What a treat today was! Anita bought us tickets to Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience months ago, because we’d read about the exhibit when it was in other cities. Today was the day of our appointment, so I drove in to Austin and worked until time to go over to the Circuit of the Americas place where they do car races, concerts, and such.
At first, all I could think about was how easy the exhibit must be to transport, since almost all parts of it fold flat, other than the projectors. Eventually I got more immersed in the immersive experience.
The exhibit is well designed, like a grownup Disney World, where you’re in a queue but don’t realize it. I enjoyed all the quotes over extreme close-ups of paintings, as well as the fun empty picture frames.
The second part of the exhibit was a room with bits of paintings projected on the walls and floor. You could lie down in it, watch it, or stand in the light. There was theorizing that drugs might enhance the experience. Anita didn’t need drugs.
The patterns were so much fun!
The final part of the exhibit was a big immersive room with paintings and words and beautiful music. I really liked the patterns on the floor.
The paintings weren’t static. They transitioned in cool ways and there were very well implemented digital effects that made birds fly, water ripple, and clouds scut through the sky.
Most fun were the self portraits of Van Gogh. Every so often, they’d blink! And we slowly realized that his pipe’s embers were burning and very subtle smoke came out. It was not cheesy; it was cool. But, we were too busy watching to get photos, so here’s a beautiful illusion of cherry petals flowing.
The big room’s program lasted 35 minutes, so we ended up being there an hour. We both declared it unusual, but well worth going. Plus, there was a little humor.
I had to drive back to the ranch in bad rain and did one of my meetings from the car, but that was a small price to pay for getting to see ART in a pleasant, uncrowded environment.
It was a fun, relaxing day, except that I did a thing I probably shouldn’t have. The chickens were trying so hard to get grasshoppers from within their pen. I was throwing them in, but felt sorry for them, so I let them out.
I watched them for at least ten minutes as they flapped and ran around after grasshoppers and crickets. They’d fight each other for them and squawk away.
I went off to take care of the horses, and when I came back they were scattered all over. So, I went in for a while. I went back out with half a watermelon shell. The minute I walked by, four of them came running, led by Bertie Lee, of course.
But the other two? Nope. I couldn’t find them. So I came back a few minutes later, and Star and Henley, the skittish one, were behind the coop. I couldn’t get them in. Well, I got Star in, but Buttercup went out. So, I had to get Lee to help. There are no photos, because we were too busy!
That dang Henley ran out in the field, ran around us, and got stuck trying to get in the wrong way. But, we did it! More teamwork! However, they stay in for a while longer, I think!
Earlier today, we rewarded ourselves for hauling all the hay by taking a spontaneous trip to Temple for lunch. We ended up downtown and Kathleen looked for a restaurant. We headed to a place with pizza, and ended up in a really pretty area that appears recently renovated.
We had a great time at Treno’s, even with the weird trendy ordering system. The outdoor eating area was so pretty, and the oven-fired pizza was fantastic.
We were delighted with our meals, and we want to go back and try their beer bar. I’m impressed with the work they’ve done there, and it was good to see families having fun.
One funny thing is that I wore an old t-shirt today that says, “I apologize to anyone I’ve not offended yet. I will get to you eventually.” I had three different people come up and say how much they liked it. One guy took my picture. That was weird!
In all, it was a good Sunday. I worked, had fun, and ate good food. We’re going to try another Temple restaurant soon!
Today Sara and I went and did something together! What? Yes! We ranch ladies went off and did a horse thing somewhere near Waco. We hadn’t done anything together since last year!
We went to a beautiful facility and audited a working equitation class. The clinician was really nice and let us stand close enough to hear her. It was tons of fun learning all the things horses and riders do in this relatively new sport in the US.
The idea is that working equitation includes aspects of cattle working from European, US, Mexican, and South American traditions. There are dressage elements (fancy horse steps), cattle working elements, finesse, and speed.
