Tuesday, March 02, 2010

`My Life is Here'

My former boss at Rice University in Houston writes:

“There’s a flock of cedar waxwings outside my window, and watching them, I thought of the day they came through a few years ago. I hope everything is going well for you…

“For now, I’m enjoying watching the birds. They’re all sitting at the tops of two trees in the quad now, all facing in the same direction. I love the way they fly in with so much activity, then roost and sit so still (ah—it’s raining, that’s probably why they’re roosting).”

It was Ann, three years ago this week, who called me to her office when a cedar waxwing crashed into her window. Monday’s e-mail distilled most of what I miss about the four years we lived in Texas – my boss, the university library and the birds. I had a job interview Monday afternoon – me on one side of a conference table, seven people on the other side asking questions. Among the first:

“I see from your resume you worked at Rice University. Are you, ah, ah -- a Texan?”

I assured them I was not, which prompted audible relief from the committee, but I felt a pang of guilt. I’ve come to resent kneejerk anti-Texas bias. For many in the North, the Lone Star State is a sort of home-grown Polish joke. In Texas I befriended a lot of good people, my younger sons learned to read, I started this blog and read a lot of good books. Among the latter was J.A. Baker’s The Hill of Summer. Its final sentences, a sort of valedictory, express my sentiments for Texas, a possible new job and cedar waxwings:

“My life is here, where soon the larks will sing again, and there is a hawk above. One wishes only to go forward, deeper into the summer land, journeying from lark-song to lark-song, passing through the dark realms of the owls, the fox-holdings, the badger-shires, out into the brilliant winter domain, the sea-bleak world of the hawks.”

3 comments:

William A. Sigler said...

I re-read that last paragraph about five times. That's a hell of a piece of poetry.

Yes, Texas gets a bad rap. I had just hit the Panhandle from the Oklahoma side on the way to Amarillo just after dark, driving along the vast, ridiculously windy plateau cut with escarpments and white grasses, an occasional dessicated windmill to remind one of the human dimension. I had to stop, but the only place to do so was a Route 66 gas n general relic, seemingly abandoned but lit by a single bulb. A man with his wife was inside, as if waiting, to tell me of his plans for an amusement park to re-ramp-up this tourist highway, to regale me with stories of how he was the son of Cable Hogue (of the Peckinpah movie), to offer a hand in getting me from where I was to where I needed to be. In these two I saw Texas in all its glory: big heart, big dreams, big stories, full immersion in the human drama.

I also remember how much we hated, at the customer service desk, to speak with Texans, their proclivity to think the rules didn't apply to them.

Both of these traits have something to do with the freedom from boundaries, something that lifts you up when you are there but may not, like Pearl Beer or Texas Sushi, travel very well.

Gad, another person interviewing for a job, so many people I know doing that now. Bon chance, mon savant.

Buce said...

Allow me to be the first:

I was the shadow of the waxwing slain
By the false azure in the windowpane

VN, PF

JMW said...

As someone born and partially raised on Long Island who lived in Texas for 12 years and has been back in New York for about a decade now, I relate completely to the sentiments in this post. There are plenty of things I can criticize about the state, but the knee-jerk nature you describe is so (ironically) small-minded. Nice post.