home or texas in my tangled hair

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I flew to Texas this week to attend the National Art Education Association conference for art nerds. My five plus days in Forth Worth were packed with workshops, seminars, and role playing activities each designed to enhance and nurture the art geek within. Ultimately, we art educators want our arty passion to balloon so big that it bursts, spills out of us, and is absorbed into the lives and psyches of the students we teach. It's a noble thing, but not really the thing I want to talk about today.

I want to talk about my time in Texas before I was me.

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I used to live in Corpus Christi. Back then I was choking down the stale air of an abusive marriage, slogging through days saturated in a dull and heavy gray. After several months in that sleepy coastal town, my restless husband left me for bigger dreams in Los Angeles, CA. So. I did what I had to do. I packed away my peach journal and a few pairs of shoes and moved north to Houston, relieved to leave behind the fractured and lonely woman I had become.

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Houston was a revelation. I began seeing a therapist who helped me find my voice (it was, turns out, buried within concrete blocks of self doubt and fear), I landed a job at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and made some of the most meaningful and memorable friendships of my life. Houston and her people were the salve to my suffering soul, and I count those years as some of the best in my life.

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My affection for Texas and all she represents reemerged this week with a force as tremendous as the wind. Indeed, blasts of warm air pushed into me as I walked through the streets of downtown Forth Worth, carrying memories of Houston on their wake. The memories became trapped in the tangles of my hair and remained there for the rest of the day like happy dandelion seeds, ready to burst open with reminders of place, acceptance, transcendence, and love.

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The memories came at night, too. We were headed to dinner one evening, admiring the white fairy lights strung above the sidewalk, when we heard small birds screaming in the trees, warning us of the storm slowly rolling across the sky. Memories of Houston traveled within the vibrations of bird song, landing in my ears and echoing the harmony of those transformative times. That night as I stood at my hotel window watching the fat rain drops bounce off of the pavement like popcorn, I felt safe.

"Texas I am here," I whispered.

"I have come home to your texture and taste."

I am back in Utah now, but Texas is still stirring in my cells. It is a gift to be reminded of the bone deep joy I felt in Houston and those kindred spirits who helped me shore up my sagging heart. You are my wind, my dandelion seeds, my bird song, my drops of rain. You are my home, everlasting.

(This post is dedicated to Susan, Alison, and the infallible All-Stars)