My previous post was about physical aspects of settling into our new home. This post is about finding connections as we make this town our home.
After living in Austin for 35 years, I was burned out on the big city and looked forward to small-town life. We chose Kerrville because it met our needs in many ways–geography, scenery, affordability, schools, health care, the arts (theater for husband, art and music for me), a Unitarian Universalist congregation. We knew it would be more socially and politically conservative than Austin–almost anywhere in Texas would be–but we also knew there are people who share our views and we would find them.
The connections made so far (some of them overlap, as do many of the people):
- UU Church of the Hill Country. Good minister, friendly people, small, attractive space, many activities in addition to Sunday services. Choir practice starts this week and I’m giving it a try. Like so many activities in this older community, rehearsals are in the afternoon. As long as Gary is here at 3:15 when granddaughter comes home, I can do it. She also likes the RE program because it’s small and not overwhelming.
- Chicks with Sticks Knitting group: this is at the Baptist Church, and though I probably don’t share the religious views of some of these ladies, they have welcomed me and I’ve enjoyed the conversations, with lots of laughter, monthly lunches at a restaurant, and two hours a week of dedicated knitting time. They do charity knitting, so I’ve been making winter hats for an organization that fills backpacks for school kids.
- Hill Country Chorale: after years of singing with the First UU choir and Panoramic Voices in Austin, and mostly giving it up the last two years because of late rehearsals on school nights, I really needed to get back to serious singing. After a reception and two rehearsals, I am happy.
- Now that school has started I will try to participate in some small way–probably just through PTO or helping in the classroom. Last year I got a little overwhelmed with being on the PTA board, but I also made some wonderful friends. School involvement is so important.
- Even though I haven’t participated much yet, I’ve joined the Kerrville Arts and Cultural Center, the Riverside Nature Center, and have attended some Democratic women’s events.
- Next week I’m going to the Women2Women fundraiser for the Hill Country Crisis Center, where Lara Logan will be the speaker.
- We’ve attended a couple of theater productions. A woman in our church is very involved with the Hill Country Arts Center, which includes theater and art. Yesterday she gave him a tour of their facility. Now that he’s feeling better he is curious about the theater community here.
- I’ve attended one session of the Hill Country Poets. Although the critiquing aspect isn’t as rigorous as I’m accustomed to, they are friendly and welcoming, and I like the leader very much. They meet in the Unity Church, another community I’m interested in learning more about.
- Neighbors:one brought me some irises when she split her bulbs. The guy next door lent us a ladder and trimmed some branches.* The other next-door neighbor shares his lawn guy with us. I met an across-the-street neighbor at a yoga class, and she brought us brownies the other day. After we moved in, a man across the street helped us connect the washer. Walking the dog has allowed us to meet some interesting folks, including theater people. The owner of the house behind us came over to apologize when they were doing some roofing over the summer, and his mom, who occupies the house, visited us soon after. A woman on another street, whose daughter is the same age as our granddaughter, is becoming a good friend. I’ve made several friends via people I know in Austin. We feel so welcome, and nobody asks if/where we go to church or for whom we voted.
- In every activity, there is a connection to something else. Yoga/neighbor. Church/nature center/chorale/theater. Acupuncturist/yoga/chiropractor/computer guy. I ran into a knitting friend in a thrift store the other day. We’ve been here less than four months. I’m going to have to start wearing makeup to the grocery store!
Because of Gary’s back and hip issues we have done less exploring of the area than we would like, but we’ve visited some of the surrounding communities. We look forward to seeing more of the Guadalupe River. We’re close enough to San Antonio to take advantage of museums and culture there, if we can tear ourselves away from everything going on here. We’ll take granddaughter to the S.A. Zoo and museums when it gets cooler.
I had planned on only parts 1 and 2, but this is long, so Part 3 will be about my personal journey in this new place.
* A few days later I made a big batch of soup and took some over to him. He flat would not take it. He’s been friendly and a good neighbor, but he would not accept my small offering to thank him for his help. This still puzzles me.
It was inevitable. We decided to move in March and found our dream home on March 18. Since then it’s been an adrenalin-fueled four months of selling the condo, financing the new house so we didn’t have to wait to sell the condo, booking movers, packing, finishing the school year, and Gary doing a one-man show on Clarence Darrow. Then, after June 2, it was unpack, find services, find our way around and try to get settled.
Lest you think there are second thoughts, there are not. No regrets. I love our new home and I know we will find out communities here.
But Sunday morning I woke up so depressed I could hardly get out of bed. That’s why I wrote the rodeo piece, to focus my mind on something good and positive.
Being the self-analytical person I am, I think I’ve figured out the reasons for the funk. I lay awake Sunday night, and here are my conclusions:
- Before we moved, my problems were time over energy. There was never enough time regardless of my energy levels, which were pretty good. Now the equation is reversed: there is plenty of time–the days are long, there’s no school and few deadlines. But I’m exhausted. I just don’t have enough energy and stamina.
