A couple of weeks ago Dave and I took a driving vacation to Big Bend. I hadn’t been there since I was probably 12 or 13 when my dad and stepmother took my stepbrother and me for our summer vacation. In fact, I hadn’t been to far West Texas in many years until I went to Alpine last summer for a writer’s retreat. During my week in Alpine, I was reminded of how lovely life can be when it slows to a snail’s pace and I was entranced by all the brochures about Big Bend, so when I returned home, I suggested Big Bend as a vacation destination.
Unfortunately, a few days into our vacation we blew-out a tire…one of those low profile tires that not just anyone has in stock or can replace. We found ourselves mostly “stuck” in a casita in Terlingua waiting for a new tire to arrive in Alpine. Instead of driving the national park, searching out easy hikes and the Boquillas border crossing, we sat on the porch of our casita and watched the resident roadrunner, caught up on some reading and napping. One day as I was surfing the web, I came across this quote, “The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected.” It was attributed to Robert Frost, but after ten or fifteen minutes of diligent research, I concluded that it originally comes from a Swedish proverb. I thought Isn’t that the truth! There are so many things I know now that I never suspected when I was young. I listed them in my head: even though you think it looks stupid, wear a hat anyway; before you buy a knick-knack, think about how much time you’ll spend dusting it; white cars show less dirt than black cars.
A couple of days later, our tire was being replaced at Oasis Tires of Alpine, and Dave and I were climbing the hill behind Sul Ross to find the famous desk a student once dragged to the top for some peace and quiet to study. As we were climbing up, I started thinking about my childhood in Midland and Odessa, Abilene and San Angelo, and how I’d always considered myself lucky for escaping West Texas as a teenager. Escaping the mesquite trees and tarantulas and dirt. Escaping the narrow-mindedness. As an adult I’ve never considered returning, other than an occasional quick visit to see family. I shrugged when Dave said he liked the way drivers coming from the opposite direction raise their index fingers in greeting as they pass by. I shook my head in disbelief when Mitch pointed out the beauty of an open pasture.As I reached the top of that hill in Alpine, it was still early morning. The breeze was cool, and as I turned in a full circle, I was stunned by the beauty of it all. As we were climbing back to the bottom, I realized what the morning never suspected. It wasn’t about hats or knick-knacks or car colors. It was about the beauty we fail to see in the places we come from. The morning never knew the beauty of mesquite trees and tarantulas and dirt. And she never realized the value of people who see the world differently but are unfailingly kind.