Night and Day at McKinney Falls

Recently, I slept Sunday night in a cabin at McKinney Falls State Park. I call it camping.

I like tent camping better. But the logistics are more involved. I didn’t have time for that.

I was there on Sunday night, because that was the only night with a vacancy.  And all the cabins were vacant.

Sunday nights can be unpleasant in tent grounds, because all the buzzards descend to scavenge the leftovers from the weekend campers.  That’s not a problem in the cabin area.

The weekend had been rainy and the ground was wet.  Rain was a chance, but it didn’t fall.

I cooked a simple supper (leftovers from the fridge at home) then I sat outside to watch the light fade from the eastern sky behind the trees. I let my mind wander through memories of my many camping trips there. At dark I went inside to write in my journal for a while.

At dawn I started getting ready to hike.  It took a little while.  I knew just where to go.

Starting from the cabin grounds I crossed the style to the dining hall grounds, skirted by the little amphitheater, and followed the path through the trees and brush down to the shaded long-grass lawn lining the creek.

I walked down beside the creek.  Tall trees edged the far side of the water.  The water ran clear and deep.  Far upstream, it flowed out of the limestone hills, then through the city, and now approached its escape.

At the downstream end of the lawn I stepped out onto the limestone shelf that drops the falls.  Across the fall pool, a few herons woke up and started making their way downstream under cypresses, escaping around the bend.  I watched the water fall and listened to the low roar.

Once, I thought I would escape this land.  No, I didn’t.  I didn’t want to escape.  I just wanted to get away.  And I did.  But I came back.  I always come back.

One evening on Broadway

At Julian’s.  I walked over in sunshine, but as I walked the sun dropped below the rooftops, casting the streets in shadow.  I’ll walk home in the dark, and that’s fine, but not as good as the sunlight.

That’s the trade off.  I could have walked in the broad daylight, but I would have had to go back to work.  Now, I get the fading light, but I’m free.


All I can tell you is that I went through dislocations, international intrigue, misfortune, determination, friendship, relocation, and escape. Obstacles kept arising, and I kept stumbling over them, supported by loved ones.

When the surge of time became a flow again, I found myself here, in Rhode Island. I found some writers. We talk. We don’t really know each other yet, but I see possibilities.

These writers are putting on a public reading called Emergence. Local poets and other writers will read on the subject. I’ll be there. I’ll read.

As it happens, I have a poem that has been waiting quietly since 1979 for this moment. Forty years patient in the journal. Now it will emerge. I’ll have some printed folios for those who want one. Art added by Sean Haworth.

The reading will take place across the street from Blake’s Tavern, in front of a mural called Adventure Time. That’s Thursday, August 5, at 7 to 9 pm at Washington and Matthewson in Providence, Rhode Island.

This event is hosted by What Cheer Writers Club in partnership with The Avenue Concept and in collaboration with PVDFest. It was made possible by generous funding from the Providence Tourism Council.

Edited thanks to the Tilted Planet Editorial Board.

Climate Migrant

Last month I visited Providence, Rhode Island, getting to know the city. I plan to establish a summer home here next spring. I’ll keep my permanent residence in Austin, but I’ve had it with Texas summers.

I’m a climate crisis refugee. I was born and raised in Texas, and I’ve always been glad of my heat tolerance. I’m comfortable up to 95 degrees. But now we have two months of the year when the mercury shoots up past 100. I’m tired of hearing weather casters tell me not to go outside in the afternoon.

I’m not the first climate migrant. People fleeing drought and flood have been on the move for a generation. It’s global, but it has been mostly a third world movement. Now the first world is beginning to feel it.

It’s possible to ignore the rising heat if you live in air conditioned spaces. But you have to be content to give up summer afternoons. I’m not.

Ironically, that air conditioning that shelters us from the heat outside makes the heat outside worse. The air conditioners use power from plants that exhaust greenhouse gases. And the air conditioners themselves pump heat out to the air. It’s a positive feedback loop. The hotter the environment, the more we use the air conditioner. The more we use the air conditioner, the hotter the environment.

