Tuesday, February 17, 2009

each time you'd pull down the driveway i wasn't sure when i would see you again...
On a rainy and wet Friday the thirteenth, the four of us are cruising on into Galveston. Come in on the far end of the seawall, working our way west along the strips of restaurants, hotels, and surf shops. Camper trailers lined the parking spaces along the edge of the seawall. This was a sight previously unseen in Galveston, hard hit by hurricane of late.
yours was a twisted blind-sided highway no matter which road you took then
We were headed for a little place we call "just past reality". See, what you do is you drive down the seawall until you come to an odd little tollbooth in the middle of nowhere. You go on past the tollboth, over the bridge, and drive until you are just past reality, then hang a left and find a beach....
This is what we remembered, three of us girls. Trips out here with boys of significance. A bonding voyage. Pomagranetes, cintronella candles, incense and wine. Now we have grown up concerns and turn to each other in the wildness of nature and the rolling surf.
oh you set up your place in my thoughts moved in and made my thinking crowded
These girls I have known and loved for years. I remember befriending Pegah when I saw other girls, my friends at the time, bullying her. They called her a liar, and a theif, and I wanted to get to know her, because that must have been difficult to deal with, especially when you feel alone. That was eighteen years ago. 1991. I know she is none of those things. She is one of the most genuinely sweet people I have ever met. And just gorgeous.
Lara I had met on the cross country team that same year, or maybe '92. We had several random moments together in high school and the start of college. We lived in the same town while in college and our paths crossed only right at the beginning and right at the end. Then we split for opposite coasts. We both returned home, and ran into each other at the Wal-Mart I frequent some four or five years ago. We've been inseperable ever since, and I love her dearly more each day.
Jennifer is my "sister", my "live in liver", and has been a constant friend since we met at the beginning of college, when we were twenty. She has always understood me best of anyone I knew. In our early twenties, we lived together.
When I was home from college on the weekends, I partied with Pegah. We were all about the nightclubs. Jennifer and I were off on a hippie trip back in College Station. I still had the beaded curtain when I moved off to California...and I had it this night, in my pack...
now we're out in the back with the barking dogs
My big plan was to pull out the curtain and we could use it to draw ourselves a circle of stars, in which we would sit and join together in our mutual energies to help each other. Pegah was going through a rough time, and we've always had those kind of dark energies in our life. We were there to help her, and help each other.
We expected things to be different in Galveston, considering the damage from Hurricane Ike. As we drove west and started to leave "reality" behind, the beach houses looked washed clean to me. They were structurally sound and seemed to be smiling in the light. Jennifer had a completely different perspective, though.
We made a stop at some very odd area just before the bridge, and the toll booth we remember. It was a long walk down a pier that just ended with open hanging ends on both sides, about a six foot drop to the sand below (I was going to attempt to do an earthcache there in the dark). As we turned back, Jennifer talked about how spooky this place was, and we were all a little creeped out when we got in the car.
Then we drove over the bridge, a long trip in misty fog, and hit a "Road Closed" sign. We couldn't get "Just Past Reality" because the road no longer existed. We all kept our eyes peeled for any "Ike Zombies" out there. We were certain they were hiding behind the sand dunes.
Finally we found a secluded beach on which to lay our blanket. Lara had brought the wood, and Jennifer made the fire, with her little headlight on and looking all "Jibber". Jennifer hustled that fire, all eight months preggy, and wasn't afraid to bust that baby belly out when the cops showed up...three times. Four different cars. The first time, I was pulling up my shorts, having been in the process of changing. He drove right up and told us the neighbors would call to complain about the fire. The second and third were buddies, and when Pegah and I got up the nerve to go talk to them, they were laughing and telling us to go on back, we were cool, they talked to the first guy, and now were just hanging out there. Then Pegah and I disagreed the whole way back on if they were saying we could or couldn't have a fire. We just didn't see it the same way.
my heart the red sun
When we were finally settled, Pegah and Lara went to check out the water. Pegah was in her element, I understand. Jennifer and I sat on the blanket together and started singing songs. We were singing old school shit, back from when we first started hanging out, songs from our adolescent youth. We both had a latent Indigo Girls stage. We sang our favorite, "Ghost", then made our way to Simon and Garfunkel, "Homeward Bound," a round of "Romeo and Juliet". She looked so beautiful and "her self" in the moment, and I wondered at how amazing it was that we could still connect like this. How many years we've been singing the same songs.
I ask her what she wants to sing next, and she thinks.
Then she turns to me and says, "What about Mystery?"
It's a song from an Indigo Girls album from 1994, the one I listened to so much freshman year of college, around the time I met her. It is one I can't remember off hand, but know I sing along when it is on.
So she starts it....(lyrics throughout, bold italic)
your heart the moon clouded
When the girls came back, we sat around the fire for a little bit. Lara and I went out to the water. The moon hid behind clouds and peeked out every so often. We waited for it. Lara swore it was beautiful. Meanwhile, the waves kept coming. The shadows of the night air were caught underneath the curl of the foam, and I kept expecting the shadows to continue once the water hit the land, hit the groud running, but they never did, and it was catching me off balance. It was freaking me out. The moon came out from behind the cloud, and I tried to record forever the image of it shining over the waters with the shadows that kept coming, but the camera is in imperfect visual recorder. To the left is how the picture turned out. A blank nothing. Only space held together with little flecks of light. With the flash, it is not much better, filled with "orbs" or some such shit.
I could go crazy on a night like tonight
