Texas Ash. Fraxinus albicans. There’s something about this time of year in Austin where night walks are amazing. It’s the smells, the scents, the warm, muggy breezes that carry the quixotic chemistry of life to light up my olfactory bulb, to excite my hippocampus, to carry me calmly into my strolling heaven.
It’s more than the smell of newly cut grass in this central-Austin neighborhood. It’s more than the rosebuds and tiny little chirps of night birds, the exhaust of clothes dryer vents, or fragrant honeysuckle and the weeds in the creek. It’s the Texas Ash. To be walking downwind, where it’s there and then it’s gone. It’s the hunt to get back into the thick of it, to find it again. The sudden awareness of now. Texas ash. There’s something in that flowering scent, a note of latex, a long yawn of the soul, a pungent aphrodisiac. Texas ash.
I swear, if I had land, I would plant a grove of these. When I think of moving away, I only need to smell Texas ash, and I know I’m home. This is as close as you’ll hear me rhapsodize this state, but the region gives some convincing apologies.
On Sunday, the world lost the wonder of Pam Blackmon-Bailey. After a lifelong struggle with her own body, she now rests in peace. She leaves behind her husband Craig and three teenage daughters.
Pam was one of my best friends during my time at OBU and one of the reasons I moved to Greensboro those many years ago. We met through mutual friends and over time I was moved to think of her as an amazing woman. From her steady inquisitiveness to her intuitive insights, she was always curious about other people’s lives and troubles, and when she found a solution, she insisted on helping you to find your resolution. She cared. She was inquisitive and steadfast.
I never knew a single soul who found wrong in her.
The last time I saw her was one whirlwind weekend in 1999. She was visiting her sister Stephanie in Little Rock and invited me to come up from Texarkana to hang out with her and her then-boyfriend Craig. We hung out and watched movies, went to bookstores, drank coffee, made dinner, the usual young adult stuff. I went home that Sunday not really knowing that was our last time within hugging range.
I take it for granted that most of my old friends, the ones who I cherish in memory and history, are on social media and that I keep in touch on a semi-regular basis. But I overlook the ones who aren’t there by choice until it’s too late.
You never know where life will take you. But you can know for certain who it will take you from. Don’t let them out of your sight.
What is the worth of unconditional love? It’s worth could be in its ever-presence, in the fact that it’s always available. However, you don’t have to work for it. You don’t have to earn it. You don’t pay anything for it. It’s free. So what is it worth?
Something given unconditionally is there when you deserve it, and it’s there when you don’t deserve it. It’s value does not fluctuate, therefore it is essentially valueless. It’s a given. It can be ignored.
Wouldn’t something that’s hard-won, something fought for, something earned, worth so much more?
So what is it worth?
Sometimes, I feel like I could overachieve my goals, exceed my horizons, conquer the world, write the best stories, craft the best music, win the greatest triumphs, if only I had someone to do it for. If only I had one person to impress. Not the multitude of faces all around me all day, every day — one face. One person. One partner. One desire. One love. If there was one person I was trying to impress, I think that would be enough to push myself past the friction of stasis, past the “why bother”, to get the wheels rolling, to move the world. But there is no one, just everyone. I look around my apartment and see my projects half started. Sketches, notes, ideas, fragments. Everyone is not enough. The thought of a million eyes watching means my performance is personal. But to have two of the most important eyes watching makes it personable.
It is currently 69F outside, 80F inside, and I have a box fan in the screen door to blow in the cool night air. The smell of springtime has filled my dim apartment. There’s a certain florid smell that permeates the night, and I am so in love. The night mists rise as the winds breeze in from the Gulf, bringing the smell of damp ground coming back to life. The smell of river rot, the deep, soul-churning waves of nostalgia as the blossom of trees begin to limit our views and cause us to turn away from the stars to each other. We hide away from the heavens to live it up on warm earth. We are so in love.