The place is whiskery with mesquite--a dry and stony world where, Sunday night, I met my very first armadillo, who snorted along in front of me like an opposum from King Arthur's Court--ugly but armored. It hasn't rained there since October, people said, and the grass--if you can call it that--is brown and dry and spikey. Nonetheless, there's a green haze over the trees across the river. Spring is coming.
Most Iowa farmers would just shake their heads at the land. It must take an entire section to feed two or three head of cattle. What they might forage, they likely shouldn't eat. If this is the land that fed Texas cattle, it's no wonder the Lakota didn't like what they saw when the government paid them for the land with a half a herd of scrawny longhorns. It's land you can't do a thing with.
But for one long sweet weekend, it seemed almost like heaven. Cell phones don't work, and there's no internet connection, if you can imagine. This place is smack dab in the middle of what Texans call "the hill country," on some obscure but gorgeous spot on the Frio River--takes forever to get there and you have literally have to ride in the flow before you do.
A bunch of us got together last weekend as we do every year. If I say the place is inhospitable, I mean it--even the Frio River had to cut out a place in that hardscrabble land.
Fellowship is a nice word that's gone bad because it feels like a starched collar. But fellowship is what we did--we laughed and talked, prayed and sang, read poems and short stories and novel excerpts, ate well, and hiked when the sun shone. When I left Iowa early Friday morning, the temperature was -7. On Saturday afternoon, in the Texas hill country, it was 70. But when I say it was warm, it's a metaphor. I read a story I finished just last week. Went well. There's nothing quite like confirmation for what comes deeply and not always easily from one's own holy of holies, especially when that confirmation comes from those who know and care.
So this morning, back in the basement, I've got no problem with thanksgiving. This morning, I'm thankful--oh, so very thankful--for getting away.
Now don't I wish I didn't have any classes this morning.