I pulled out the star curtain, which turned out to be a mess we had to unravel. Meanwhile, another cop pulled up, and shone his lights on us. I was getting freaked out because I kept saying we were going to put the fire out, but Pegah was insistent on keeping the fire going. I kept pouring our water on it when the cops showed up. It is just like us, with me trying to put on the pretense of obeying the rules and her rebelling.
when summer's beginning to give up her fight
But it was the fire that wouldn't die, and in the end, only finished with Jennifer wetting the coals, then covering it with wet sand. And during our time there, we shared energy, passed along affirmations, both for ourselves and for each other, and set goals for the beginning of the new moon, a new phase, a time of growth and new beginnings.
and every thought's a possibility
Together, my friends and I, we dreamed dreams. We shed inhibitions. We talked about what makes us most vulnerable, and how to combat it. We called to the guardians of the watchtowers, and we bid them hail and farewell. I shall never forget the waving arms of four beautiful women wishing away the spirits of the night.
and voices are heard but nothing is seen
And in the end, we battled the sleep monster while driving back to the hotel through the fog of forgotten dreams and reconfirmed visions. We looked around the town for a place to get Jennifer a snack, but all we got for our large circle was to end up back at the beginning, at an Exxon station.
why do you spend this time with me maybe an equal mystery
Most of my friends know how I lament the loss of friendships. Why? I always wonder. How can you be friends with someone for any length of time and then just let that go? I understand that people change, but underneath it all, aren't we still the same people we have always been? Perhaps, though, the bigger mystery is not why friendships end, but why they don't. People don't change, but they evolve, and continuing to maintain friendships involves work, and dedication, and understanding. It involves trust that the person you have evolved into is still someone the old friend can respect and love. In the face of changing life situations, religious beliefs, moral viewpoints, education levels, interests, family changes, children, spouses, how is it that fifteen years later, we can be sitting on the same beach singing the same songs we know by heart as we did when we met?
But I still believe in the importance of history. That's why I hang on. It's like hanging on to it makes it real.
so what is love then
is it dictated or chosen
does it sing like the hymns of 1000 years
or is it just pop emotion
and if it ever was here and it left,
does it mean it was never true ,
and to exist it must elude,
is that why i think these things of you ?
And I am glad we had this night. I will have that image etched in my mind always of Jennifer's singing face in the moonlight, of the feel of the firm beach beneath my body, the incredible feeling of peace when we all closed our eyes and held our minds open to the night, releasing all the negativity pent up inside, of Lara's hair shining with mist in the moonlight.
but i could go crazy on a night like tonight when summer's beginning to give up her fight and every thought's a possibility and voices are heard but nothing is seen why do you spend this time with me maybe an equal mystery
oh but you like the taste of danger
We had little bites from sand fleas or something akin when we got back to the hotel, dirty and dusty and dog-gone tired. I think I was snoring before Jennifer and Lara got done with showers. I am so sad we didn't get to sample the liquor Pegah brought from home that I had chilled. I didn't want to bring it to the beach because I had a bag full of candle holders and was afraid it would break. Maybe I was afraid to be responsible for something so fragile.
it shines like sugar on your lips
In the morning, we went down to get some breakfast. It was all too sweet for Jennifer, who has to watch her sugar. As we ate, she decided to see if having a piece of toast with peanut butter would work for her. I don't think it worked out that way. We drove down the seawall going back towards the Strand, and saw people outside everywhere in green and black hats, pulling carts of beads down the sidewalks, climbing out of camp trailers.
and you like to stand in the line of fire just to show you can shoot straight from your hip
Mardi Gras Galveston was about to kick off with the parade on a chilly and misty Saturday morning. We saw the floats as they pulled into position as we drove out into the residential area.
As we drove through the Galveston area, we saw some places that were still badly damaged. Some places that would never reopen. Some were vestiges of Galveston's heyday, like the Flagship Hotel, right off the water.
In the end, I felt like this place had been through a trial by fire, and had come out on the other side stronger. I had told the girls a story I read on the geocaching logs for nearby caches, a story about a man and a woman surviving the storm by clinging to the rafters of their attic. That's bravery, or insanity. I can't imagine risking your life to stay with your home during that storm.
there must be a 1000 things you would die for
i can hardly think of two
but not everything is better spoken aloud
not when i'm talking to you
On our way out of town, we answered some questions for a couple of virtual caches. One was at the Bishop's Palace, which to me looked the same as it did before the storm, except cleaner and maybe with a couple broken windows. The other led us to the ruins of the pirate Jean Lafitte's house, called "Maison Rouge" in its time. Lafitte was asked to leave the US, and fled to the Yucatan. Now his once grand house, with lots of booty, was a few crumbling concrete slabs with a little wild garden of vines running through it. A house nearby had a shed slung carelessly over the fence. The winds of change had certainly bounced things around.
oh the pirate gets the ship and the girl tonight
breaks a bottle to christen her
basking in the exploits of her thief
she's a very good listener
And somehow that makes me think of ourselves, much older than we used to be when we haunted these same parts. I think of Jennifer as a little girl coming here to visit her grandmother. To her, the city is irrevokably changed.
To me, it looks like a stronger version of its former self, maybe with some signs of past distress still, but railing, sallying forth, pushing into a future unknown.
Kind of like us women.
and maybe that's all that we need
is to meet in the middle of impossibility
standing at opposite poles
equal partners in a mystery
we're standing at opposite poles
equal partners in a mystery

