley of California, I did not think of the place I grew up in as the "West." Fields of tomatoes, squash, and melons covered the flat desert like a dusty green quilt seamed by irrigation canals. Many of the farm families—Filipino American, Japanese American, Mexican American, European American—lived in town, our small houses equipped with swamp coolers to alleviate the blistering summer heat. We all shopped at Mock Sing Gar's grocery store; the menfolk liked to hang out at the counter of the Hi-Ho Cafe on the main street. The big local event was the annual tomato festival, at which the best of the winter harvest would be as proudly displayed as crown jewels; the featured attractions included arts and crafts exhibits, prize-winning breads and pickles, carnival rides, and contests for both the Tomato Queen and the fastest packer.
The "West," as portrayed in black and white on the one television station we received from Yuma, seemed to be an entirely different place. Comic strips, advertisements, movies, and cartoons transmitted and amplified my impressions of John Wayne leading white pioneers to build a home on the frontier, dramatic cattle drives, cowboys and Indians skirmishing among the cactus. (The only Indian I had ever seen was a Sikh farmer from EL Centro.) To really be a part of that West, I sensed that one had to ride a horse.
We had a dog, numerous cats, parakeets, turtles, and a pygmy marmoset, but no horse. Popular culture also conveyed the notion that the "West" belonged to a vanished past that had little connection to the people, places, or activities with which I was familiar.
Many kinds of migration traversed the landscape of "my" mundane West. Sportsmen from the cities descended upon our town in the autumn to hunt doves. Every summer many of my classmates' families headed to coastal areas with enticing names such as Riverside and Oceanside to do seasonal harvest work. When the United States and Mexico started the bracero program, workers from the South streamed into our labor camps and fields. Indeed, my family also migrated, spurred by such international developments. By the early 1960s, as more and more Mexican produce entered the United States, many of the small farmers of southern California could no longer compete with the large-scale operations of landowners in Sinaloa and Sonora. Like countless other California dreams, the Matsumoto Brothers' packing-box label "Mr. Tomato" became a relic of the past.
Moving eastward to a larger town on the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona brought my family to a place that looked a great deal more like the popular-culture "West." The rolling hills of the high Sonora desert were studded with saguaro cacti and mesquite trees; quail, roadrunners, scorpions, and horned toads abounded. The local place names were Spanish and Indian words: Nogales, Amado, Tubac. Here traces of the past were layered with the present, in the form of Indian petroglyphs and pottery shards found on local ranch land, and missions such as the ones at Tumacacori and San Xavier del Bac.
Living on "the border" I gained a sense of boundaries—whether geographical or cultural—as powerful, arbitrary, and shifting. The city I lived in was called Nogales. Actually it is the name of two cities separated by a fence; on the Arizona side live about twenty or thirty thousand residents; on the Sonora side there are some three hundred thousand. Nogales has become a major gateway for commerce and immigration: as hopeful jobseekers and trucks filled with mangos, cucumbers, and bell peppers stream north, American tourists trek south to coastal resorts and Mayan ruins. When I was a teenager, going "across the line" into the sister city meant a day's shopping trip for ironwood carvings and pan dulce, or to get your high school yearbook photo taken at the only photographer's studio in both Nogaleses. But that line was a blurry one when the annual Cinco de Mayo parade high-stepped through both towns, or when breakages in one Nogales sewer line led to gastroenteritis for people dependent on a linked water system. A new development has even more alarmingly revealed the artificial nature of geopolitical parameters: Nogales has recently been identified as a site of disease cluster by epidemiologists who suspect that the high incidence of bone marrow cancer and lupus among longtime residents may be traced to
contaminated air or water. According to the Los Angeles Times, although there are few indications of pollution on the Arizona side, approximately "100 U.S.-owned electronics plants and other factories, called maquiladoras, line the Mexican side of Nogales and emit numerous toxic chemicals into the air. The concrete-lined Nogales Wash carries a nightmarish mix of raw sewage and toxics from Mexico." As signs in Nogales now read: "La Contaminación No Lleva Pasaporte"—Pollution Doesn't Carry a Passport.
