The Sweet Wildness of Road Trips
“Place is an environment claimed by emotion.” -Anonymous
On the summer solstice I drove through the borderlands of southwest Texas, long stretches of fenced and gated land where natural gas pipelines and storage facilities shared the landscape with low willowy green trees and the purple-flowering Texas Ranger bush. Some unseen water source suddenly fed pecan groves and alfalfa fields, then disappeared, the flat acreage fading into sagebrush and blooming yuccas, the unnerving surprise of a long bridge with insanely low guardrails spanning the empty air above the Pecos River gorge. Glimpses of smaller, mysterious canyons kept luring my eyes to the south. Road cuts became outdoor art installations of gray and pink ancient seabeds layered as if the most skilled stonemasons had set the perfect ribbons of rock just yesterday. For miles the highway curved and undulated in front of me. This storm seduced me away from the canyons, my eyes wandering north as its billowing clouds grew darker, mushrooming wider and higher with each minute. It caught up with us in Marfa, the intense heat blown away by raindrops the size of silver dollars and wind that churned the storm to the south then back north again. It’s quiet now, the late night sky still filled with the dance of lightening no fireworks display can match. I write this as a meager gauge against the wonder that is always there, something infinite and unnamable and as necessary as the air I breathe. A wonder sometimes only seen on long drives through what appears to be the most desolate of places.