- Heat. One of the reasons I’m flagging is that it’s Texas and it’s hot. It’s less humid up here and if there’s a breeze it’s not too bad. But I try to do errands early in the day, and even walking the dog before sunset can be uncomfortable.
- No matter how hard I work I can’t seem to finish unpacking. It goes in fits and starts, and some days feel like we’ve made enormous progress, then there’ll be days when it seems like nothing happens. We’re spending time shopping for things we need–a bed and desk for the granddaughter’s room, patio furniture, a composting system, items that need to be assembled. That stresses the three of us, trying to figure out which allen wrench and which bolt goes where.
- Speaking of the three of us: that’s it. There are three people, a dog and two guinea pigs in this house, and for the most part that’s our daily contact. We’re getting on each others’ nerves. I would love to get Chloe to a day camp, a class, or something. Even a neighbor’s house. But she balks at any suggestions. I may have to just register for a class or a camp and insist that she go.
- And I’ m lonely. Other than husband, granddaughter and dog, the only other people I talk to are my acupuncturist and random checkout clerks and neighbors. I miss my communities: my dog-walking friends, Travis Heights Elementary friends, condo neighbors, church friends, poetry friends and singing friends. I did appreciate them but I don’t think I realized how much I’d miss them.
I’m not complaining. I know it takes time to find new communities. And I will be proactive. I am not bashful and I already have some contacts here to get me started.
Next: getting out of the valley.
At least we were laughing by the time we got home. It was nobody’s fault. (As Nixon would say, “Mistakes were made.”
After a month of singing the praises of our new hometown, I found some flies in the ointment. Or rather fire ants. And that was the least of our Fourth from Hell.
Not knowing exactly what the setup was or what to expect, we got to the Robert Earl Keen Kerrville Fourth of July celebration early enough to park fairly close, west (upstream) from the event. Fireworks at 9:30; arrival a bit after 6. That’s a lot of time to kill in high 90s heat. And we had the dog.
Chloe, Junior and I took a walk to the river below the dam, where it’s easy to wade and Junior could plunk himself down to cool off. Not having suits, Chloe and I sat on a little ledge near some rapids. I assured her we’d dry off quickly, and anyway having wet shorts would be cooler.
This killed maybe 30 minutes. There were musical acts during this time, but the setup was such that, unless you were within the actual audience seating area, you couldn’t see the stage. There were vendor trucks, beer tents, sound trucks, trailers, amp towers totally blocking views to people outside that small perimeter (and this was a free event in a huge park).
I took a very long time walking to the rest room (rather than using a portapotty) and filled the water bottles, during which I heard the National Anthem. I missed Keen’s intro and had no idea who was performing when I got back to our blanket.
I hadn’t heard Robert Earl Keen for at least 30 years–my late friend Sunny was a big fan and she took me to see him in the late ’80s. I don’t know if he’s deteriorated with age, but I kept wondering who this guy with the awful voice was. His vocal delivery is flat, bordering on musically flat, and his range is tiny. The band–mandolin, fiddle, steel guitar etc.–was fabulous, and he should just shut up and let them play.
Finally, after an encore/singalong of “This Land is Your Land,” every verse, at half-tempo (Woody Guthrie was spinning in his grave), it was time for the fireworks–9:35.
We took Junior because he gets hysterical when he’s left alone too long, and I thought he’d be ok if we held him tight during the fireworks. And he was, for a couple of minutes. Then he just wanted out. Chloe and I hugged him and held onto the leash for dear life. In addition to hurting all over from being on the hard ground, I was besieged by fire ants up my right arm.
We decided to head out after about 15 minutes of this torture. Got yelled at by a cop for crossing the street in front of traffic (the light changed quickly). I said to him, “Please don’t make my day any worse than it already is.” We found the way to the car and pressed on, realizing that we were going directly toward the fireworks (upstream, remember?), with Junior pulling as hard as he could in the opposite direction.
It was like being in a war zone, with an audience along the sidewalk watching us. I felt like Wonder Woman crossing No Man’s Land, but without a shield.
We reached the car before the fireworks ended and hightailed it home. Gary and I were laughing by the time we reached Goat Creek Rd. (a great place to laugh) and he missed a turn and nearly put us in a ditch.
Chloe had a bowl of cereal and Gary and I each had an adult beverage. Junior slurped up a bowl of water (we had been giving him water all evening) and went under a table.
Gary insisted on what I called a “post-mortem.” I insisted there was nothing to discuss. He needs to make friends between now and July 2018. Until Congress moves July 4th to October, when it’s cooler and gets dark early, I’m done with the Fourth.
* David Foster Wallace, “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again,” an essay collection.