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Austin (Part 3)
This day was not that productive in terms of geocaching. It had a lot to do with children not wanting to get up in the morning. I didn't get them out of the hotel until after nine. We had plans to go straight to Diane's house, an old friend I have reconnected with over Facebook. She and her husband just bought a house on the north side of town, and invited us over for blueberry pancakes and poached pears this morning.
In typical fashion, I was late and harried, and the children were all over the place. I really wanted to get deeper into a conversation Diane, Geoff, Carrie and I were having about art, legacy, and humanity, but the children were making it very difficult. They had found the hole in her backyard fence and were trying to turn the gas pipe into a gun.
So we left, and headed first to Wooten Park to find a cache and play on the playground, and then to an area I had been eyeing on the map, Covert Park, or the Mount Bonnell. This summit was tucked back in a neighborhood with nice houses, big hills, and nice views, and is where I imagined the Hollywood stars who come to Austin have their houses.
It was a short hike (0.15 from the trailhead or thereabouts) up a rocky trail that led to a summit and overlook area. The summit was a virtual cache, and there was a traditional cache off a side trail. The children kept wanting to walk closer to the edge, in typical fashion. The oldest one walks right into danger and the little one follows him. It's a pattern I'd like stopped.
However, the view was very appealing. We liked looking down at the houses below. We kept getting surprised with how grand and impressive they were. All had cute little boathouses built on the waters edge, with shiny fancy boats bobbing around inside. In our minds, we imagined living inside a house like that, or what the people were liked that lived there, or how fun it would be to be riding those boats. We watched the boats zip by and imagined the fun in luxury.
After this two cache adventure, we took a trail shortcut that took us right to where our truck was parked, but on a higher terrain level. As I debating on who to send first down the rocky edge at the last six feet or so, a woman I had seen picnicking earlier offered to help me, and helped hoist Kaleb down, which made things a lot easier for me. This offering of kindness from a stranger really touched me.
Then we started making our way back to Camp Mabry to exchange vehicles with my husband, but on the way, realized we were close to another geocache I really wanted to get. This one was called "Art Star" and was at the Laguna Gloria art museum.
It was a very interesting place. We walked from a studio down a paved trail along a large body of water - a cove of some sort. The local flora was more like Florida than Texas, all large-leaved wet plants and a general mugginess. This may just have been the impending rain and resulting moisture. Lights were strung along trees and over benches decorated in whimsical artistic fashion.
The little one was starting to get tired, and of course asked to be carried the whole way (which, at about 0.30 mile round trip walk over varied terrain, was not something I enjoyed nor would constantly do, which led to meltdowns).
We eneded up in a grassy area surrounded by woods. In the middle of the grassy area stood this piece.
The cache page suggested you bring a piece of art to trade in the cache, and we had brought some drawings done in colored pencil by the boys while we were at Diane's. In the end, we decided not to trade our drawings. We took a back way out, which led to the rear of the main house, with statues surrounding a waterfall. I really enjoyed the scenery around here and would have enjoyed the whole thing more if the toddler hadn't been clinging to me the whole time.
After this, I had some kind of meltdown when my husband and I traded out cars. I was hormonal, tired, hungry, irritated, lost, confused, and generally stressed out. I did feel better after having a cry about it.
After that, we ended up at a park that no one wanted to leave. It was just a small playground area with a cache nearby, and a limestone kiln to look at and check out. However, despite being a diminutive area, it helped calm down our trip in powerful ways.
After this, we drove around Austin one more time. There were many, many caches to be gotten, but I didn't feel like doing any of the, and we checked out the river from near the Congress Street bridge before moving out, doing a few little cultural type geocaches on the way out of town. There was an ABC Challenge going on in Central Austin and we did some recently placed in a cemetary involving the rare letters of "Y" and "X".
Heading out of Austin back towards Spring, we managed to find several more short quick geocaches, bringing the day's total to 13. A decent number, but nothing compared to the find counts of some of those at the top of the game. Thirty for our trip, though, which brought us ahead a couple notches on the geocacher rankings. We saw a lot of cool places we never knew about, and experienced the town and surrounding areas while here geocaching, and it is something I would do again and again.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Austin (Part 2)
It's midday on a Saturday in Austin, and the weather is just right. It is right around seventy five, with a light breeze blowing, slightly overcast. Most importantly, not humid, and that is what makes it perfect Texas weather. The summers are like a warm blanket heavy across your chest, but spring days are lovely.
We've found four caches, which is not a good amount, seeing as how we've been driving around since eight. We also stopped at the Texas Memorial Museum, an Austin tradition of ours. This museum is right along the edge of the campus of the University of Texas. On weekends like this, both parking and museum admission is free, and it has some of the coolest dinosaur bones ever. This is right up the oldest son's alley, who is an amateur paleontologist. We also walk by a statue of galloping mustangs, which appeals to the youngest son and I who share a love for horses.

