It’s one of the gifts of summer: late strolls after dinner, the air still warm but not seething with heat, the smattering of joggers and unicycle riders and Latino families with children leaning to look for fish in the water. It stays light far past when we expect it to, and downtown looks impressive, shiny and aglow. We live here. So often we complain: the traffic, the prices, the scruffy city we fell in love with transformed into something else. But didn’t we fall for each other when we both lived in tiny apartments and mouthed off about simplicity, paring down, though for a decade we have had 2200 square feet and squabbles over the lawn? We can’t spend forever on the sagging deck of a coffeehouse listening to Guy Forsyth strum his guitar. Sometimes we turn and are struck anew with delight for our midlife selves dressed in the better clothes that midlife allows. And so our city too, offering a different kind of impressive while we saunter along, the day mostly behind us, rail lights illuminating the way toward home.
July 5, 2015
Instead, a smattering of what life has brought my way. An old friend in front of an old painting. A wedding, a message, and century plants towering against a stormy sky.
Meanwhile, back home, the daily continues. We shave and brush and swab and spread. We read Nora Ephron’s prescriptions of marriage, shared by a friend in a wedding card. We fail to sit on the living room furniture and fail to sell it on Craigslist. (Vintage rattan could be yours.) And the CSA basket keeps coming and cornichons go into vinegar and pickling spices and we can’t stop eating them.
In Austin the rents still rise and a few places, against the odds, keep the faith.
And, finally, a spin through Waco on the way home. A wedding ring store leaves me with far too much to say.
First of all, we walk there. From our house along the boardwalk across the Pfluger pedestrian bridge then that odd wooden extension, then on broad pathways to the door. None of this was there when we chose Austin. Then the smokestacks, now architecturally interesting, and the grid works, and the sleek new buildings. It’s a plaza, of sorts. It’s Austin, and it isn’t. This is how it will be from now on. No returning to scruffy, no matter how you long for it. We sat at the bar of a downtown restaurant and ate sauteed squid. We wandered back out. Here the site of the future tallest building in town. There another glossy bar where the polished and well-coifed drink cocktails. Then through the lobby of the new J.W. Marriott. A little L.A., a little Las Vegas. Standing there I realized] what it really is, all this nattering about the Austin that once was. It a grief. Grief and–eyes agape–a bit of wonder.
May 6, 2015
Praise the long days of April, when I can finish up those final emails, make the drive home, change my clothes, hustle across the traffic of Riverside, and still have enough light for a walk. Praise the boardwalk, which sometimes feels like it was built just for me, me whose six-word memoir might read, Loves to walk beside the water, who carried a Wallace Stevens quote tucked into the front of her journal for a year, Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake. Praise how for these 45 minutes I can leave behind the HVAC installers up in my attic, failing again, and the budgets and questions of program outcomes and who really deserves an A in the class, and just move my sandaled feet forward. Praise Anne Lamott’s long ramble about turning 61, which I read aloud to Chris before bed, in which she reminds us, If you want to have a good life after you have grown a little less young, you must walk almost every day. There is no way around this. Praise how many writers I can carry in my head, their voices coming at me when I least expect it. Praise the health that allows me to be here, the slice of time between things where I can breathe, and all the pauses I make so often for skyscrapers glistening in the distance, for rowers gliding by in sync, for colorful boats awaiting their next paddle.
April 8, 2015
For so much of our time here, the shore east of the Statesman has been close to deserted — bramble and brush, inaccessible. Now on a springlike Sunday afternoon we can’t count the numbers. There are buskers with their guitar cases open, street performers and their jello legs. Personal trainers lead clients in deep lunges against the railing above the water, and at Joe’s Crab Shack, a Stevie Ray-modeled band jams. The music carries. We think New York City. We think Venice Beach boardwalk. We were here first, we joke, as we walk through the crowds. Still, there is a quiet spot on the dock. Paddlers, standing and seated, float by. Dogs. Children in life jackets. Austin is alive on a sunny February day. So are we.
February 8, 2015
At the end of the day, walking, I listen to Congressman John Lewis say, “When you pray, move your feet” on Krista Tippett’s On Being. It’s an old African proverb, and its wisdom is written through the Civil Rights Movement, which we celebrate today with a Martin Luther King holiday. I didn’t join the march earlier today, and I didn’t volunteer my time. I stayed home and to myself, then I walked a good long time and took visual notes about the world around me. Those notes are above, little peeks into Austin, Texas, on a warm January afternoon. They aren’t about justice or politics. They are glimpses at the funky world I inhabit. But what I carry from the day will be Lewis’s admonition and how I can use it in my own life to seek the right action in all things.
January 19, 2015
The other night, walking from yoga to my car, a man stopped me on the sidewalk and sang Nat King Cole’s “Smile” to me. He dropped into a deep baritone, put his hand to his heart, then kept pushing his cart of groceries. In Norwalk we saw the guy who rides the big-wheeled bicycle — a penny-farthing — through the neighborhood like an 1860s performer, cap on head. Taking a walk at lunch I looked down the street toward an animal I couldn’t identify. It was a white peacock, shy but strutting, and I followed it into the scrubby yard of an empty house. Back at the office, the room buzzed with news of a colleague in the ICU after a head-on collision. I walked with her heavy in my heart. You never know what any day will bring.
January 7, 2015