The arbitrary nature of boundaries particularly struck me when I was an undergraduate at Arizona State University in Tempe, doing research for an honors thesis on Nisei women in central Arizona. At the outset of World War II Japanese Americans were uprooted from their communities in the western coastal states and the southern third of Arizona, which became a designated military zone. I then learned that the dividing line in Arizona ran along Highway 95 to Highway 60 through Wickenburg and Sun City, running through Phoenix along Grand Avenue and Van Buren Street, cutting through Tempe and bisecting Mesa. This line, drawn ostensibly to ensure the security of military installations on the south side of the highway, resulted in a bizarre situation. Half of the Japanese American community in central Arizona was taken away to the Poston internment camp; the other half remained in their homes for the duration of the war. Families on the north side watched as their neighbors across the street prepared for the uncertainties of life behind barbed wire, in cramped tar-papered barracks furnished with steel army cots. Only a few yards of dirt and asphalt determined who was dangerous and who was not, whose loyalty could be relied upon and whose not, whose way of life would be sundered and whose spared. The power of such shifting lines continues to shape the contours of the social as well as the physical landscape.
Today, although the West may be settled, its meanings and boundaries remain unfixed and unsealed. The United States, while wanting to close its southwestern border to migrants from Mexico, at the same time, in accordance with NAFTA, wants to open its borders to allow a free-flow of sanctioned economic activity. Within the United States the continued increase in western travel and tourism has forced the national park system to question its regulations and policies. Are the invisible walls surrounding Yellowstone and Yosemite there to preserve nature for the public or to keep people out? Biosphere 2, a private park and quasi-terrarium—peopled by scientists and funded by Ed Bass, the famed Texas billionaire—in 1994 encountered a similar problem dealing with penetrable boundaries and the contamination of its pristine environment. The Arizona desert's experimental edenic utopia came to grief when alleged saboteurs "breached four of the five sealed doors
to the dome . . . and smashed several glass panes." The project, which had attempted to demonstrate that scientists could create and live in a state of pure nature, was based on what now seems like naive idealism.
The next frontier appears to be cyberspace, the imagined area behind one's computer screen. The concept of cyberspace as an unfenced range of computer technology, inhabited by cowboys called hackers who rustle information from forms of artificial intelligence, is a western conceit that has been fostered by William Gibson, the author of Neuromancer and the inventor of cyberpunk, as well as by a group of computer professionals who form the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Cyberpunk explores the lack of constraints and the absence of ethical limits on the new space frontier. Video voyaging offers the advantages of bodiless anonymity and conceptual freedom of movement while raising fears about the lawlessness that exists in a world of vigilante information-acquisition and piracy.
The West is populated by conservatives who want to seal up its borders in order to protect private property, a "pure" form of life, and national and economic security, as well as by liberals who want to open up borders, welcoming an influx of "aliens" as an opportunity to shake up the old status quo. (In recognition of the fact that so many UFO sightings seem to take place in the area, the state of Nevada has just renamed an abandoned road that runs through the desert, dubbing it the Extraterrestrial Highway. "'Of course there's going to be both horizontal and vertical [road signs] so extraterrestrials can see them and land,' chuckled Tom Tait, executive director of the Nevada Commission on Tourism.")
The debate that informs U.S. immigration policies and calls for economic free trade, that leads to the reassessment of park and recreation services and misadventures in amateur science, that structures the vocabulary of cyberpunk literature and computer technology, also affects the formation and interaction of departments, programs, and disciplines within academia. How is our traditional understanding of the West challenged by the Chicana/o experience? Is Asian American literature also western literature, and if so, what occurs when we juxtapose the China men of Maxine Hong Kingston with Bret Harte's "Heathen Chinee"? Is there a black or queer western history? Should western scholarship seal itself off from work being done in other fields or should it encourage intellectual interdisciplinarity?
Of the twenty contributors to this collection of essays, some, like the Native American writer Louise Jeffredo-Warden, are practicing artists and poets; some, like the culture-critic Mike Davis, teach freelance and write independently. But most of them work in various departments within academia. Their scholarship—drawing on history and literature, architecture and urban planning, gender and economic theory, race relations and legal codes, environmentalism and Catholic Church doctrine, painting and native
storytelling, popular culture and film—views the West through a cockeyed kaleidoscope. Representing a motley assortment of disciplinary perspectives, filtered through the lens of more than one methodology, the essays, as separate fragments of color, combine to form patterns when seen from particular vantage points.
To put it another way, while we have solicited diverse and wide-ranging essays, at the same time we have decided, for the purposes of organization, to classify and arrange them accordingly. In order to map our terrain we have drawn up some boundary lines, dividing the essays thematically into three separate categories: "Imagining the West," "Crossing Boundaries," and "Creating Community." Like criss-crossing lines in a travel guide, these categories suggest ways of negotiating the West intellectually, and like pathbreaking trails, the essays, if they don't all arrive at the same point, at least intersect on the way. The act of imagining the West, for example, is a transformative process that involves the mental reconfiguration, and even the physical relocation, of the West on film, in art, and in literature. Dorothy reimagines the West by traveling from Kansas to Oz, and while no one in this collection travels quite so far afield, several scholars cross geographical borders, comparing the West with the biblical settings of the Middle East and the Cold-War landscape of Russia. As with the act of imagining, the process of crossing boundaries also allows one to create new or to merge existing communities. As the final group of essays in this collection will indicate, interethnic rivalries and racial hostilities surface in certain western locations when prejudicial barriers enforcing segregation begin to disintegrate and collapse. Imagining the West is a transgressive act, just as crossing or transgressing boundaries is a creative endeavor leading to the production of new configurations and hybrid communities.
