One might think from reading these posts that it might be Pantelleria or Salina, Elba or Ischia, but in my heart, my favorite island is landlocked. It’s a large and varied island on the border of Mexico. It is in the state of Texas, and while it is Texas to the core, it shares none of the mean spirit that one can find in cities. It is wild and it can be life-threatening, but it is never cruel. It is the Big Bend, and I love it as much as any place on earth.
I go to Italy for business, and often when I am there I have a moment or two to relax. But when I want to go where the cells phones don’t roam and I cannot be found, that place is the National Park of Big Bend, where I can hike and wander to my heart’s content. The wine and food scene isn’t so great, unless one goes to Marfa, where I had one of the best meals I have had this year. But that isn’t the reason why I go to my favorite island. I go there to get away and to go somewhere where away isn’t away. It is in smack-dab in the middle of a world that heals me. It’s real and it’s in my face and I love it.
The weather was perfect. The hiking was strenuous at times, like the day we hiked to Emory Peak. The first time I went to the summit in 1990 I was 20 years younger. This time I was in better shape. This time we saw less than a dozen people on the trail, all day. And that was the most people we saw on any day on any trail. So the traffic jams of Yosemite and Yellowstone, well, they just don’t make it down to the Big Bend.
The light, oh the light. Daylight, twilight, midnight light, oh so very wonderful. I was testing a new camera, one that shoots in a square format. Yes, a digital camera that sells for under $500 and crops the image in a square. I have my Rolleiflex groove on again! But this isn’t the post to talk about that subject; it’s in the works. No, this post is how the desert helps and heals.
When I left the city, my nose was bleeding daily, sometimes for as long as 90 minutes. Blood pressure? My doc prescribed a blood pressure medicine and my already normal blood pressure lowered so much I almost passed out. How about the stress of city living? Texas, the country, is rough and harsh, but not mean. The cities, however are filled with people who I don’t know where they came from, there is so much mean-spiritedness, so much vitriol, so very toxic. I don’t know how they live with themselves. I know I cannot live with them, and even though I live in the city I cannot let them poison me any more. I will not bleed out from living amidst the hate vampires in the city.
My favorite island, then, doesn’t rely on great food or wine, but on a land, that while it can be harsh and unforgiving is never unfair or mean. It draws on the light of the heavens and all the planets and suns that spit their light on this darkened landscape at night. So bright it woke me up one night coming through the window. It is nowhere near water or my beloved Pacific or Adriatic, but there is water enough to survive. And air, what beautiful, dry, clean air, which heals with every breath.
Does it sound like I had a great week off? Well, I did. And tomorrow I jump back onto the metropolitan carousel and take a spin for another week. And I am thinking where it will spin me will be someplace I have never been to yet. But I am hopeful, I have the mountain lion roaring in the night to guide me through the brush.
And I will always have my favorite island, deep in the heart of the real Texas, waiting, anytime I, or anyone of us, need to be shown the way back home.
In memory of Melvin Croaker, A true Texan with a kind and gentle heart.