Owl in her nesting box

The Heart of Texas

For the first few years of our collaboration, we spent most of every summer on the road, criss-crossing the country as we traveled from art festival to gallery exhibit and back again. It wasn’t uncommon that we’d start at the Great Lakes, drive to the Atlantic Ocean, cross to the Pacific and return to Minnesota within a handful of weeks. While it had a certain ‘Circus Act’ feel to it, we savored nearly every minute of the drive while taking in the new sights, sounds, and food(!) while passing through towns, cities and regions of the country. Even though we were able to pass through, if not visit nearly every state in the lower 48, somehow Texas was not one of them. So, when we were invited to visit a couple of good friends at their ranch in Comfort, Texas, and thought about the niece and her growing family in Austin we’ve wanted to visit, we finally found the time this this spring.

Texas, Part I: Comfort, Fredericksburg and the Hill Country For years we heard about the expressive sky hovering over the rolling landscape of the Hill Country of central Texas. While there, our goal was to take in the vast and changing landscape as the light and clouds cast shadows, changing the hues and tones by the minute. Our plan was to watch this, while in the company of our friends Andy and Lucy, letting our minds amble through the subjects of conversation that good friends tend to have. When we arrived, however, our wish to spend that time while touring the landscape was quickly washed away by days of downpour the area had been waiting for all winter. While our hosts were disappointed we didn’t have the weather they hoped, we were nonetheless charmed by what we did see: the Guadalupe River, with the trees at its banks that stand and witness the rise and fall of water through ceaseless droughts and floods; a trestle of a long-ago abandoned train line that records the unrealized dreams from another era; a screech owl who held herself up to plug the hole in her nesting box to keep the cold wind and rain from chilling the eggs she’s determined to hatch. Leaves, grasses, bushes, a flock of cardinals contrasting with the overall gray – no matter the rain. We took delight in everything we saw, heartened by the fact that everything we were seeing would soon benefit from the rain they so long have needed. And since we didn’t get to see the landscape as hoped, we have an excuse to return again soon.

Caption: An abandoned Southern Pacific Railroad truss bridge (built 1900-1906), spanning the Guadalupe River
Caption: The bridge trestle expanding into distant pastures
Caption: The Guadalupe River meandering through the pastoral landscape outside of Comfort, TX

Texas, Part II: Austin  After spending 3 relaxing and inspiring days at the ranch, it was time to move on to a visit with our niece in Austin. Along our drive from Comfort to Austin, we had one of the most extraordinary lunches served from an unassuming roadside cafe. The meal teed us up for a sublime immersion into a city teeming with culture and public art for everyone. We’ve heard more than once that Bend is like a little Austin. With the Colorado River running through the city, abundant green spaces, public art at every turn, and the vibrant restaurant and music scene, the comparison was not lost on us. Over the few days of sightseeing, with our niece and her husband as insider tour guides, our cultural immersion only just began. We can’t wait to go back, and are left wondering what took us so long to visit?!

Caption: Josie’s Kitchen at a roadside stand in Blanco, TX. We drove up at 2:20, not knowing their hours were 11-2. They must have seen the look of disappointment in our eyes after reading their pie menu, because they opened just for us to serve the best pulled pork sandwich and coconut cream pie we’ve ever had!

Caption: Curves, lines, stacks, and rooftop gardens at the new 6 story Public Library in Austin

Caption: Hope Outdoor Gallery (Graffiti Park at Castle Hills), where everyone can make their mark

 Caption: Lori stands in front of the recently opened ‘Austin’ by Ellsworth Kelly, located at the Blanton Museum of Art on the University of TX – Austin campus.  And, what are the chances, during our visit, we were interviewed by the local TV news station about ‘Austin’.

Caption: The Contemporary Austin – Jones Center in downtown Austin – they had us at their sign

Caption: Stacked Waters by Terisita Fernández at the Blanton Museum of Art

Caption: Lisa seated at the base of Blackbird by Holly and Joseph Kincannon, located in Republic Square Park

Caption: Forever Bicycles by Ai Weiwei, a massive sculpture made of bicycles, creating an illusion of movement as if we were standing in a busy city street filled with cyclists.

CommentsBarb Fortman


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