I returned from a mini honeymoon in Spicewood, TX, yesterday. New landscapes always help me break out of a writing rut, which is what I’ve been in lately, especially after working from home since July.
For the past couple of weeks though, I’ve been workshopping poems one-on-one with a close friend, and I can’t help but feel like I’m writing the same thing over and over again.
A lot of my work is centered around Louisiana and the collective trauma of the natural disasters that we endure time and time again here. This hurricane season provided a lot of fuel for that, as did the flash floods; however, I don’t always want to write from that headspace. It’s draining and often feels like cutting open an old wound, which is why I sometimes unwittingly begin relying on familiar images/lines or have trouble forming anything to say at all or making natural transitions from line to line.
Traveling always seems to help with that predicament though, particularly when seasons change.
I guess I’ve always been fairly introspective so I don’t require the life experience and day-to-day interactions so many of us are lacking in today’s Covid climate in order to write. But I do sometimes need a change of scenery. In fact, many of poems are written in gas station parking lots from New Orleans to Austin.
It brings up a lot for me, especially that difficult time post-Katrina when my mother and I were going from our new home in Houston back to the house in New Orleans just to gut and sell the place. I know I-10 like the back of my hand now. But passing through Lake Charles, which got hit by 2 hurricanes this year, really got to me. The familiar blue-tarp neighborhoods, endless debris, and power trucks made me feel like I was 15 years old again sitting in my empty lime green bedroom.
Then the landscape began to transform into something else entirely. Spicewood is nestled in the Hill Country about 45 minutes outside of Austin. It’s remote and desert-like with hills, shrub, cacti, and lots of wildlife—very different from where I live. Yet the storms still seemed to follow me to the desert. It’s a familiar pattern in my life, the same way Hurricane Rita followed me to Texas after Katrina. Inescapable.
That was still inspiring in a way though. We were there a few nights before the nearby cacophony of coyotes began. I’ve been around them enough to know how close they are from their wails. Still, I remember the sharp pang of fear and rushing my small dog into the house we occupied. They were still a ways off and few in number, but I didn’t want to run the risk of him becoming coyote bait.
I’m reminded of the time, back when I lived in Boulder, CO, and hiked regularly, when a coyote sidled up right next to me, and I thought, “Whose dog is out here roaming around alone in mountain lion/bear country?” I went to coax it toward me, and immediately realized my mistake (LOL). It was alone and didn’t pay me any mind though, scampering off somewhere in the tall grass. There were bigger predators to worry about out there.
The coyotes in the south though, are bigger and less scrawny in my opinion, maybe because they’re the apex predator down here, and they definitely understand their value in numbers. I once saw security footage of one climbing a 20-ft fence at the Air Force base here in Bellechase. It was massive, and stuck its paws through the loops of the fence to climb over. People in Colorado might’ve actually admired its ability to scale such an ascent.
When I was growing up though, a pack of wild dogs (not to be confused with coyotes) attacked the livestock at our school, taking down a full-grown llama and a several-hundred-pound potbellied pig named Petunia. I guess there are all sorts of things lurking in the untamed dark.
In Spicewood, we saw deer damn dear constantly with zero sense of self preservation or fear of humans. I sure as hell wasn’t about to find out where the coyotes stood on that front.
There was supposed to be an epic meteor shower our last night out there, but of course, it rained and the sky remained cloudy through the next day when we left. The fire pit, transcendent bbq (Opie’s Barbecue is life changing), and breathtaking views from the back porch and drives into town made up for it though. In any case, it was nice to touch a bit of wildness for a few days, write some newly inspired poems, and (sort of) forget all that’s gone wrong this year. That and I’m a huge fan of Buc-ees. We must’ve stopped at 5 of them of the way there and back. Now the writing bug is back!