Three years ago today, I landed in Texas.
I’m going to go ahead and say it’s been the hardest three years of my life. I’m feeling uncharacteristically reticent to say much more than that. I’ll go all allegorical, instead.
You know what they use to build roads out here? Dynamite. The ground is hard. It’s made of super-compressed dirt and rock.
Where it’s totally flat, they spend days burning the vegetation and then more days laying grit, tar, and asphalt over barren land.
But then there’s a little artist colony, buried in beautiful hill country. Little hand-built porches surrounded by lavender hold gracefully rocking old ladies with stories you wouldn’t believe. The town square hosts an impossibly intricate stone fountain, with a group of purple-black birds singing and talking in a cacophony of mid-morning joy. Grass is deep, cool green, because one man, who everybody seems to know, spends every morning watering, raking, seeding, smelling, loving that grass on that square. Every sidewalk meets a perfect 90 degree angle, every inch of the lawn is the same exact depth as every other inch. When you step onto it, you just have to take your shoes off; you have to be barefoot to sink into that grass. There’s no option.
Stomach-yearning smells emanate from home-made barrel grills, especially that floury, slightly bitter smell of a hand-rolled tortilla, roasting a little too long over open flames. People stand, here and there, mostly to stop and talk. Some gather in small groups, pausing with their paper bags in hand. Warm, freshly made tacos heat the bags ever-so-slightly, like little foiled packets of summer and flavor. They chat with each other, or with the porch ladies, or to themselves. Some hum as they walk, smiling or offering a greeting as they pass.
Horses step, heavy but purposefully, down the main road, carrying cowboys, real cowboys, who sometimes tip their hats before they turn their heads to spit. Cars creep down the street, giving the animals the right of way, often pausing to roll down a window and ask about someone’s mother. Antique shops with old bottles and withered furniture or craft storefronts with colorful, faded curios pepper the square. A man stands under the patio of his little shop, in front of a makeshift bench, hand carving a guitar-top.
This place is from a book, from your dreams, from a film you saw once when you were a little kid, so long ago you have no idea when, or where. When you look at it, even a little part of it, it’s so beautiful it makes your throat hurt. It makes your soul stop. It makes you want to find music to play in the background, because this kind of place has a song, you know it does, all you have to do is figure out where you’ve heard it before, how to match it, how to keep it playing.
If not for dynamite, you’d never be there.