Winds of Change

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On the hearth of my fireplace sits a clear gooseneck bottle with four artificial cotton stems.  A few weeks ago the urge hit me to totally change my eclectic decor in the living room to a Texas theme.  It was just a matter of time that my Great State affections would manifest themselves in my home.  

Recently one morning I opened up the front door, steaming black coffee in hand – I like to porch sit first thing.  That was my intention.  And there it was.  All by itself.

“Well, hello there little tumbleweed.”

This little wheat-colored stem with a weed-blossom the shape of a firecracker rested on the cement next to my turquoise chairs.  All by its lonesome.  Just blew in from who knows where.

I picked it up and twirled it around a bit, just looking at it.  Thinking.

When I first arrived here I felt like that little tumbleweed.  All by my lonesome.  Not really a destination, but landed on the front porch of my cousin’s house, hoping I’d find my way.

The first week at my new job I was walking down the school hallway and laughed in delight when I saw my first one.  A tumbleweed as big as two tractor tires.  Huge.  A collection of a lot of little sticks and branches, all tangled up and weaved into a wiry light brown mess.  It kept hangin out by the windows.  Even bits of colored cloth, red, and white were in the mix.  It frequently rolled back and forth with the wind, bouncing from one side of the brick building to the other until the custodian took it away.

Patronize me a bit here.  This city girl came to Texas once a year.  Born here, then Dad took us on to a different life when I was just a little girl.

I loved coming to visit all of the relatives.  Memories of aunts, uncles, and tons of cousins crammed into a tiny house on Hines Street on holidays.  Drinking sweet tea thick as syrup out of jelly jars.  Laughter was contagious as the adults drank beer, played cards and yelled at us kids running through the house, ‘Stay in or out!’  We never listened.  Each visit we’d have crazy fun for about three or four days then head back to Missouri.  To wait another year.

This time I decided to stay a bit longer.  And it’s growing on me.

Wild hogs, big trucks, rattlesnakes, red lakes, Texas flags everywhere!  Chicken fried steak, jets flying over from the air base, cowboy boots, and tumbleweeds.  Rodeos and tractor pulls.  Mesquite trees.  And the gentlemen say, ‘Yes, ma’am.’

When I’ve been out in the country, visiting a friend’s happy place where she rides horses and I get to be about ten feet away from sheep, goats, and longhorns — or visit my cousin’s ranch and feast my eyes on the monstrous green cacti with yellow blooms, rocky cliffs overlooking the river — the peace is tranquillizing. I haven’t experienced that inner soothing since I drove my son up to Montana for his first year of college baseball.  Small town of Glendive, about 5000.  I still remember his bright eyes and smile as we were unloading the car and carrying his belongings to his dorm room.  In the middle of the badlands, those mountainous rock formations in the background, his face lit up, “Mom!  Mom!”

“Do you hear that!” He covered his chest with both hands.  “The quiet!  The peace!  You can almost hear the quiet, Mom.  It’s so good here.”

I do remember a relaxing, a sort of settling in my soul I’d never experienced before.  And joy remembering his excitement.  

That joy carried me through the three flights it took me to get back to Missouri.  It was going to be tough leaving him there.

Our lives had been like that twisting of the huge tumbleweed.  Just as it thought about resting a minute, it was taken captive by the wind.  We were stuck like that tumbleweed in the school yard. Tossed back and forth, skipping around and around.  Or if the wind blew hard enough beaten against the walls of the school building in that outside corridor it was stuck in.  There was one opening.  And we found it.

It’s different living in a smaller town.  In the big city  I’d drive 30 minutes to meet for lunch, or 45 minutes to a meeting.  Freeway traffic.  

It takes 2 or 3 minutes to get to most places.  I have to chuckle when I hear one of my cousins groaning about driving all the way across town maybe 10 minutes, or if I hear about a traffic backup on the radio.  Very funny.  Um, no.  You don’t really understand traffic.  I don’t miss that challenge at all.

And U-turns! The first week I was here I almost shouted at my cousin, “What are you doing!?”  as she turned into one.  I was like, “Are you crazy?  That’s illegal!”  I fully expected a cop to pull us over.

“No, cuz, you’re the one that’s crazy.  U-turns are legal here.  Try it.”

I couldn’t bring myself to do it, so one afternoon she said, “Get in this car, cuz, we’re practicin’ u-turns.”

I’m not kidding.

So if you saw two ladies drivin’ up and down the road doing u-turn after u-turn it was us.  And yes, you probably heard a few ‘Yee-Haws!’ amongst the giggles.  That’s kind of how it goes.

It’s the simple things.  Remember that.  And laugh.  Keep laughing.

As far as the tumbleweed?  I stuck it in the glass bottle with my cotton stems.  It’s happy there.  Looks quite nice.

Maybe a resemblance of all of the renewed relationships with family, new relationships with friends, coworkers, and church family – it looks quite settled in there.  At least for now.

The little tumbleweed rests.  Unless the wind blows hard enough it might just fly out of that bottle and skip on down the road.

We’ll see.

One thing I know for sure, it’s not twisted inside an entangled mess of disheveled branches, weaving every which way tighter into maelstrom.  You might have to look that word up.  I had to.  

I’ll take the peace.