In between the horse statue and the museum exhibit of glass encased Texas dinosaur footprints from the Jurassic period lies a geocache called Texas Travel Bug University Part Deux. I've actually been to it three or four times now, to exchange traveling items (like this day, when I exchanged one travel bug for antoher). It is a quick trail into a wooded area that is just mere steps from the bone-shaped benches for children. We've been to the museum many times now, but previously had not viewed the Hall of Texas Wildlife. That was interesting.

After this, we had made it over to a gourmet coffeeshop (Jimmy John's) just off MLK near campus. We listened to cellar music as we ate our fancy sandwiches, chips, and lemonade. After lunch, it was time to get serious about caching. We headed straight for the Capitol, where the top picture was shot. There were several virtuals in the area regarding Texas history. We went to various statues and answered questions, such as "How long is the Great Walk?" The boys loved the cannons in the fields around, and in fact little K had a temper tantrum after having to leave one, to go to this statue (which was not a virtual geocache, but simply something that caught my eye):

We also found interesting areas of town, things we had never noticed before. We were headed down Barton Springs towards Zilker Park and found this random piece of art:
The Beer Tree. Go figure.

Finally, we made it into the park, and managed to find the perfect parking spot for our next adventure (which wasn't hard, since it was in the very back of the lot for Barton Springs).We walked about three hundred feet northwest up a little rocky trail across the street from the parking lot, and on the left of the trial, we found a geocache that contained a thermometer, a thermometer which we were going to use to perform the next steps of the earthcache located at Barton Springs, The Limestone Manifold. Centex geocachers voted it the Best Earthcache in 2007.

We had to take the thermometer over to the Barton Springs swimming area and take the temperature of the water. We had to submit photos of us performing that task, and also of the result. In addition, we needed to post photos of us at this plaque about the Springs, and answer a question about the aquifer that required some critical thinking skills.

I was excited to get this cache. I have wanted to get this one for a long time but never had the time or patience. It was a struggle this day nonetheless. AJ was extremely devoted to a "lab" task inside the cave-like "Splash" exhibit attached to the Springs. Kaleb really would rather us have gone to the playground. Basically, though, they were pretty good guys.

