New Mexico into Texas
2/19/2020 – Las Vegas, NM
We loved finding the Travelers Café on the square of Las Vegas, New Mexico. The manager, for example. We didn’t get her name, but we did watch the precision of interaction among everyone on duty while we were there. Flawless. The manager said there were plenty of times things were off, but that all in all they were able to go with the flow of coffee, small meals and humanity. Exquisite.
Then, while Mary was waiting outside the restroom door, she overheard a conversation between another waiting woman and an older gentleman. “I’ve seen you and your wife in here off and on and always wanted to say how much I appreciate the way you take care of each other.” She hesitated, “I don’t want to make you feel awkward or anything, but I’ve wanted to say something for a while.” The man replied, “That’s who I’m waiting for.” He pointed to the door. “We’ve been married for 53 years.” The restroom door opened and out stepped a delicate woman with ear-length gray hair straight as sunbeams. Her husband invited her to show us her shirt. She looked haltingly down and pointed to the light pink script on the lavender fabric. “Old age isn’t for sissies.”
When Mary was six years old, her family moved to Sweetwater, TX. For the next four years, West Texas was home. There was the rattlesnake roundup, and there was drilling for oil beneath rickety metal derricks. Sheep shearing, rodeos, red dust storms and Sunday school. This stop on the road trip we were welcomed by two ranch families. Peggy and Joe Maddox, and Kathy Dickson. The last time Mary had seen these truly fine people, she was 11.
To our questions, Peggy and Joe told of their work with regenerative agricultural practices over the past 40 years. Kathy has joined in leasing her ranch land for cattle ranching in the way of wholistic range management. Then Peggy and Kathy have established and sustained an educational nonprofit: Kids on the Land, a lively and powerful program for public school children to come from all over Texas to learn from the land itself.
Besides working with the land, Peggy and Joe dance. Joe plays golf. Kathy has been practicing and teaching yoga since the late 70s. We caught up over dinner at Skeets in Sweetwater. Since high school, maybe before, Joe has known the man who established this diner and the one in Snyder. Kathy turned to Gary and encouraged him to try the chicken fried steak – “Best anywhere.” He ate the whole thing, French fries and all. Now there’s your cross-cultural adventure.
2/22/2020 Sherman, TX
People who live in Grayson County Texas know wind and hot sun, they know mockingbirds and abandoned grain elevators and strip malls and the yawning beauty of sunset over the wide stretch of Lake Texoma. They love their home. And the people who came to talk with us all thought the same thing when they heard the word, climate – CHANGE.
We sat in an art gallery, a restoration effort on the part of one Sherman citizen, Ruth, who has devoted herself to reclaiming and restoring this long-vacant building just off the square for office space, meeting space, and local art. Attention turned to things that are working. Catherine spoke of the statewide policy related to designating land as wildlife preservation areas. She has 12 acres near town, and is thinking about preservation. The state designation requires the presence of wild nature – animal, bird, insect, plant – along with the landowner engaging in simple preservation and monitoring efforts. “Walking around your land to see what needs shoring up,” she explained – “making sure the wild things have what they need is monitoring. And planting grasses and shrubs indigenous to this landscape is preservation.”
2/23/2020 Denton, TX
We arrived at a small Presbyterian Church to be welcomed by the youth. Mostly untapped by the social ecologies around them, these middle and high schoolers generously held forth their natural power – the untarnished expression of their human nature. Lexie goes outside every chance she gets. She takes anyone who will go along but is happy to go alone. “Because I’m never alone,” she said.
Every one of the Eight Master Lessons of Nature showed up in the words of these young people. They live in despair and fury right next to resilience, efficiency and the balance of care and agency. Their request of adults is to get serious and take action. Julia says, “We know we can’t say, ‘Do it now’ and expect that to happen. But we do expect big positive change to kick into high gear as soon as possible.” Nika voiced another request. “Adults ask us what we think, but then they don’t listen to what we say. They tell us our ideas matter, but they don’t support our ideas or initiatives in any real way. So, we stop. We’re getting two different messages and it is an awful reminder that we have no power.”
Joey lifted the group a bit when he talked about how he and his close friends talk about climate breakdown, how they look for facts and talk about them with anyone who will listen. “For now, that and picking up trash are two things we can do.” Tabby responded, “It’s so hard when you feel all alone with this climate mess. I know I can surrender and just do my homework. But I want to do more.” The ideas came fast after that. Ideas for finding other kids to help make signs or go talk to city commissioners. “We can’t vote,” Tabby said, “but there are other things we can do.” In the end, these youth made clear that they have energy and ideas, but on top of that, they have a willingness to join forces with Boomers and other adults who will listen and, together with the young people, get busy.