Another cool thing about it is that riders wear apparel from their own tradition. So you see all kinds of saddles, tack, and riding outfits. Some horses are big Andalusians, others are gaited horses with fancy walks and runs, while you also see quarter horses, too. Sara and I sure enjoyed all the beautiful animals and skilled riders!
My favorite of the things the students learned was picking up a pole in a barrel, snagging a ring on it and depositing it in another barrel. the gate opening task was fun, too.
I can see why Sara is interested in this sport! We learned all the patterns and figured out some of the skills we’d need to learn (me way more than Sara). Now we just need horses that are healthy and can learn with us. I still have faith in Apache.
Tomorrow we’re going to watch a show, which also will have dressage. This is all new to us cowgirls, but everyone was so nice to us, supportive of each other, and eager to learn. The horses all seemed to be having fun, and most of them were sweet animals, too.
In other news, there were more floods and rain today, but some fence work did get done. And I got to play with Vlassic much of the morning.
Another fun thing this morning was watching how curious the cows are about all the fence work. They are compelled to explore each new piece.
And the little steer has been so cute and friendly. He kept coming up and licking my hand with his rough, black tongue. I can’t wait until Haggard joins the friendly cattle (hoping that will be tomorrow, since he is officially cleared).
Anyway, despite the rain and more rain, it was a fun and educational day. Hope yours was, too.
Hooray for being back at the Hermits’ Rest! by the time we got home, I was all shaky and frazzled, and probably the relatives thought I was babbling. But the dogs sure were glad to see us. It felt fantastic to have my Carlton in my lap again. It was great to get back in my bed, and even great to have Penney lined up right beside me all night!
The trip through Louisiana was beautiful, mostly following US84, and then following roads that made up the original El Camino Real de Tejas, which goes right to Milam County and is what our Master Naturalist group is named after.
Highlights included a whole area devoted to catfish farming, including a place that made al the nets and a huge catfish food plant. Talk about specificity! The catfish farms also could have passed for egret farms. There were so many birds!
We also drove through many beautiful national forests, and I carefully observed all the logging activity. Mostly it was lush and beautiful. There were plenty of cute towns, town squares, and such as well. It’s nice to see thriving small towns with no television presence to make them go into tourism overdrive.
The farther we drove, the wetter it got. It’s apparently been drizzling all week at the ranch, which slows down the fence-building operation. Today it’s pouring, but I did manage to go see Apache, Fiona, and the other horses to help put some medicine on poor spice, who has a big wound where a growth was removed. Apache has developed thrush in his feet from all the dampness. Can that poor horse catch a break? But the highlight was seeing the newest member of our farm animal family, Haggard, who is a young Black Angus bull from the sale barn. He’s tame as a kitten, and looks like he’ll be a nice small bull, perfect for first-year heifers to get easy births from.
Right now, Haggard is in quarantine, but he sure loves it when people show up with food!
I said hi to the chickens yesterday, but didn’t see Steel, who is the only chick left and keeps escaping to hide in some tall, thick grass behind the coop. At least that one didn’t wander off and get lost. I’ll try again with chicken babies!
Otherwise, all is well. I may have more fun news later in the day, after I go into town for a bit, but right now I’m just trying to get settled back into a routine and figure out what’s going on. I’m lucky that this week is our work’s week to go do volunteering, because that will let me catch up on the volunteer work I have to do! Ain’t that great!
It sure is good to be back home, especially since Kathleen cleaned the dickens out of the house. They sure did a great job taking care of things while we were gone. Now maybe we can have some FUN.
Since we started the day in Montgomery and we’re taking back roads anyway, we decided it might be fun to see what the towns were the Napier family on HGTV do their renovations are actually like. Why not? So, we set out after the memorial visit for Wetumpka, Alabama, where Home Town Takeover is set. It’s only a few miles from Montgomery.
Other people had the same idea as us, it seems. There was no parking and dozens of people roaming the streets. Their downtown is most assuredly revitalized.
It looks like lots of other places have opened since Ben and Erin swooped in, and it no longer matters that the locals all shop at the big box stores right outside of town. There are PLENTY of tourists.
