“Do you know," Peter asked, "why swallows build in the eaves of houses? It is to listen to the stories.” ~ J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

7.21.2010

The River Knew My Name

"Before I forget, there are 6 windows on one side of the door, and 5 on the other. There are 2 on each end of the room and there are no curtains and the Blanco river lies just outside. The shortcut is Purgatory Road, and deer come into the yard at night. I am lying on an old iron bed watching the river and the shadows of birds as they fly from tree to tree. The cicadas sing during the day and there is a frog in the kitchen corner. There is silence – no one is on this river. It is mine for now. There are no mosquitoes and a hammock to fall asleep in under the stars peeking between the leaves of pecan trees. There is no McDonald’s, no Burger King, no Taco Bell. There is instead, Milagro’s, Adobe Verde, Jean’s Gourmet Tamales. I have a new opal necklace and for the first time the feel of a necklace doesn’t bother me – it is invisible to my sensitive skin. There are red butterflies I mistook for dragonflies and there are goats out on Hugo Road waiting at their locked gate as if planning a getaway; caught in the act, they skedaddle away as we drive by. At Gruene Hall I stand on a bench in bare feet and take pictures with such long shutter speeds that the dancers become unseen movement in the images. I approach women to photograph their boots, the butt of their dress, I feel at home, I feel at home, no fear, no care. I see a sign in a shop in Sattler: "If you’re not wearing bare feet, you are overdressed." I feel at home. We don’t lock the door facing the river at night; I feel at home."

The words above are notes from last weekend. That first picture is Gruene Hall. The image above is the view from the house. From the entire house, except the bathroom, and then the view was only blocked if you closed the door.

We weren't supposed to be there - it was a fluke, a result of no rooms at any inns closer to the Guadalupe, of my just picking a place on the map, any place in the Texas Hill Country a slice of heaven. Wimberley even makes that claim on the welcome sign as you enter town and it could not be more true. We thought it was a bed and breakfast, didn't realize it was all ours at first, a small house with the Blanco and a two person hammock in the backyard. There was a fire pit readied with wood at the foot of the limestone steps outside, a fireplace inside, and classical music in the air when we stepped through the door. There was a big white bed in the bedroom open to the river and two more on the back "porch", in truth a room of windows. My house of dreams. I wrote a while back about that dream house, and this house was a lighter version of that, a dreamier version. Perhaps the difference between a house on a lake and a house on a river. Perhaps. I am unschooled in the life of rivers; I know lakes and deserts and am familiar with the moving waters of a flood, but rivers are strangers. Here in East Texas they are snaky, unfriendly places, never speaking to me, too dark, too overgrown - I drive over them, glance at the brown water and keep going. But this river - this moving water in the heart of Texas - knew my name, knew my heart, and I knew it.

I slept deeply, waking with no memories of dreams, turning to face the dream outside. Breakfasted with the river moving past. Almost there was no one else out there, perhaps two or three people floating past in the morning hours, perhaps the people next door later in the day. A black Labrador from somewhere upriver kept company with us one evening, settling on a barely underwater rock until her owner tracked her down. Quiet. Silence. Peace. I ate slices of vanilla cake topped with strawberries, passing up the Fredericksburg peaches for sale on the roads. Quiet. Silence. Peace. I floated on the water and let the current carry me. Peace. Sunshine. Warmth penetrated my skin, soaked into my soul. Peace. Silence.

There were fireflies at night
and I cried when we left to come home.

16 comments:

  1. Ohhhhhhhhh! I am right up the road from Wimberly & I want to know the name of that place! (really..)
    Yes, the rivers here are old, souls, peaceful~except during floods, then they are old Greek gods, throwing swords of water.
    This is so perfect! I am so, so, so glad that river called your name & that you stayed to listen!

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  2. It's sounds incredibly wonderful, but I am pretty sure that you would make anyplace sound incredibly wonderful...
    Peace. When you find that you know it is your place. And I am so glad you found it, there. So glad you stood in barefeet on a bench and took pictures. I LOVE the first photo.

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  3. tears in my eyes, and no words

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  4. this is beautiful. i love your words. would you want to link this post up to my imperfect prose community? i think it would fit... i'm so glad to have met you, writer-friend.

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  5. if you're not wearing bare feet, you're overdressed.....
    holy crap !....how perfect is that sign ?

    and rivers here are just as snaky and dangerous and dark.....they dampen our ankles, but's that all the farther we go....

    i always love where i have been, but i always want to come home....well, unless we are in our special place in florida....then i'm good to stay for longer :)

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  6. I love this more than I can tell you. The words, the immediacy of it, the poigancy of such beauty. You made me think of my own river. Not such a snakey thing. A wide, shimmering, welcome mass of water full of memories. Oh, I do miss my Tennessee River.

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  7. peaceful, almost magical words ... I appreciate your visit today ... and I'm going to tell my barefoot-loving friend about the "overdressed" quote

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  8. these words are sitting right on my heart..cannot hold back a tear or two as i close my eyes and know the feeling..see the hall.. the river...
    thank you for sharing the hill country in words that I hold in my heart..

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  9. You took me there ... like a good summer book ;-) I want it to be a book, it sounds like the beginning of something ..

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  10. You write of your experience so beautifully. I felt myself at peace through your story. xo Bella

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  11. Oh my God. I need to go there. Like, right now. I have a thing for rivers. But that kind of peace is something I crave. Feeling a subtle anxiety that I can't quite reconcile. How perfect is this place? Fireflies! Hammocks. That view is to die for. Oh Debi, how I wish that I was close to this little slice of heaven.
    I am SO SO glad for you, that you found it. That you stayed. And dreamed deeply, breathed deeply and soaked up the peacefulness. What a wonderful trip you must have had. I would have cried too.

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  12. you're a beautiful writer - loved this post :)

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  13. Another good post. Sigh. Once again, it felt as though I were with you right there at that mysterious place. I think you should forward this post to whoever owns or runs this place...I think they would love to learn how you felt while you were there.

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  14. Ohhh...this is so beautiful. I don't know this part of the country...but that I feel the deep silence and the peace you're feeling inside. Thank-you for sharing your vision.

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