I’m moving away from that loop. Of course, there’s no real escape. There’s another effect. Providence is in the hurricane zone. And with the climate crisis, hurricanes are growing stronger and more numerous.

I took a riverboat tour on the Providence River. The captain told tales of hurricanes past, and he pointed to a gated flood barrier high enough to keep out the flood surge of the worst hurricane on record. But the storms are growing stronger. It’s only a matter of time until a storm surge overwhelms that sea wall. And then another. Then there will be a new wave of climate migrants. More people on the move.

But for now, Providence is a great little city.

(Photos by Robin Cravey unless otherwise noted).

Feature image above: Downtown Providence. Photo by Jeffee Palmer. The city seen from the river.

My New World

The manuscript is called My New World.  It tells of a life-change.  Change is the universal constant, yet we have a hard time figuring it out.  This manuscript represents a few years of trying to figure it out.

You may remember that I was resuming work on the manuscript after some time rolling the rock up the hill.

I sat down and finished the manuscript in three days.  It’s pretty much done.  A couple of pages need to be redone, and a couple of pictures need to be touched up.  I believe in substantial completion.

I think the next step is to look for a gallery that will show them.  They’re meant to hang on the wall.

These are real-world only artifacts.  They will not be published online.  They contain feelings and photos that have meaning to me and to those who are close to me.

If I am able to schedule a showing, then I will print a catalog of the show, for those who attend and want them.

For the cover I chose an old woodcut from the nineteenth century, Flammarion.  It’s anonymous.  I have always loved it, because it portrays a man taking a look past the edge of this world to a larger world, an unfamiliar world.  It seems to me a Renaissance concept, or Enlightenment.  It also partakes of the spirit of Walt Whitman.  We are creatures, sentient, in a cosmos.

I’m working at coloring it.  The picture here shows my first attempt.  I hope I will do better.

Spring day on Wolf Mountain

Sunday I spent some solitary time on Wolf Mountain. It was just a few days after the equinox, and I generally try to get a day of solitude around each turn of the seasons.  Wolf Mountain is a favorite place to go for spring.

It’s not really an impressive mountain.  It only rises about 200 feet from the lands below, and the trail makes a very gradual ascent.  It’s set in the karst topography of the Central Texas Hill Country, so it’s arid and rocky, mostly covered by oak and juniper, and cut by a few perennial creeks that make short sharp dashes down to the Pedernales River.

Wolf Mountain is the high point of Pedernales Falls State Park, about 40 miles west of Austin off U.S. Hwy 290.  You drive through Dripping Springs and Henly on the way. When I say it’s off 290, I mean turn north onto Ranch Road 3232 and drive seven miles to the entrance.  Then drive a couple more miles to the ranger station.

The trailhead for Wolf Mountain Trail is about a quarter mile from the ranger station, and it has it’s own little parking lot. I couldn’t count the number of times I’ve parked there and hiked that trail.  Often I hiked it alone, but sometimes I hiked it with my father or my brother or both.

Wolf Mountain Trail is a loop of somewhere between six and eight miles, depending on which reference you’re reading.  It used to be just a foot trail, maybe an old cattle trail, until about 20 years ago, when someone got injured on the mountain. After that the parks department laid down an ambulance-wide gravel roadbed.

I love to hike the trail in the spring, not so much in the summer.  There is a fairly level stretch of maybe a mile, just past Regal Creek, that is swarming with horseflies in the summer.  They are mean, and they are tough.  Walk along that trail with sweat running down inside your shirt, and they will attack you.  The times I’ve hiked along there in the summer, I would hold a red bandanna by the corner, shake it out, and switch it across my back constantly, the way a horse switches his tail across his back.

If you slap one of those horseflies and he falls to the ground, step on him.  Otherwise he will shake himself off, buzz away, and then head right back at you.

Just after you cross Mescal Creek, on the shoulder of the mountain, the primitive campgrounds are laid along the bluff overlooking the creek and the river.  It’s beautiful in there.

