To be honest, I really had to get out of Austin. Love that town, but SXSW was overwhelming. So many people everywhere, so much humidity, no parking. I really enjoyed the moments when I could just park on my friends’ quiet street and walk to the coffee shop and around the neighborhood to see a band or two, but everything else… it solidified the fact that I just really don’t like festivals. Before heading too far out of town, though, I first went down to San Marcos to visit with some great students at TX State – these guys came out on their spring break! Their letterpress program is in its infancy, but the graphic design students were all really awesome and fun and smart, and seemed genuinely excited about learning a little more about printing. They were live tweeting during my presentation. .. … Thanks, guys!
And so, then, I hit the road West. To Marfa! The landscape makes a major transition just west of Austin – hills to desert. The air changes, the humidity evaporates, the sky gets bluer, and the colors of the earth turn from green to shades of gold and brown. It’s beautiful. Marfa is one of those towns that’s not really on the way from anywhere to anywhere. Of course, that’s not true at all (it’s on the way from Marathon to Valentine!), but it’s off the beaten path enough to attract a certain kind of traveler. I always love coming here, but I usually just keep to myself and enjoy the feeling of disappearing into the desert… This time though, with the truck, I was excited about actually meeting some locals and getting to know a different side of this strange little town.
I set up shop outside the Marfa Book Co, a really great bookstore in the heart of town. It was an insanely windy day, but a bunch of awesome folks – and dogs – came out to make some prints.
I met some really interesting local artists – photographers, printmakers, writers. Some of them are full-time Marfa residents, while others spend their winters down here, but travel/camp or have a home elsewhere during the hotter months. This is a town I always seem to come back to, and it feels good to have actually, finally, made some personal connections here. Next time I come back, I’ll only hide out for part of the time.
Run on Sentence and our friend Nick Jaina had finished their shows at SXSW and came out to Marfa the day after me. We all stayed at El Cosmico, and they played a show that night as part of El Cosmico’s “SX Hangover” series – a few nights of music from some of the millions of bands that were all driving back from Austin to the west coast. It was a lovely night.
And, AND – I ran into my friends The Crow and The Wolf! We’ve been internet friends since last spring, and finally met in person while we were both in Minneapolis last summer. We’ve been weaving complementary paths throughout this country ever since. They have been traveling for the past 9 months, collecting material for a gigantic mixed media documentary exploring the state of art, creativity, and community in America. It’s a massive undertaking, and they’ve gathered some incredible stories and experiences along the way.
As we sat around outside talking, the sun was setting over the desert and it occurred to me that this was perhaps the most powerful and definitive moment of this entire adventure. This is what it’s all about – learning to be open to chance and uncertainty, to set fear aside and trust your own strength and intuition. And to see the boundless BEAUTY that results. These are the most important things that I have learned through my adventures this year, and it felt amazing to be able to share and talk about these lessons and experiences with other people, other women, who are on a similar path. Crow and Wolf did a lovely write up on their blog, which I will quote here, as it so beautifully captures the magic and power of our reconnection in the desert:
The dust settled and the three of us sat around a table and shared travel stories. As our paths crossed early, on both our voyages, we were able to reflect on our personal growth and leathered hides. There was an overwhelming sense of solidarity. As travelers. As artists. As women. We shared the questions that we consistently receive as women on the road. We questioned the fears that are instilled in women and observed how us three have broken down our own trepidations and boundaries for the sake of our art and for a more fulfilling existence. Certainly, there are complications that come with being a female traveler, we have to be safe, but we are also not willing to live in fear.
Our reflections were coupled with the emotions of reentering the desert, a territory we all have a particular draw to and affinity for. Over the past 9 months of traveling, each of us can agree that much of our endurance was made possible by embracing the empowerment that is had when you just let go of it all and trust in the femininity of intuition.
Amen to that, ladies.