I apparently brake for books.
Valentine, TX looks like a ghost town, but the sign said it had over 170 people. Nothing fronting the highway looked functional. Then I saw the Valentine Library, and it was open! It had two lions flanking the front steps, just like the New York City main library.
The books were mostly older, and I could have stayed longer. My storage unit is largely taken up with old books, as I’m a little obsessed with forgotten perspectives. The back rooms were for computers, with a tiny room just for kids’ books.
This part of Hwy. 90 is west Texas ranch country, with tin roofs, shimmering grass, oak dotted green hills and angular, low mountains. Not the sere tedium I expected. A land of summer rains.
Janet is now an anomaly, and instead of the ‘red state’ suspicion I was a little afraid of, attracts curiosity, admiration, and wistfulness. She says ‘wanderer’ I suppose, and sometimes the mystique makes for strange interactions. The old man in Arizona who offered me breakfast, then to buy a house in Sierra Vista if I stayed. He said ‘You will not be disappointed.’ The waitress in Alpine, TX with warm and sad black eyes who was happy to see me and solicitous about my comfort, and who said, quietly, ‘come back’. I nodded, but couldn’t look back into her face. They wouldn’t want me if I stayed, anymore than I want to stay, but I feel their longing. I have it too.
Then the land became flat and empty. We crossed the Pecos River, passed Judge Roy Bean’s house, and landed at Seminole State Park. This, I learned, is the Chihuahuan Desert, and from the lack of visible human activity, is regarded as good for about nothing. But it had a friendly, light blue sky, dotted with little puffy white clouds, and we were just the second campers to show up. The only sound was made by many different bird calls. A walk amongst the beautiful purple sage, orange and yellow butterflies dipping and weaving back and forth, led to a bench and a sunset.
I suppose I am, in fact, homeless, but I’m not exactly a wanderer. I know what I want, and where I want to go. I am so very grateful to be able to take the risk to try to get there.