I didn’t get great pictures, because Lee wasn’t about to stop in all the crowds, and he was hungry. So, I got car window photos.
This place disappointed us, because it was made out to be a struggling place, but there are all sorts of stores, banks, nice restaurants and stuff you don’t see. Oh well. They lucked out!
Next, we continued our tour of places touched by the Napier family, and headed to Laurel, Mississippi, where the Home Town show is filmed. There were lots of little towns on the way, though we cheated and took interstate highways for part of the trip.
I can see why Erin likes it there. Laurel is a beautiful town with many interesting homes, large and small. Lee and I enjoyed driving down the tree-lined residential streets and seeing the variety of houses, churches and schools.
The town is also nice, and wasn’t as crowded as Wetumpka. But there was LOTS of parking, so they are ready when throngs arrive.
And we even got to stop the car in Laurel! It was cool to see the shop where Ben does his woodworking on the show. And they park the blue truck outside the building. It’s not like they really drive it around, right?
The store was not overdone in a Magnolia way (Chip and Joanna Gaines). It was nice, had things that actually resemble stuff on the show, and was nicely done. Plus, there’s a window into the wood shop!
We had time to make it to the edge of Mississippi and stopped in Natchez. We lucked out, and our hotel room looks out on a memorial and the Mississippi River. It was lovely at sunset.
No more HGTV tourism for us. It was fun to see the small towns and what television can do to them! If I wasn’t so tired, this might have been more well written. Let me know if I totally botched a sentence like I did this morning! (Thanks to Barbara for letting me know.) Headed home in the morning.
We started our day by going to the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery. After all the reading I’ve done in the past year about the history of black people in the US after the Civil War, I thought this would be an appropriate place to go.
The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which opened to the public on April 26, 2018, is the nation’s first memorial dedicated to the legacy of enslaved Black people, people terrorized by lynching, African Americans humiliated by racial segregation and Jim Crow, and people of color burdened with contemporary presumptions of guilt and police violence.
As you can imagine, this is a place that inspires contemplation and deep sadness. It’s quite beautiful, and wow do you have to go through a lot of security. That also made me sad.
There is room for a lot more statues, since the memorial is fairly new, but the ones they do have are very moving.
The main memorial consists of a dark, cool space with these metal rectangles hanging from it, one for each county in the Deep South. On it were listed the victims and the dates of known lynchings.
You feel compelled to read all the victims’ names as you walk through. If you’ve lived in the South much of your life, like me, you feel compared to find the obelisk for counties where you or your ancestors lived.
Lee and I wandered an pondered. When we left we found an area in bright sunlight that reminded me of the conditions so many black people were forced to work under, even after slavery ended. This had copies of the obelisks grouped by state. I’m glad we saw this second, because I think the process of moving through the darkened and more random area made you stop and contemplate more.
After this, we enjoyed some plantings and more thought provoking statues. Here is one where you can stand in the footprints of some of the women who fought to sit at the front of city buses.
The final sculpture really took our breath away. It’s all these black men trying to keep their heads above water (or that’s what it looked like to me).
Up close, you realize the back of the men in the “front” of the sculpture.
I’m glad we got to enjoy the peace garden at the end. It helped transition back to today. I truly feel it was important for me, in particular, to honor these lives lost to the ignorance, fear, and hatred. The people who committed the horrific acts could have been my ancestors and surely were their friends.
We enjoyed the trip out from Montgomery. It’s a prey city
We enjoyed the trip out of Montgomery. It is a pretty city. Here are some things I managed to get pictures of from the car
More later as we visit other places in Alabama and Mississippi.
Whew. Today was long, but quite fun. We took all back roads from Myrtle Beach to Montgomery, Alabama (actually we are in Prattville). It was fun seeing all the different small towns and industries as we drove.
We were routed by our favorite SC place, Georgetown, so we stopped there for breakfast at a friendly coffee shop. We ended up chatting with a nice couple who’s taking their boat all the way up north and going to visit the Great Lakes, too. The coffee shop owner volunteered to lían them his truck to get groceries!
