This week I am honoring my 8th year living in Texas.
I got here on my own, driving my little Volvo two thousand miles from Boston in time to start classes. The date that sticks in my mind is August 18th and I’m not sure why. Anyway, it was the first time I lived alone. Ever. I was 43.
If you’re a mom at 20, well, you’re never really alone except for short bursts of summer camp or a grandmother’s house for the weekend. There I was in Austin, alone. So I painted our apartment before the furniture arrived. Slept on the floor and learned how to not cook for a crowd.
The first class was workshop. . .this was mostly first years like myself, a few second years (a three-year MFA program). I like workshops, more times than not. . .depends on the tone of the conversations. We went around with intros then a bit about what we wanted to get out of the program/course. I looked around at this group, some younger than my son, but that didn’t matter to me. . . I got used to that in undergrad, I was ‘a non-traditional student’ then. (I guess I still am. Thought for another post)
In this class a fellow poet, Brad, spoke up about how summer is the worst time because ‘everything turns brown, the grass dies!’ I had never heard such a thing, my poor brain was already struggling with Yes M’am and Y’all not to mention the variations in the Texas twang. But to not like — never mind — love summer time — what’s up with that? (Actually I gave a slightly audible, huh? and had a puzzled look to which Brad noticed.)
Oh but I came to know how right he is. I also found out that Brad (who looks like a mix of Tom Cruise and Johnny Depp) has a keen mind, great sense of humor and a kind friend. Brad is usually right but rarely gloats. He (and others) taught me the fine qualities of chips and queso with Dos Equis after class and the bargain of happy hour lousy pizza with fresh $3.00 pitch of Shiner Bock, before the evening class. We shared rides to school and back. . .we became true friends.
Now eight years later, two droughts, a few floods, threat of tornadoes, more rainbows than I’d seen in the 43 years leading up to my tenure in Austin, I hide in my AC in August and go out at night. It’s the inverse of New England where I lived inside in February because I could no long stand the snow and ice and the weight of winter clothing. The one thing different is one doesn’t have to shovel the heat only endure it.
And by the way, just so you know, hot is hot. The fiction of ‘dry heat’ is just that. This dry heat, the 90’s and then some, hurts your eyes, dries your sinuses, and after a while makes you feel desiccated. I have discovered that it’s easier to be out in the heat and stay there rather than the in and out of AC.
My yard is crispy. With water restrictions in place, only my front bed survives, I won’t waste water on weedy grass. . .and we water our new tree, planted before the drought. I’m told the Chinquapin Oak will survive. As will I.