Bloom where you are planted.
Those were my mother’s words of advice back in 1999, when the moving van was loaded and taking me from my hometown of Houston to a faraway place called Boerne.
I’d visited Boerne since 1996 and thought it was a sweet little town with its population of about 5,000, but it was never my intention to move there. Nope. I was comfortable where we were. Yet, I suddenly found myself unpacking and trying to get settled in a town where I pretty much knew no one.
I enrolled my three-year-old in classes at Boerne Gymnastics. We made friends instantly. When she was old enough, it was time for Boerne Soccer. Fourteen seasons of Boerne Soccer.
Working at the Boerne Star newspaper for several years, volunteering with the Chamber of Commerce, and having a child at Fabra Elementary, it seemed I knew just about everybody in town by first name. Most people knew me too, because I wrote a weekly column for the newspaper, Home Cookin’, for nearly a decade.
Life took some twists and turns over the next few years and I found myself looking at a mortgage with only my name on it, and a thriving flowerbed in the front yard that my mother helped me plant. Personally, and professionally, I was blooming where I was planted – and my child was blossoming as well.
During this season of growth, I found true love and gained a couple bonus kids, as well as a name change. Life was better than I’d ever known.
Then one day, tragedy yanked me from the ground and stomped me to bits.
My precious mother was brutally murdered by her abusive husband of 37 years. Stolen in the time it took for him to pull the trigger six times. That’s all I’m going to say about that.
Life during that time is a blur. I cried for three months straight… and one day, I physically couldn’t cry any more. A friend once told me that tears were like nourishing rain for the soul, but I don’t think that applied in this situation. I cried until there were no tears, left with a ragged soul.
My beloved husband came up with a plan for our healing – he decided that I needed to sleep on the ground. With a perfectly good RV sitting in storage, we loaded up our tent and camping gear and slept on the ground in the most beautiful places we could get to in a long weekend.
We camped at the Gila Hot Springs in New Mexico. I caught whiffs of my mom all over the place. I took photos that look like they have angels in them. The day we left to head home, it was 20 degrees inside the tent. It was a special trip.
We camped at Big Bend National Park several times and drove for hours and hours around the park, just breathing in the beauty and nature and mountains and peace. Stillwell Ranch, outside of the park and where we camped all alone out in the high desert with ravens and kangaroo rats at our campsite, will always be a special place of healing in my heart.
Our Davis Mountains State Park camping trip was over Easter weekend 2014, just four months after our tragedy. After we’d eaten our camp-fired dinner, the blue, cloudless afternoon sky turned green – and the moderate temperature turned frigidly cold – then suddenly, we were pelted with hail. All of the other campers left. We stayed.
It began raining shortly after we turned in for the night, and the thunder and lightning kept me awake for hours. When we awoke the next morning to water droplets falling on us through the tent, it was the most beautiful blue sky I’d ever seen. Clear and crisp with birds chirping all around us. It was Easter Sunday. It felt like the world was blooming with new life around us … after a night of storms. And we survived those storms.
On our way home, we drove around the sleepy little town of Fort Davis and noticed a run-down commercial property for sale on the main street. This place was in pretty sad shape, but we both could see the potential. It even had an RV cover with hook-ups. We grabbed a flier and hit the road back to Boerne.
We’d been discussing moving to New Mexico or Colorado when our girls were out of school, because we loved the elevation, the climate and the mountains. Fort Davis had all of these things, and it was still in Texas. I’m a seventh-generation Texan. He’s a Son of the Republic of Texas. Our roots run deep in Texas.
After we purchased the run-down main street property just a couple months after we saw it, we moved the RV out and began driving five hours each way, every other weekend, from Boerne. Signs of my mother were all over the place in Fort Davis, but that’s a story for another time.
With an empty nest, we stuck the For Sale sign in the front yard of the Boerne house, less than two years after we’d bought our piece of far West Texas. We had two offers in the first 26 hours. We were about to uproot everything. Ready or not, Fort Davis… here we come.
Jan. 31, 2018 marks our two-year anniversary of living full-time in Fort Davis, population about 1,000. The movie, Dancer, TX: Population 81, was filmed here.
I’ve served as a board member for the Friends of the Jeff Davis County Library, and am the current president of the Fort Davis Lions Club. My husband is also a Lion. I’ve been writing a weekly food column called Savoring West Texas for the Alpine Avalanche for almost two years now.
Since moving here, we’ve discovered that my husband’s long-deceased great uncle was a State Senator and saloon owner in the nearby town of Shafter, the once economic center of the Trans Pecos region, as it had a thriving silver mine back in the 1800s. He’s buried in the Marfa Cemetery – just 20 miles from where we now live. We had roots here and didn’t even know it until we got here.
But make no mistake – living in far West Texas isn’t for everybody.
We have no “big boxes” for shopping, and rely on our wonderful small, locally-owned businesses on a daily basis… and online shopping when that doesn’t suffice. There is no such thing as Two-Day Shipping out here, in case you wondered.
Want to go to Wal-Mart? That’ll be 160-miles, round trip. Need to go to CostCo? The closest one is in El Paso, three hours away. HEB is just under three hours away, the opposite direction, in Odessa.
You give up the city-life mindset of I-want-it-now when you make the move out here. It takes some time, but you get used to it. I’m almost there. Almost.
We struggle on a daily basis with creeping industrialization trying to take over the last great frontier, threatening the pristine landscapes we initially fell in love with. After we bought here, we found out about plans for that 42” pipeline to Mexico, and a potential nuclear waste site built just north of us. That was quite a shock. I won’t get started on how I feel about that.
BUT, we have a spectacular mountain at the end of our street, loaded with aoudad sheep that hop from rock to rock with magical grace.
The Milky Way is generally above us, and sometimes it’s so bright you could almost read a book in its light.
We worry about javelinas and mule deer eating our landscape.
We don’t disturb red ant beds because horned toads eat the ants and horned toads are just adorable.
We are cautiously aware of rattlesnakes tucked in places we wouldn’t expect them.
We have more hummingbirds descend on us each spring than anywhere I’ve ever known, and so we celebrate with a Hummingbird Festival each August.
We don’t even have a traffic light in town.
Our neighboring towns are our extended community – Alpine, Marfa, Marathon, Balmorhea – all the way down through Shafter to Presidio, and back up through Terlingua because we all live in the Big Bend of Texas.
We drive down to Terlingua for dinner when the mood strikes.
We have crazy storms, the most beautiful sunsets and sunrises, and the widest-open spaces I’ve ever seen.
And this is our home.
My story is long-winded, I know. If you’ve gotten this far, please remember this: Do whatever it takes to bloom where you’re planted, no matter where that soil is.
Get involved in your community. Volunteer with the women’s shelter, senior center, food bank, animal shelter, nature center, or the chamber of commerce. Get involved in your kid’s school, athletics, church or the beautiful library there in Boerne.
Find somewhere you can share your talents and grow. You might be uprooted from a life you thought you were comfortable with, but chances are, if you were so easily uprooted, you probably weren’t in full bloom yet.
Boerne was good to us. We raised our kids there and made lifelong friendships that we’ll treasure forever. My now-adult daughter still lives and works there. But, it was time for us to move on down the highway.
Far West Texas isn’t for delicate flowers, and I like to think that I’m blooming like some of my favorite local plants – prickly pear and ocotillo cactus – here in the high desert of far West Texas.
And, I believe my Mom would be proud.
Visit my blog at www.becausefoodiswhatido.com for a taste of life west of the Pecos and east of the Rio Grande.