The last time I drove through West Texas was in 2005 as I was in transit from Berkeley to San Antonio to begin my new life, post post-doc. My car was doubling as a moving van and was crammed full with personal belongings, leaving little to no daylight between the ceiling of my car and all that I deemed valuable enough to squeeze in there with me. I remember grumbling around east of El Paso at the radio stations, or rather the lack of them. The landscape to me looked barren and dry, completely lacking in life, and I wondered how anyone could live way out there. I don’t mean how could they make a living, although I questioned that, too. I mean I wondered how in the world a human being could live so far out in the middle of nowhere with nothing but lifeless silence surrounding them? I shuddered at the thought and I couldn’t wait to get back to civilization.
Something in me has clearly changed since then. A few days ago I succumbed to an overwhelming urge to get in my car and drive, of all places, West. I had been itching to get out on the road ever since I finally sent my old Corolla, running on three cylinders, to Car Hell (May it burn there. Sorry. Don’t mean to be bitter). To take its place I chose a happy lady bug of a car, a new cherry red Toyota Yaris. It not only runs on all four cylinders, but it has AC, that works. Since that day I drove away from the Toyota dealership with my new wings I knew that it was just a matter of time before I would launch out on to the open road. Three weeks later, I woke up and said “now”.
What is it about a road trip that is so liberating? I’m going to have to think on this and get back, but for now, I just want to say that something about this trip out West has either seen a new me, or the same me has seen in a new way. Or both? I am in love with the West Texas desert. It is not barren, but chock full of life, and not just any life – life that can kick butt. And it’s beautiful. The bursts of color that can crop up from what looks like the most inhospitable terrain are beyond amazing to me. The skies at night are enormous, dotted with the billions and billions of Carl Sagan stars that are just not visible back in ‘civilization’. And the silence. How did I ever think of the silence as deafening, as unwanted? The silence of the West Texas desert is one of the most beautiful sounds I’ve never heard.
I have to hit the road again, this time to head back to home. But I will return, and I can’t wait. I’ll be back as soon as I can to kick up the dirt, watch the ants, wonder at the peace and calm of the desert night, and feel ever so small beneath the West Texas night sky.