“For the sublime and the beautiful and the interesting, you don’t have to look far away. You have to know how to see.”
A few weeks ago, when the sun was shining and everything wasn’t covered in ice, my friend Marty Butler and his family masked up and came over to visit Coconut The Owl. We talked for a long time, the way people starved for conversation do, and eventually we got to the subject Texans can’t avoid: Texas. We were talking about Austin, in particular, and how the beauty of this place is subtle.
“Texas isn’t Grand,’’ Marty said. “If you want Grand, you need to go west to Colorado or Montana or something.”
The bright side of this, we agreed, was that here you learn to really pay attention, to track subtle changes in the environment, to fire up your eyebeams and search for beauty.
Yesterday I was reading an interview with one of my heroes, the cartoonist John Porcellino, and he said this, about the midwest:
“It’s not like the Rocky Mountains where it’s going to hit you over the head with, ‘Look how majestic I am,’” Porcellino says. “It’s Paw Paw, Illinois. That beauty is there and that majesty is there, but it’s a thing that you have to learn to recognize. Once you learn to recognize it, you see it everywhere.”
This is something he learned from our shared hero, Henry David Thoreau, who taught us that we receive what we’re ready to receive, and that it’s not what you look at that matters, but what you see.
Though I have lived in Texas for 14 years, I have never been an evangelist for the place. I came here by chance, and now I live here by choice. (Mostly because a woman I love loves it, and I’d rather live in her world…) But the place has been good to me, and in my own way, I have come to love it. (You know how Texan you are based on how mad you get when people badmouth Texas.)
Here is what I love most about Texas: It has taught me how to find beauty. How beautiful things grow out of shit.
An orange extension cord run to the end of a driveway, offering power to anyone who needs it.
How, without traffic, you can really hear your neighbor’s windchimes ringing in the frozen, silent air.
The icicles on Coconut’s house.
Even now, iced over and on our knees, I can still find beauty, because Texas has trained me to look for it.
It ain’t Grand.
It’s my home.