Happy Campers

This post is about how an ordinary evening in the woods made me realize why I need to stop and smell the roses.

After what seemed like forever trip to bad weather land, we finally got some sunshine. We decided to make the most of what seemed the last possible good weather weekend. After stuffing the cooper like a turkey, we headed out late afternoon to Ray Roberts State Park. We found a campsite way, way, way at the back. Thanks to dada the city slicks had to lug camping gear, food, and babies all the way to the other end of the campsite. So with lots of grumbling and mumbling we were afoot. Fearless Freddy a.k.a Neil (that’s what we called him at the end of this trip) was camping for the first time at 22 months. We were making snail pace progress. For every two steps he took, he’d stop for a 20. He had to wave at fellow campers, pat the dogs, pick up twigs, throw some sand, and finally when it started feeling like eternity, we picked him and walked. Therefore, we made it before sundown.

The first job at hand was to setup base and then get the fire going. The fall chill that warms up during the day was slowly giving way to an even chillier evening. Dada got the fire going but a small bag of coal wasn’t going to last all evening long. Our supply of coal for the barbecue was beginning to dwindle, so we had to make quick amends. I dragged Neil away from the pit and we went off to rummage for some firewood. Having learned how to distinguish between Maple and Mesquite trees, I was determined to find the fallen chunks of dried wood to keep the flames going. I felt like a pioneer woman rummaging for firewood. We were so busy trying to pick out the right kind of wood that we almost missed the beauty of it all. A small streak of sunlight caught the corner of my falling hair, and bounced gently off of my face. As if to remind me of the true reason for our visit here. That’s when I looked up and realized how beautiful it was. The sun was beginning to set and that ephemeral glow of evening light began to bounce off of the water. Shades of yellow, gold, and red cast themselves on everything around; even on little Neil. The fall hues of astounding maroons, auburn, gold, and arresting yellows were further accentuated against this light. It was heavenly. Life seemed to float on this fall evening forever.

This was Fearless Freddy’s (a.k.a Neil) first camping trip. We know how much he loves hanging outdoors. He really is an earth child. He was all squeals about how we were setting up the tent. He didn’t know what was coming next of course, and we didn’t think he’d enjoy it so darn much. After taking in the sunshine and playing crunch on leaves, mama and son walked back to campsite with firewood in hand. While dada got the grub going, mama and son kept the fire going. Once he figured dried leaves crackled in the fire, there was no stopping him. He kept picking up those maple leaves with his tiny little hands and dropping them in. Each time he did it, our hearts would stop beating. Lock, stock, and smocking grill, we had our beef, roasted corn, and spicy shrimp to munch on. We had to zip ourselves in to the tent because there was no other way to keep Fearless Freddy inside. On dada’s suggestion he lay on mama’s lap and watched the fading sky through the opening in the roof. There was something in that moment…I can’t quite explain it. Watching him watch those tall trees and the three of us looking at each other enjoying that moment was the stuff of poetry.

It was a quiet acknowledgment of the blessings in life.

Texas Travelled

Steinbeck said, “Texas is a state of mind. Texas is an obsession.” I am now completely sold to the idea. I’ve been trying to write about Texas for days on end now and for the life of me haven’t been able find the right words. Not because I don’t know what to write, but because there is so much to write. So for once I am wading through a quandary of words so to speak. My understanding of Texas as a child came from the nearby Austin Town in Bangalore. Yes. There is such a thing. If you lived in Austin Town, then everybody chimed in, “Oh! You live in Texas.” Not even in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that I’d set foot on this once-upon-a-time-Republic.

After writing, striking, crushing, and writing some more, I realized there was no one way to describe it. It is grand, it is big, and it is Texas. So I put ink to paper and began writing about my encounters with Texas and Texans the way that I first experienced it. Warm, friendly, and genuinely kind, Texans are one of a kind. You could get lost in the 275,400 square miles that boundaries this magnificent state. For an intrepid traveller on the Texas highways these miles are measured by sheer natural beauty.  You could drive for miles and even days and still be in Texas. On a Texas highway you will find truth, beauty, and Oatmeal, and that my friends, is no joke. If people make fun of the Texan twang then, Texans themselves have a sense of humor that is unsurpassed. As one traverses the length and breadth of this grand state, names of places like Raisin, Oatmeal, Rice and Noodle will have you peering out of your car to ensure that you read them right. Think of the quirkiest, bizarre, and unusual when you go road trippin’ here. There’s Munday and Friday, Telephone, Telegraph and Energy. If this doesn’t do it for you, then stop over at Coffee to shake up those sleepy boots.

We’ve done our fair share of road-tripping here. From the swampy Caddo Lake in East Texas to the soft sand beaches at the Mustang Islands the topographies are so diverse to the point that you often feel as if you’re someplace else entirely. It amazes me that tall pines, arid plains, the misty ocean, the tranquil lakes can all comfortably stretch out and dot the map in this one state. An hour out of Dallas will have you wonder if this is the same place you just left behind.

Spring is undoubtedly the premier season here. Yes! There is poetry dripping off of every freeway, feeder road, farm, house and pavement. An ocean of bluebonnets and a dazzle of Indian paint brushes dots every nook and cranny. If you’ve driven down I-35 to Austin, then you know that this straight stretch of concrete takes on colour and character like never before. I can bet my heart that it will bring out the Renoir or Picasso in anyone. There are days when the rain gods descend on this natural beauty amidst shimmering, golden sun rays over green pastures dotted with horses, cows, and sheep. This is when the true beauty of the rural expanse strikes at the very chore of you. There are good days, and then there are days that you want to bottle up and save in something more permeable than memory.

Like a child who captures fireflies in a jar, I’ve wanted to capture time in a jar, twice. One was on Lake Buchanan, which I’ve talked about in a previous post, and the other at Uncertain, Texas. Yes. There is a place called Uncertain, No. I’m not being poetic. Uncertain, TX is about 30 miles from Marshall, TX. Home to swampy lakes, moss-covered cypress trees, and a place twice removed from the present. I say twice removed because the town transports you to a time that is far and beyond the present, and in fact, anything you’ve known. You could get lost in the water here, and I don’t mean navigation-ally. Those lazy branches drooping down so very gently seem like an invitation to stay, linger, and drift away. The mist that rises beneath them is a mystery waiting to be unraveled. After a while on the boat, the hum of the engine and the chatter of the guide settles in somewhere at the back. It becomes a journey of three – you, the water, and the expanse. In spite of yourself, you’ll want to get lost in this tranquility. The dry moss over green cypress trees standing tall in the swampy waters with white herons resting atop their heads will transport you into the Gothic age. Your captain will steer the boat so very slowly that it will have a drowsy effect on you. By the time you finish your boat ride, you will step off feeling uncertain. There is a quietness on the water that is both eerie and soothing. Its been less than 3 months since we visited East Texas, but my heart longs to go back and maybe we will.

Found this lovely poem on http://www.cowboypoetry.com

Texas
To Judge A. H. Willie

I crave not for her cities
Not towns where man hath trod,
But I love her lonely prairies,
Her great wide skies of God.

I love her lazy rivers
That wed the Mexique Sea
An oh, her heaven-born breezes
Breathe rarest songs to me.

Oh, if I could but sing them,
Could hymn pure Nature’s bars,
Those songs would live forever
And echo through the stars.

Would echo till the angels
Attuned the free refrains,
And breathed celestial music–
The poetry of the plains!

I love the Mesa Mountains
That woo the Texas skies,
‘Neath azure veils of beauty,
They dream of Paradise…