On August 29, 2009 I rediscovered Texas. I had been living away, in France and England, for three years. That summer I reluctantly found myself living back in my home state. I had never intended to return. My life was elsewhere and I was fighting against the place where I was born, convinced it wasn’t where I was meant to be. But that night, at a ranch somewhere in Texas, something changed.
I’d been to that particular place almost every year since I was born. I loved that it always smelled the same, like glycerine soap, moss and algae, the river, limestone and rain, old wood floors, dusty roads, water from rusted taps and bonfires. It was a place for swimming in the glossy river by moonlight, for barbeque and beer, outdoors showers and campfire breakfasts, old wooden houses and afternoon naps. My father and I had driven there together the day before, listening to the only four songs we had (“Get Rhythm”, “Friends in Low Places”, “Mrs. Robinson” and “Maybelline, why can’t you be true”) all the way. It rained while we dined on fried chicken under a lantern-lit tarp by the river. I fell asleep in one of the old ranch house rooms, watching the porch-light fall through the slats of the wooden blinds, listening to the low murmur of people I had known all my life talking on the porch outside.
I woke up before anyone else, and had coffee and breakfast on the porch swing as the soft gray morning light gave way to a golden glow as the sun rose over the distant hills and finally illuminated the valley. I spent the day kayaking and cooking cabrito wrapped in giant yucca leaves in a pit we dug by the river. I was beginning to feel like a part of Texas again, and it was beginning to feel like a part of me.
Over dinner the sun set in a blaze of the most shocking pink, perfectly reflected in the river. Someone built a bonfire on the dam and I went and sat by it with my feet in the shallow water. A young man played Tom Waits’ “Lucinda” on his guitar over the crackle of the fire and the sound of the river and cicadas. The moon was golden against the dark blue sky. It couldn’t have happened anywhere but Texas. As I sat there with the river, the moonlight and firelight, the cicadas and Lucinda, Texas took hold, and it hasn’t let go since.