Some lady offered to take the picture and then told AJ she was a teacher, and she wanted to tell him he was a wonderful little man who would go on to do great things one day. AJ replied, "I know", in an agreeable tone, and I found it hilarious. Kaleb walked up to a picnic table full of older people and asked them if he could sit with them. They, being mostly grandmotherly types, just thought he was the cutest thing, and we ended up chatting for a bit as Kaleb enjoyed their company.
Finally we got on the move again. After getting turned around and around chasing one cache I haven't been able to find a time or two led to the same fate (darn it! I needed that E, too, for this ABC Challenge they are having in Central Texas. Right now I have 15 of 26, after the 30 finds this weekend. Almost ALL the caches I found on Saturday began with T. Like this cache).Oh man, and then we ended up on the "Lower East Side", and where Sixth Street turns into Pecan Street, with nods to historical interests. We ended up in the Texas State Cemetary, where we have to answer questions regarding the graves and memorials to different heros in Texas History. For instance, we had to name the four adjectives used on the headstone to describe this guy:

Around this time, K fell asleep and A was whining to go back to the hotel room. After a few more random gropings of the wilderness and art objects in the lower east side, we made it back to the hotel.
Our total for the day was 17 caches. This was a pretty good number, although not our highest day. We did have lots of stops and really spent time at each cache.
I considered it a Good Day.
The free margaritas that evening were a nice topping. Next time, day two....

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

It's no secret Austin is our favorite place to go geocaching. Maybe it's the hills, the varied terrain, the creativity of the hides, or maybe it is just that it is a neat town to get lost following a compass in. We always have a good time going there and discovering new places about the town that we never knew about while pursuing our favorite hobby.
Which is why, since my husband started working there every other weekend, I have been bugging him to let us come up with him and geocache the town while he is at work. Several disputes later, we finally got our trip.
It was a hard won trip. He looks forward to weekend getaways without the kids to just chill out and watch basketball games without interruptions. We got into a heated disagreement about when it was acceptable for me to come up. He insisted I drive up Saturday, I insisted Friday, and we were both being just as stubborn about it. I really wanted to get started caching FIRST thing in the morning Saturday, because I knew a trip to the Texas Memorial Museum and a visit to some old friends would be in order, and I wanted to get in as much caching as possible in between.
In the end, I got my way, but I am not really sure it helped me much. The kids woke up at five thirty in the morning with my husband and did not want to go back to bed, so at seven am sharp, we went down to be the first ones in line for the hotel breakfast buffet.
Guess what? The Special Olympics were going on this same weekend here in Austin, and many of the competitors were staying in the hotel we were in. Maybe beating everyone to breakfast was part of their strategy, too, because there was a long line ahead of us...and it moved very very slowly. It was tragic and comical all at the same time. I know I should leave this alone, but the text messages I sent to my husband while we ate were cracking us both up....Suffice to say, waiting in that line with two young boys by myself was not the most fun.
Finally we got on our way. The first cache I chose was a day-before decision to add to my list - one only a couple miles north of our hotel at Gus Garcia Recreational Area. I was expecting a park, but I should know by know that in Austin speak, a park doesn't mean a place with a playground, but an outdoor area for hiking and enjoying nature. There was an indoor gym that we walked around along the path to get to the cache.
And I need to quit not taking the stroller out with me, because wouldn't you know it, the toddler always starts asking to be carried about 500 feet into anything. This was sort of a frustrating walk with him being a human leg warmer or pressed against my chest. Luckily, on the way back, he was willing to follow brother (into danger), since that wonderful hotel breakfast was starting to hit me in all the wrong places.....
It was a really nice little cache, though, and a great "park" to enjoy.
After this, it was a round and round the town, following the compass every which way. I really need to get some good mapping software and go paperless. I get out and then I get confused about where to go next and what is the best way to get there.
Frustration. In our roundabout travels chasing caches and slowly heading southest, we did accidentally stumble upon Bevo's trailer....
Now, you should know that I am the only Aggie among my high school friends. A "Good Ag" would have all kinds of jokes or comments to make about this beef wagon. But I'll save it....
We found a cache nearby that had eluded me before, and I couldn't shut the lid after without taking the bubbles out of the container, so we just had to take them with us to our next cache, which was at Waterloo Park near the Capitol Building. It was a windy day and that made it perfect for blowing bubbles in the grassy stretches of the park. Which we did. For way too long.
The park itself was very interesting. It had all kinds of interesting statues and artwork. It also had all kinds of interesting "residents". Apparently it draws more than its fair share of bums, and there was a fair amount of litter around. It made me kind of sad to see this beautiful stretch of creek littered with trash, but I made a game out of trying to capture the beauty of the park with my camera without getting any of the trash in the picture. Here are some examples:
Well, you know me, I always have more to say. With our computer having been at the shop, though, for more than two weeks, everyone else in the house is dying to get online as well, and I could spned a lot fo time telling the stories and posting the pictures. So I think I will make this the first installment of at least a few entries about the fabulous things we saw while caching in Austin.