Texas 2015

Exploring the Texas State of Mind

“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

My trip to Texas was inspired by “The Son,” a novel by Philipp Meyer. As I read, I was enamored by the multigenerational saga of a Texas family starting in the 1800s with Comanche Indian raids, to the early 1900s border disputes, to the oil boom of the 20th century. The saga maps the legacy of violence in Texas. It portrays the price of power and passion for the land. The characters in the novel depicted a fascinating culture that I wanted to experience and better understand for myself. I had to see what is the “Texas State of Mind.”

My book recommendations

The Gates of the Alamo, by Stephen Harrigan

The Son, by Philipp Meyer

All the Pretty Horses, The Border Trilogy, Book 1, by Cormac McCarthy

No Country for Old Men, by Cormac McCarthy

The Frackers: The Outrageous Inside Story of the New Billionaire Wildcatters, by Gregory Zuckerman

On Juneteenth, by Annette Gordon-Reed

Exploring Houston: From NASA’s New Frontier to the Rothko Chapel

What is NASA’s new frontier?

The new frontier is Mars; sometime in the 2030s, humans will land there. The journey back and forth will take about 2-3 years, but we must first build a water supply, food, and other instruments. At the Space Center in Houston, one can see how NASA is reaching new heights in technology and science to explore the unknown.

When cropped into a camera’s lens, some exhibits, like the spaceship engine, look like an item in a modern art exhibition. 

The Menil Collection

Houston has a surprisingly exciting variety of art exhibits, primarily thanks to Dominique and John de Menil. Their art collection is exhibited in a few buildings within walking distance from each other, in a neighborhood of craftsman-style houses with lush green plants. Houston, in general, is lush greenery; there was no water shortage here. My main interest was to see the Rothko Chapel, which has been on my list of places to visit for many years. The rest of the exhibits were a fantastic bonus, including Dan Flavin’s playful art with fluorescent lights. Even Cy Twombly, whom I usually don’t get his thing with text and line, has some beautiful paintings in a structure dedicated to him exclusively. More about the Menil on this site.

The Rothko Chapel

“We saw what a great master can do for a religious building when he is given a free hand. He can exalt and uplift as no one else.” – Dominique de Menil, on commissioning Mark Rothko to create a sacred space for Houston

The Rothko Chapel is a nondenominational chapel affiliated with the Menil Collection. It’s a place that forces you into a silent, introspective, and meditative mode. The dark canvases, a mixture of black and purple, are floor-to-ceiling and very imposing. They radiate a sense of depression and death. Rothko often wrote about human tragedy, ecstasy, and doom; he suffered from depression. The Chapel paintings were his last major commission before committing suicide. More about the Rothko Chapel is on this site.

Exploring the History and Culture of Galveston and Central Texas

“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta

The journey took me to Galveston through the Gulf of Mexico shoreline. The drive was very peaceful, and the shoreline was mostly vacant. Galveston is a city with a long history, one that was once wealthy, dramatic, and full of intrigue – until the hurricane of 1900 wiped it all out. Galveston’s main attraction is its Victorian district, notably Bishop’s Palace.

I had two days of scenic driving through forests and pastoral farmland in Central Texas. The landscape contains many gentle green hills. In the early days of the Texas Republic, this region had a significant impact. The area was home to many different tribes, settlers, and political groups, all of whom influenced the development of Texas. One of the largest tribes to make their home in the area was the Comanches. They had a strong presence in the region, and their influence was felt by both the settlers and their Native American neighbors. This area saw a lot of activity as new cities, towns, and farms were established. The central region soon became a hub of economic and social life, with many of the new businesses and institutions of the time filling the area. As the population of the Texas Republic grew, so did the growth and development of the central region.

On my trip, I am trying to discover whether Texas is a state of mind or simply a state. Through my journey, I have visited a few historical museums and gained insight into the state’s unique culture. I have also talked to a few locals who have shared their perspectives on the state and its history. By combining the knowledge I have gained from my experiences and conversations, I am beginning to understand that Texas is not just a geographic entity but an attitude. I hope once I visit the Alamo; the answer will become more apparent.