My Daddy and I had a favorite campsite in there under a sort of vaulted ceiling formed by the tree canopy.  Just a few steps away a rock ledge overlooked the creek and gave a western exposure.  After supper we would sit out on that rock ledge, which we called the veranda, and watch the sun go down over the far ridge.

A steep scramble below the veranda, Mescal Creek forms a beautiful little blue pool.  In wet times, it’s deep enough to come up to your chin, and broad enough for a stroke or two.  It will keep a can of beer fairly cold.

I remember one winter night I was camping there by myself.  It was pretty cold after dark, but I didn’t want to crawl into the tent at 7 pm, so I bundled up and sat on the dirt against a big tree.  I hung my lantern on a twig above my head.  The lantern made a circle of light around me that stretched out about ten feet across the dirt.

Just outside the lantern light various critters, bugs mostly, came to take a look.  I noticed a good-sized scorpion, stinger curled up over his back, come right up to the edge of the light and just stay.  I don’t know if he was looking at me, but he was aimed right at me. He stayed still for a couple of hours. I was writing in my journal, but I don’t mind saying that scorpion affected my concentration.  I lost track of my thoughts a time or two, but I never lost track of where that scorpion was.  Eventually, he left.  I didn’t ask him where he was going.

Not far past the primitive campground, the trail forks, the left fork going around by the river bluff and Jones Springs, and the right fork going directly up the mountain.  The trail doesn’t go to the peak, but forms a circle around it, with the direct fork coming in on one side and the Jones Springs fork coming in on the opposite side.  The first time we hiked that loop, Daddy and I must have circled at least twice before we realized what we were doing and burst out laughing.  Now there’s a sign pointing to the parking lot, so that foolishness has been solved.

The loop there around the peak is where I went to cry after my father died.  Last Sunday I sat in the spot and ate a sandwich and wrote a few rough lines of poetry.  I still have more work to do on that.

The sky had been overcast when I started up the mountain, but when I arrived there on the upper loop, the blue was breaking through.  There’s a ridge to the west, but to the north, where the trail meanders down, the rough beauty of the Hill Country landscape rolls out toward the horizon.

Fall equinox on Old Baldy…

Garner State Park, Sunday, September 23, 2018…

Rose at six, ate breakfast, read the news, took a walk by the river.

I have the shelter rented for the night, but I’m not going to stay.  I’ll pack up and leave after supper.  It’s worth paying for the extra night to have all day to enjoy the park.

I left Austin after work Friday, top down.  Stopped at Fredericksburg Brewing about sundown.  Turned south and drove through the misty dark with lightning highlighting the clouds on the horizon ahead.  My top was still down, but the mist just flowed over the cockpit.

At the shelter late, I unloaded the car, piling everything on the table.  I drank a beer and went to bed.  After a while I wakened to the racket of a huge thunderstorm.  I turned on my lamp and was startled to see standing water beneath my cot!  I waded to the table and sat on it, watching the water rise.

Finally, the storm passed over.  The water stopped rising and started falling.

I went outside to look around.  The shelter next door was vacant.  I walked over.  It was dry inside.  I moved in.

In my cot again, I heard a short violent struggle outside.  Fierce growling, then a few soft sobs, then silence.  Who was the predator, and who was the prey, I wondered.

Saturday morning I woke late, made coffee, breakfast.  I walked around the campground.  Some turkeys were pecking in the grass.

I hiked up Old Baldy.  That ascent makes the Hill of Life on Barton Creek look flat.  At the top, I turned through 240 degrees of the compass, surveying the panorama.

I felt myself reaching out across the earth to other peaks where I have stood.  That feeling of exalted vision began rising in me.  But there was also a profound sadness.  What have I done?  What is my direction from here?

To think that this chapter began on a peak in the Davis Mountains….

[Note, 4/29/19:  Just after this journal entry I began a long poetry manuscript to answer those last two questions.  The title is, Why do I long for a woman?  I will finish it soon.]