Conversely, the most popular icons of westernness (for example, works by Albert Bierstadt, George Catlin, and Frederic Remington) represent a West which most of us recognize. "Imagining the West," on the other hand, argues that the West isn't necessarily what or where one might think it is. The first essay in this part, by Patricia Nelson Limerick, addresses the practice of tourism. Beginning with an autobiographical anecdote and continuing with a critical reinvestigation of history, Limerick reminds us that tourism is a problematic term and a subjective enterprise. Those of us who have felt our space invaded by tourists have also, at one time or another, been tourists ourselves. In fact western tourism, in some form, dates back to the migrations of early Native Americans and to the explorations of European "discoverers." Seeing and being seen are imaginative, reciprocal acts of conceptualization, representation, and perception which, Limerick maintains, implicate all of us.
In the two essays that follow, Blake Allmendinger and Jill Watts travel the globe, visiting the West in places as far-flung as pre-Christian Rome and
Gold Rush Alaska. Allmendinger reads Ben-Hur as a transplanted western, as a spiritual contest between "civilization" and "savagery." Noting that Lew Wallace wrote his best-selling novel in the 1880s while governing New Mexico, Allmendinger demonstrates that the novel pits all godless Romans against one Jew, Ben-Hur, whose religious conversion occurs at the time of Christ's crucifixion and thus corresponds with the dawning of a new Christian age. Foreshadowing the decline of decadent Rome and the resurrection (through one man) of an enlightened society, Ben-Hur also historically mirrors the efforts to transform New Mexico from a warring, "primitive" territory into a state "safe" for white settlement. Similarly, Watts examines the "civilizing" role that religion plays in her essay on Mae West and film. In Klondike Annie, West plays a woman of questionable virtue who accidentally kills her Shanghai employer, escapes to the West Coast, and finally sails for Alaska. On the last leg of her voyage she meets an evangelist named Soul Savin' Annie, and when Annie dies, West assumes her identity. The rest of the action, which takes place in Alaska, centers on West's efforts to convert the unregenerate territory in the guise of Soul Savin' Annie, while at the same time subverting Annie's message by slipping double entendres into her sermons on race, gender, and (of course!) sexuality.
Anne E. Goldman also travels back in time, revealing that nineteenth-century western texts, such as María Amparo Ruiz de Burton's The Squatter and the Don and Helen Hunt Jackson's Ramona are more than romances. Goldman exposes layers of meaning beneath the literary surfaces of these two classic works, disclosing how both novels present regional and national issues pertaining to race relations, social stability, and cultural authority. While Goldman revisits the frontier that we thought we knew, finding fresh perspectives from which to view western literature, Douglas Flamming focuses on another artist who drew inspiration from non-western sources. Flamming assesses the work of the early twentieth-century African American writer Arna Bontemps, whose move from California to New York (where he participated in the "New Negro" Renaissance), brief stay in the South, and return home were consecutive chapters in one writer's quest to discover his racial heritage and westernness. Bontemps places the West on an experiential and spatial continuum, situating it in personal and relative terms by using the West as a hyphen to signify his hybrid identity.
The essays in the next part elaborate on this notion of imagined, perceived, or constructed identity. If the West is a concept as much as a process or place, then it is a concept subject to change, as the essays in "Crossing Boundaries" suggest. Susan Lee Johnson describes Gold Rush California as a network of homosocial societies, as a cluster of mining camps in which whites and blacks, European, Mexican, and South American immigrants, and local Native Americans enacted a set of complex relationships. Because the people in these camps, like the members of many early frontier
societies, were predominantly men, they performed not only the strenuous labor of mining but the domestic tasks that were traditionally considered "female" activity. What it meant to be "masculine" was therefore a concept that miners tested and sometimes revised. In a companion piece, Mary Murphy notes that westernists working in gender studies tend to focus less on men than on women. By using the biographies of two nineteenth-century men as case histories, she seeks to determine if there was a western male equivalent of the cult of true womanhood. The actions and writings of these men reveal their opinions on a wide range of issues, including male sexuality and marriage. Murphy infers from this evidence that an alternative ideal of manhood—which differed from the one popularized by Owen Wister, Remington, and Theodore Roosevelt—may have existed for some men out West.
