I was filled terror that I would never be able to write another thing. That brought on depression, and I spent a couple of days agonizing and repeating this mantra: It will be okay, Beth. It’s okay. This has happened before and it’s always okay.
“Yes, but WHEN will it be okay?” my inner critic whined. Whatever it is that you love to do, picture losing that and you’ll get the idea.
Next to the window in my bedroom is a ceniza I watch every day. It’s a tiny piece of the natural world, but some days it’s all I have to hang onto. So I was thinking that beyond the ceniza are trees. Beyond the trees are mountains. Beyond the mountains are more mountains. That alone is reason to hope.
I love the mountains around Alpine and also the Davis Mountains. West Texas mountains are my thing. They are all magical in different ways and for different reasons. Sometimes I drive around just to look at them and be inspired. I pull off the road to gawk. I climb them in my mind because I have done that before and those places are catalogued in my head. There are times I can’t recall what I did yesterday, but name a hike and I can give you little bitty details about it. In a way, I suppose, I’m kidding myself because every hike is different every time. Things change constantly and yet they remain steadfastly the same. But I digress.
As mountains go, if you want the Hard Stuff, you have to go south in Brewster County until you see the bare rock sticking up in the hazy distance. The southern mountains are more jagged and striking and not describable in any way that does them justice. I try again and again but I fall short.
What I decided I needed was a good strong dose of the Hard Stuff. I called my gracious friend who lives in the backcountry of Terlingua Ranch and invited myself for the Thanksgiving weekend. When I whined that I was unable to write and would probably never write again, she laughed. “You crazy old woman; come on.” She’s gotten used to me. I know she must get sick of me and my whiny rants but she loves me anyway. I’m thankful for friends like her.
I left Alpine on Thanksgiving Day. It was mid-afternoon, but the lighting was perfect. Only sunrise or sunset would’ve made the scenery more beautiful. It was one of those clear, sun-filled days when you think you could see into next week if you squinted hard enough.
As I flew past the Border Patrol checkpoint, I started trying to write a column in my head. But alas, I had really lost it, whatever “it” is.
A lot of people live in my head. They give their wildly varying opinions about things and chatter about this and that. Among them is a sane, soft-spoken, reasonable woman. She has been with me since as far back as I can remember, but I seldom shut up and listen to her. On that day she offered sound advice. “You don’t have to write about anything. Stop trying to force it. Just enjoy what you see before you and allow it to fill you up.” And just like that, my writer self was on the mend. There was nothing wrong with me that a dose of South County scenery wouldn’t cure and my sane woman had always known that.
Far across the expanse of desert, I watched the play of light on the buttes and mountains and canyons of the badlands around Lajitas. I thought about the first time I saw the Big Bend Country. I arrived so full of the things that don’t matter and so empty of the things that do. I knew I was a mess, but I had no idea what to do about it. I needed something and my search had brought me to Big Bend National Park. My sane woman was excited on the long drive in. When she saw the Chisos Mountains, she knew I was onto something big.
At Panther Junction I tumbled out of the car, gazed up in wonder, and took a deep breath. Sane Woman said, “Stop beating up on yourself! Pay attention to what you see and feel. Let it fill your heart and soul as well as your eyes. You are going to be fine.”
She was right, you know. If only I would listen to her.