Then we started driving through small town after small town. I enjoyed looking at well-restored old houses, the many churches, quaint downtowns, and old gas stations in various degrees of disrepair.
I enjoyed seeing what the land was used for as we headed west. When we started there was mostly logging and forestry. I looked for evidence of prescribed burns, determined whether they were clear cutting or selectively cutting, and if the pine trees were all in straight lines or not. that’s because I’m reading a book about forestry.
As we got farther along, there were lots and lots of pecan plantations. They are so beautiful. It seems to really be a growing industry in Georgia, because there were acres and acres of young pecans.
It’s peach season, and Georgia is famous for them. It took a while, but eventually I found some orchards.
We also went through some cities. Augusta didn’t impress me, but I think we went through the wrong part of town. Macon was mostly traffic. Columbus, though, was pretty. Or vice versa. I’m tired.
And oh yes, the big industries we passed were plastic stuff, flooring, and tiles. It was nice to see thriving industry!
Other things I enjoyed were farms, creeks, lakes, and forests. I liked seeing wild roses and mimosas.
Tomorrow we have some sightseeing to do, so we won’t go as far. We’re looking forward to that!
Even though I had meetings that went until almost 6 pm yesterday, Lee and I vowed to have at least a little fun at the beach. And the late afternoon is a wonderful time to go out and enjoy the water. We even went in! I had on a hat and t-shirt, so I didn’t go deep, but I got soothed by the salt water, anyway.
This is an unusual place to wade, thanks to the weird currents that keep the red flag flying at the lifeguard station. It alternates between being very shallow, then there’s a trench a foot deeper. If you successfully negotiate the trenches, you can get pretty far out and not even be waist high.
We had a wonderful stroll down the beach, where I had a good time looking for little beach fish (the water was crystal clear today, not all churning with stirred up sand and shells like it was earlier). It was fun watching the patterns of water as they flowed from low areas.
As always, the gulls were entertaining. They seem unafraid of people, but not as obnoxious as some of the ones I remember in Fort Lauderdale. They enjoyed the little pools, too.
They flew all around Lee, too, which made him laugh a lot. We’ve been laughing a lot this week. This time alone together without the stresses of day-to-day chores has been really great.
After our nice, long walk we managed to get to the pool bar just before it closed, where I got a hard-earned beverage with dark rum and ginger beer, and Lee got two Cuba Libres. Well, we don’t have any Coke in the room, now that we’re trying to use up everything, and what we had was Coke Zero (my vice). So, to get two drinks, he had to buy them both. He got some funny looks in the elevator.
We enjoyed our final relaxing evening at the condo, and I made the most of the chaise-lounge (however you spell that) part of the couch, and cozily knitted away at the Lines and Lines shawl. I got through my fourth pattern repeat, and now that I see how it works, it’s a very relaxing and satisfying project.
I have a good amount of yarn left on my first skein, so I’m sure I can get at least one more repeat before switching to the border that makes up the second half of the shawl.
We Have a Plan
I was sitting around last night, thinking about going home and not looking forward to the same interstate highway scenery, when I got to wondering how much longer it would take if we went on state and local roads? I plugged it into the Maps app and here’s what I discovered:
We were going to take three days, anyway, so this adds less than two hours to each day of travel. We will get to see Montgomery and Selma in Alabama, which are historically interesting, plus we go through the center of Louisiana, where I’ve never spent much time. I brought the idea up to Lee, and he was sold immediately. We both LOVE looking at small towns.
By taking this alternate route, we will have a fun weekend of driving, and I won’t have to do too much work tomorrow, since I got so much of my writing stuff done already. I’m looking forward to heading back to Texas and seeing new things. Then I’ll be home and get to see both familiar and new things. Hooray for the weary travelers.
Thanks for reading, and for those of you who give it a try, thanks for listening to the podcast version.