As if in response to this article, Karen Anderson, in the following essay, critiques the concept of motherhood. She defines the white response to Changing Woman, the Navajo culture's most revered deity, as a fearful reaction to matriarchal empowerment. Using this early example of opposition to non-white female authority as the historical prologue to a more complex argument, Anderson then scrutinizes the maternalist politics of the U.S. government in the twentieth century, focusing on the impact certain policies have had on Native American and Mexican American citizens. In the West, Anderson notes, the government has tried over time to make mothers in minority families conform to an ideal of white, middle-class motherhood. Using these mothers as role models, the government has sought to encourage minority children to assimilate by relinquishing their ties to their heritage. While Anderson analyzes the role that women play in domestically grounding and culturally stabilizing western society, Virginia Scharff investigates the relationship between women and western mobility. Scharff believes we must stop "envisioning women's history as a narrative chiefly about attempts to establish geographical stability (or, what you might call 'home on the range'), and begin to accord itineracy the historical importance in western women's lives that the record suggests is necessary." Her essay traces the movement of one African American woman from the South to the West, during the Civil Rights Era, and records an important first step in this previously undocumented historical pilgrimage.
Boundaries of race and ethnicity have played a critical role in shaping the perceptions and representations of communities in the West, as addressed in the last four essays in Part 2. William Deverell delineates the progress of a 1924 pneumonic plague epidemic in Los Angeles, analyzing how disease, economics, and racial classification became linked in the minds of city officials. Deverell asserts that civic boosters marketed Los Angeles as a tour-
ist mecca through the use of stereotypical imagery and language that relegated racial-ethnic people to cultural compartments more rigid than street or district divisions. The municipal response to the epidemic both revealed elite European American views of Mexican Americans and served to solidify them through the militarized enforcement of quarantine.
How racial-ethnic minority groups have developed their own collective identities and sought to represent themselves constitutes the marrow of the next essay by Arleen de Vera. The thwarted elopement in 1930 of Felix Tapia and Alice Saiki, and the resultant tensions between the Filipino American and Japanese American communities of Stockton, California, form a backdrop for her examination of how immigrant Filipinos created and re-created their ethnicity in relation to other racial-ethnic groups. This interethnic conflict and identity formation were played out within the context of the larger framework of racial hierarchy; ultimately, the Filipino Americans' attempts to distinguish themselves from the Japanese Americans did not prevent their being targeted for exclusion by whites, who still perceived Asians as "all alike" and equally undesirable as Americans—a status reified in law.
The following two essays draw attention to the impact of classifications of race and sex in legal and administrative systems. The power of such classifications is strikingly reflected in three centuries of statutes aimed at barring interracial marriage, and nowhere in the United States, Peggy Pascoe observes, were these laws more elaborately developed than in the West. Her study of anti-miscegenation laws reveals how the judicial system structured family formation and property transmission along racial dividing lines. As the 1919 Paquet case demonstrates, such laws were successfully invoked in probate cases in order to contest the right of a non-white spouse—usually a widow—to inherit an estate, thus reinforcing both white supremacy and women's dependence on men.
Notions of race and entitlement have been connected in American Indian tribal policy as well as in state and federal law. Individual tribal requirements for membership reflect not only the desire to maintain autonomy and ethnic identity but also the fact that enrollment may bring access to material resources and services in addition to acknowledgment of a shared heritage. As Melissa Meyer suggests, this has made the question of who is an American Indian—and more specifically, who can qualify for tribal enrollment—a complex one. One of the most commonly used criteria, blood quantum, like the anti-miscegenation laws, mirrors late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century scientific efforts at racial classification. Meyer's research illustrates how, in the diverse communities of the West and beyond, determining ethnic identity is an increasingly complicated—and still decidedly significant—task.
The essays in the third part illuminate the development of a range of communities in the West. Some focus on creativity and exigency, contestation and cultural adaptation; others raise timely questions regarding the relationship between humanity and the natural environment as well as the possibilities for constructing new models of collectivity.
Ramón Gutiérrez's essay on the religious organizations of Indian slaves in colonial New Mexico emphasizes adaptation and creation in the context of cultural convergence and conflict. Originally rooted in the slaves' need for mutual support in the absence of kin, confraternities such as the Hermanos Penitentes reflected the intersection of two systems of ritual practice. Over the course of three centuries, they evolved as a vehicle for the expression of ethnic solidarity and a source of grassroots political leadership. By the early twentieth century, the flocking of tourists to the Hermanos' annual rites of flagellation and crucifixion drove the group to practice in secret, deepening their sense of spiritual community.