I completed listening to John Irving’s novel A Prayer for Owen Meany, which made me take a big breath as it was so exquisite

A Journey West to Fredericksburg.

A driving route west traversed through oaks and juniper trees, over hilly terrain, and ended at the not-so-clear but rushing waters of Guadalupe River. From there, through similar terrain to Fredericksburg, an attractive small town known for its wineries and as the birthplace of Admiral Chester Nimitz.

The Alamo: A Story of Resilience, Hope, Courage, and Success

San Antonio has long been one of the most popular travel destinations in the United States. It is home to historical sites like the Alamo, which serves as a reminder of Texas’ unique and vibrant spirit. This spirit has inspired not just Texans but people all across the world to visit this city.

The Alamo is an excellent place to pause and ask how a nation’s heritage, identity, character, and dreams are created. Every nation has its unique heritage, identity, character, and dreams created through history and experiences. Nations have unique stories of resilience, hope, courage, and success. These stories are often shared as a source of pride and identity. Additionally, they can help to create a sense of belonging and collective purpose.

The Alamo is a heroic story of Texans taking matters into their own hands and fighting for what is right. This event created a mark of identity: who we are, what the land means for us, what we will stand for, and who we will become. People saw Texas as a place of possibilities that are made, not given. And this is why Texas is a state of mind!

Tomorrow I will start driving to west Texas, Marfa, and the desert. And being in the desert is, without a doubt, a state of mind I love.

Exploring the Unforgiving Beauty of Big Bend National Park

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” – Gustave Flaubert

It’s not one of the famous National Parks; it is certainly far and difficult to reach. And maybe that’s why it is one of the least-visited national parks. After a drive that took me 10 hours (with many stops), I arrived at Chisos Mountains Lodge. I was blown away by the picturesque landscape. The sky was a deep blue, and the sweeping panoramic views of the mountains filling the horizon were breathtaking.

The park derives its name from the U-shaped bend of the Rio Grande bordering the park, providing a natural border between the United States and Mexico. It’s not precisely “Grande,” as the water level is low due to drought that has left much of the river dry. You can cross the river into Mexico on foot at some points, although signs warn that it’s illegal. I noticed quite a few border patrol cars in the park and the area at large.

Along the road, I passed through a few small towns; one of them, Terlingua, was once a thriving mining community, but now it is a ghost town. The only residents are a few hardy souls who have decided to make their home in this remote and beautiful place. I spent an hour exploring the abandoned mines and deserted buildings. It felt eerie. With the summer heat and the distance from a major city, it’s not hard to imagine how humans tried and failed to thrive here.

The Mysterious Charm of Marfa, Texas

While “big” may be the watchword for Texas, it doesn’t mean that every single person or place here is larger than life. Some of the “coolest” and most exciting cities in West Texas are small ones. And Spring’s colorful blossoms made the drive much longer because I had to stop every five minutes to photograph the scenery.

Marfa is a state of mind all on its own. A small town of 2,000 has become a haven for artists due to its captivating landscapes and small-town ambiance. The west Texas town became a magnet for creative spirits in 1971 when Donald Judd, a renowned Minimalist artist, moved to Marfa. He disdained the city art scene and wanted to create permanent installations for his sculptures.

I was deeply impressed by the spacious living compound he created for himself and his two children; he was a single parent. He converted two large warehouses in what used to be part of a military base into working, living, and library spaces, interwoven and neatly organized, accented with furniture which he designed. Today two foundations are working to maintain his legacy, managing the exhibition spaces and other activities, including several artist’s residency programs, which attract a stream of interesting people. 

Marfa is famous for the mysterious lights that sometimes appear in the night sky across the Chinati Mountains. It’s a phenomenon yet to be explained, which we did not see but met others who swear by it. Marfa was also the filming location of Giant, James Dean’s last movie.

It was a great place and with even a delightful company, Danna Sigal, to end two weeks tour of 2300 miles (3700 km) from East to West Texas.