Today my head’s all full of learning, because I attended the Texas Master Naturalist program’s latest in the Be the Change series, which is a part of our diversity and inclusion initiative. The things I learned completely dovetailed with some of the things I’ve been observing and thinking about in my time in South Carolina, so I’m just processing away.
I’m one of those “well-meaning white people” who want to help create a more diverse world and be good allies (or co-agitators, as someone said today). I know that some of our good intentions do not go over well, though, so I’m in the learning stage (which today I discovered to be a good thing).
The speaker I listened to today was Alex Bailey, of San Antonio, who founded the Black Outside organization.
Black Outside, Inc has one simple mission: Reconnect Black/ African-American youth to the outdoors through culturally relevant outdoor experiences
Bailey did a great job of coming across as friendly and funny, even when he was making points that could make listeners uncomfortable. One of my favorite things he reminded us was that, although many of today’s black youth have little camping or wilderness experience, that was not always the case. As he pointed out, Harriet Tubman just didn’t pile all those people into an SUV and drive them to safety. He also reminded us that rural black folks have a rich history of fishing, hunting, and living off the land.
This is where things I’ve observed in South Carolina at this snazzy resort come in. I’d say at least 50% of the people here are black, or other BIPOC folks. It makes sense, because Myrtle Beach is a quick drive away from some of the most affluent and well educated black folks in the US, those in the Atlanta metro area. There have been lots of black and mixed families and couples lounging around and in the pool, as well as out on the beach swimming and relaxing. Nothing controversial about that, unless you’re someone my age.
You see, when I was a kid, black people didn’t go swimming. My mother was of the opinion that black people couldn’t swim, which didn’t make sense to me. When I was in high school, though, the conversation in PE class turned to why we didn’t have a pool at our school. The black girls made their happiness at that very clear. At least a few of them also thought black people couldn’t swim. Eventually, enough people who could swim were remembered, so we all decided there must be some reason none of them had learned.
We were teens, so what did we know. But, our guesses were that telling kids they couldn’t swim was an easy way to keep them safe and out of the water. And besides, there weren’t any pools in the black neighborhoods. (That has, of course changed.)
So, I have to say I was pleased to see people of every skin color happily enjoying the water here. Which takes me back to the talk I attended today.
Learnings from Black Outside
While Bailey talked to us about the importance of observing, learning, and reflecting (see graphic below for his actual words) before trying to bring the outdoors to young people of color, he gave us a lot of insights, including some about swimming. He pointed out that well meaning event organizers often include water activities without letting the families of the black participants know they are coming up. Why is this a problem?
Hair. That’s the problem. In my day, that may have been an issue, too, because swimming, afros, and Afro-Sheen didn’t go together well, That’s nothing compared to some of the elaborate hair styles young black people have today. You know, those braids could be ruined under water. And if you do an activity that requires a helmet (in or outside water), well, some styles won’t fit, period. Young people might miss out on fun, just because they hadn’t prepared a water-friendly hair style. (And yes, a lot of black women where I am today are NOT dunking their heads.)
That’s just one example where pausing to learn about cultural differences can lead to better experiences. And that’s one reason why Bailey suggested that, rather than volunteer to teach black kids directly, allies can provide materials or training to black mentors who can then work with the kids, who really benefit from seeing people who look like them in positions of authority about nature and the outdoors. That makes a lot of sense to me!
For sure, this was a very helpful step in my journey toward being a good BIPOC ally, and it reminded me how much I still have to learn. I’m quite glad for that!
*After looking at the graphic Bailey shared, I looked up more about Barbara J. Love and her work on liberatory consciousness. Her website is fascinating! Here is her definition:
Developing a Liberatory Consciousness
Liberatory consciousness is a framework used to maintain an awareness of the dynamics of oppression characterizing society without giving in to despair and hopelessness about that condition and enabling us practice intentionality about changing systems of oppression.
Well, I know what I’m going to be reading up on soon!
Getting in touch with your emotional truth, by processing feelings to improve the human condition in the 21st century. Living out loud by my motto,"Triumphing over Trauma" 🌈
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