The following two essays spotlight women's efforts to shape community dynamics. Miroslava Chavez focuses on the mediation of domestic strife in nineteenth-century Mexican California. Her examination of civil and criminal court cases in Los Angeles reveals women's appeals to judicial authority in their struggles with fathers and husbands. The rulings in these disputes—involving physical abuse, financial support, adultery, and unlawful coercion—show that ethnicity and socioeconomic circumstances proved key factors in determining how women were treated in the legal system. We return again to Los Angeles, this time in the 1930s, in my study of the array of activities through which second-generation Japanese American women supported their ethnic community. In this exploration of girls' and teenagers' work and recreation in Little Tokyo, the multiple pressures facing young women serve to underscore the importance of the vibrant peer-support networks they formed. Their adaptation and synthesis of a variety of cultural forms helped to create a lively urban Nisei world.
How racial-ethnic groups have both cooperated and competed with each other in the arena of work casts in sharp relief the contours of cultural boundaries. In tracking the struggles over union organizing in the salmon canneries of southeastern Alaska, Chris Friday maps the conflict among three overlapping communities of Native Alaskans, Asian Americans, and European Americans. The course of campaigns by rival organizations to sway worker loyalties vividly illustrates how class interests might not prove sufficient to override cultural and regional differences or work patterns that pitted local people against seasonal migrants and that privileged men's labor over women's. The trajectory of groups such as the Alaska Native Brotherhood and the Alaska Native Sisterhood also mirrored the changing focus of community concerns over time, as the contest for control of the labor force increasingly shifted to efforts to regain rights to a land base.
In the next two essays, human relationships with the natural environment take center stage in the study of community dynamics. Through a story about Coyote's fruitless attempt to outrun the River in a race, Louise Jeffredo-Warden conveys the Gabrielino Indians' understanding of the power of the natural environment and the futility of defying it. As reflected in such centuries-old lessons, the indigenous peoples of southern California held a sense of their relationship to the land as one based on reciprocity and moral obligation. Accordingly, their conception of community extended beyond human ties to include animals, plants, rocks, and streams.
The urgency of the need to repair and re-create the human relationship with the environment drives Mike Davis's essay on the military devastation of the Great Basin of California, Nevada, and Utah. In this federally designated "national sacrifice zone," nuclear weapons testing and biowar research have blasted the desert into a barren lunar landscape and inflicted cancers, neurological disorders, and genetic defects on those who live "downwind." A coalition movement—including Mormons, Paiute and Shoshone Indians, and Nevada ranchers—has coalesced to oppose further nuclear testing and toxic waste disposal; their ties to similarly affected communities in Kazakhstan and the Pacific Islands demonstrate that both ecological damage and efforts to heal it may transcend national borders.
In the final essay, Jesús Martínez-Saldaña challenges geographically and nationally bounded definitions of community membership through his examination of Mexican transnational migrants, a subject of particularly passionate debate in the U.S. West. The songs of Los Tigres del Norte, an immigrant musical group popular on both sides of the southern border, articulate the economic need that has spurred Mexican immigrants to seek work abroad and give voice to their critique of the imposition of social and political boundaries. Why, one corrido (ballad) asks the border, are you a line that divides people rather than uniting them regardless of color? Despite their material contributions to both the United States and Mexico, the immigrants—who number in the millions—are not treated as full members of the community in either country; Martínez-Saldaña proposes a new interpretation of them as citizens of a binational system with rights and responsibilities in two republics.
These meditations on boundary crossings and social configurations eventually lead to a broader range of imaginings of the West. As Martínez-Saldaña states, "The American West does not exist only in the collective consciousness of this country. It is also present in the imagination of people in other nations." The powerful allure of envisioned Wests continues to attract newcomers from all over the nation and the world: artists, retirees, utopians, tourists, gamblers, rebels, refugees, and workers from one end of the class scale to the other. The impact of this ongoing influx serves to advance the sense of community as a dynamic, often messy, process.
The cultural struggles and cultural synthesis generated by the confluence of peoples pulled by vast economic tides, the contestation over resources and meanings of community, a growing awareness of the intimate connection between human and natural ecosystems, although not unique to the West, have spotlighted both the urgency and the vibrant potential of reassessing and reconstructing social relations. As we move toward passage across the frontier of the twenty-first century, the mixed legacies of the past come with us, as warning ghosts, borrowed strength, weapons, tools, and toys. Sifting through and scrutinizing them, as the writers in this collection have done, provides a useful point at which to consider where we are and where we may be going.