Following the prose-y itch:
Saturday, Walden and I drove the hour and a half out west to family-gather with parents Gretel and Tom, sister Laura and husband Dave, her son Steph, brother Vern and wife Kimberlye; Uncle Kurt drove over from Sabinal and completed the tribal gathering. Mama Tina stayed back here in Tres Leches to avail herself of the free time to write.
Visits to Terra Loma, the 1400-acre plot inherited from grandmother Loma Seidel, invariably include a Tom-guided "tour" of the place I have been visiting all the way back to tot-hood, wading in diapers in the irrigation ditches. Long gone are the ditches, the furrows, as sprinkler pivots have long been in use - all six of them - and now Tom informs me that for six or seven years the leasing farmers have taken a no-till approach to the fields, the theory being that all the old practice of tilling up the ground exposes - and loses - too much of the residual moisture in the ground, not to mention all the fuel expense that comes with plowing and tilling. Gone then, are all the lovely brown corduroyed furrows; in the interest of being green-er (the lack of organic farming precludes full use of the verdant color), the fields are shabbier in their post-harvested, pre-planted look. Corn was being planted, while the wheat fields were already lushly greening.
Tom drove us down the southern boundary and then into the mesquite thicket that is the land's western boundary - thicket that grades down to the Frio River, the land's true boundary. For the sake of accuracy, I should say Frio River-bed, as mammoth shoals of white limestone are the usual view, save for when torrential rains in the hill country twenty miles north push the river all the way down to us and beyond to the tiny burgh of Knippa, eight miles south on Highway 90. When the Frio descends out of the hills, there is no more beautiful river in Texas, in all its crystalline, emerald glory - beautiful rapids and deep green pools amidst stone-beds that now look like the spines of dinosaurs. I haven't seen the river since Tina and I baptized ourselves (and little did we know, at the time, Walden too) in it twelve years ago. Come to think of it, make that eleven years ago, when Laura and her three daughters and Steph were out there with us.
In our descent down the river bank, I looked for the lone mountain laurel tree that was blooming the very first time Tina and I walked down to the river. Nothing but near-greening mesquite and the occasional rogue juniper tree this time around. Meanwhile, back here in Tres Leches, the mountain laurels are in full bloom all around the city, and all around our yard.
Back at the ranch house, time for a little soccer with Walden and Steph, with Kurt looking on. Around back, a scarlet tanager was blazing in one of the trees, out-blazing the busy red male cardinals, though the red chevrons on the wings of the red-winged blackbirds were giving him a run for his money.
Supper was in the screened-in breezeway, fiery golden sun going down in the west, gilding mesquite branches and all else its fire consumed. Supper: my mother's standby favorite for family gatherings - chalupas, with all the fixings. Pie and/or brownies for dessert, a la mode if wished, and Walden certainly wished. About thirty minutes before we needed to go, Walden was looking restless. I asked him if he needed one more walk before we left. Apparently, exercise was not what he was thinking about; with a gleam in his eye, he looked at his grandfather and said, "Blackjack?" Tom never needs any arm-twisting when it comes to cards, so the game was quickly afoot. Thankfully, we were simply playing with his chips - he wiped us all out.
We sailed back in the dark to Tres Leches; I dropped Walden off at Abby and Greg's house, with their four kids. Sunday morning, Walden was heading out to Port Aransas with the church youth group that Abby leads. Big doings in the Booker-Karagulian household: save for overnights with friends, this was the first time Walden would be away with a group of people that he knew, but who were not exactly bosom friends.
5:45 Sunday morning (in truth, you will recall, 4:45 am), Tina and I crawled into Aphrodite (her car) and embarked on our own beach trip to Padre Island (thirty minutes from Walden's eventual destination, but be assured, we did not hover; did not, in fact, see him until yesterday afternoon, when we all had arrived back here in TL). The up-early was all about getting to Corpus Christi in time for the 9 am labyrinth service at All Saints Episcopal Church, our adopted church away from home, a church that abounds with artists and freethinkers, as does our own Rec back here in Tres Leches. So, church and then brunch at Santa Rosa's, where you can still get a TexMex breakfast for $2.99 a pop. Throw in lush heaping avocados and you're still out the door for less than ten bucks. Brunch had, it was off to a hotel on a spit of land that gets as close to the federally protected Padre Island National Seashore, without itself encroaching on the park.
Crashed, we did, before ever heading to the water: three hours catching up from the day's early start, and then another hour or so of reading, really sinking into a needed lollygagging mode. Having been self-derailed from last year's attempt, I am into my fifth or sixth lenten read of Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, a tradition that was first sprung while living out at the ranch in the late 7os and surveying land in the hill country in and around Uvalde County. Though probably my slowest read of the book, this is also my most lucid one. I'm tracking much better this time around.
First evening, we slummed for a bit at the beach just across the road from the hotel - full of spring breakers and unnecessary music and trash. Just a quick chance to get sea-breeze in our faces, before heading over to Snoopy's for the obligatory pilgrimage meal.
Monday morning, we stayed in slow-mode; while Tina meditated, I headed over again to the near-beach for a walk. I had Pynchon with me, thinking of sitting for a while to read, but there was a good cold snap in the air, so TP just ended up as an unintended lumpen-dumbbell.
Walking and sitting meditations complete, we shunned the hotel's complimentary breakfast in favor of a trip to Corpus' Old Towne, where we stumbled into a new favorite: Hester's Cafe in the Bleu Frog Mercantile: great omelettes and a buzzing little quiet the first day, perfect match to the day's unfolding. Things were bopping more when we dropped in for a farewell breakfast yesterday.
Beach we did get to, finally, about noon: Malaquite this time, pristine, edging the aqua surf: freezing surf, as it turns out: there were more of us out watching than actually in bathing. Snappy breeze, too, still: plenty time, though, to read, laze, mind-drift, draw a mermaid (in Tina's case), go for a long walk, side-stepping the plenteous man-o-wars and tossing sand dollars back into the surf to keep on growing they echinodermic selves.
Late in the afternoon, our minds collided with the same "damn, it's cold" epiphany. Back to the hotel to clean up, popped into The Black Sheep Bistro to check it out. "We're open tomorrow," said the owner, but we wuzn't. Sign, by the way, said Mon-Sat 5 pm - 9 pm. Padre Islanders must have a strange notion of Daylight Savings Time - not just one hour ahead, no, a full day ahead. Or so it seems.
Well, the Black Sheep was just a lark, anyway: we were headed to Thai Cottage for a repeat of last year's meal: we were not disappointed, though they still ain't up to the Queen of Thai, the native Thai attorney-turned-culinary empress at Bangkok Cuisine over on, yep, Pat Booker Road here in the home burgh.
Lazing into the night, watching Lane and Cusack in a commercials-sliced and -battered "Must Love Dogs," aggravating mess (the commercials, not the flick, goofy fluff). The home TV is only on these days as monitor for DVDs, so rampant commercials are long a thing of the past.
Cold rain yesterday morning, making Hester's a haven all the more, before heading back home. Halfway back up I-37, ominous "Incident Ahead" signs, as we were shuttled off the highway and onto the frontage road. More than "incident"; full-blown tragedy - a bus headed for Matamoros, out of SA, careened off the southbound lanes into the median, and was tipped over on its side: two people died, two dozen injured. For some reason, we threaded through the snarl in about thirty minutes. Walden's caravan, an hour behind, took three hours getting through.
Back we are, then: 10 am and the two babes is still sleepin, yo be scribin', Boz Scaggs be warblin' in the headphones. Time to travel on to the greenbelt. They's more travelin' to do, this here Spring Break.