I arrived back in Salida just two night ago—or maybe it was yesterday, since it was juuuuust past midnight, Tues/Weds, when I pulled up behind my apartment. Anyhoo, I left for San Antonio, Texas, early Saturday morning, so that I could spend Mothers’ Day (and the day after) with Mom, who’s in a healthcare residence, there. Too, it’d been just five months since Dad, her husband of sixty-one years, had passed away. It seemed a good time for a visit. Its being Mothers’ Day was a solid excuse and motivation to do so.
Ay, what can I say about Texas? I left the state, for Colorado, close to twenty-two years ago. There are many reasons why, but some of the chief ones were: to escape the incessant heat; to be among the mountains; and to live amid more liberal-leaning locals. With the exception of going back last December, due to Dad’s dying, (which, to be honest, wasn’t really a choice), it’d been six or seven years since my last visit to the state.
I prefer driving, but it’s an all-day journey, somewhere between sixteen and eighteen hours, straight through. Fortunately, my ’91 Caravan handles the trips well; and I do fairly well, myself. Still, it’s a full seventeen hours, give or take, of being in the saddle, of being hummed by the asphalt. It’s not a trip to approach lightly.
But here’s the thing: For all my grumblings about Texas and my having come from there, it turns out I remain still very muchso a Texan. Even after my absences, I still fall immediately into the rhythms of the state. Still find my cultural bearings, pronto. This realization was a mild shock, when it hit me. But it clarifies some of the turmoil I’ve been experiencing, makes sense of some of it. And, it’s not a bad thing still having Texas in my bones and blood, two decades anon. It’s not a troubling situation at all.
This morning, I went to the local breakfast diner, on the highway. I’ve no idea how many months it’s been since I was last there. As with any small town, nowadays, especially here in the Rockies, there’s a distinctive pair of either Old Timer or New Comer camps our locals fall into. Patio Pancake Place is where the Old Timers go. Years before artists discovered this town, and the rafters followed suit, followed then by outdoor weekend warriors looking for second homes—long before Outside magazine ever called Salida by name, “Patio” was helping the local farmers and ranchers and miners get a start on their days.
After breakfast, I headed to Sacred Ground, which is also along the same highway, where us newcomers go for sustenance and community. I spent more for the two espresso drinks, there, than I did for my breakfast, including the tip. But if given a choice between the two places, Sacred Ground would win every time, hands down, no hesitation.
But here’s the thing: Even though my living in Salida just twelve years firmly posits me in the New Comers’ camp, there’s also the strong part of me that needs the connection to something that’s older, larger, and “other” than me. There’s an essential connection that’s re-established at Patio that even Sacred Ground can’t touch. Just as I am both Coloradan and Texan, I am both Sacred and Patio. Both cases, I need the grounding of both.
Home and homecoming. Neither is necessarily only involving a singular place.