Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Kerrville: 2 – Sweet, peaceful days

My time in Kerrville was the most delightful interlude. I fell in love with this pretty hill town. In my short time there I made some lovely friends whom I'll never forget.

I emailed Andrew: 'I must tell you about this man who has quite stolen my heart. His name is Mark, he is a close friend and neighbour of Harry and Anne, as is his wife Linda, whom I met and fell in love with first. She's a very artistic and also very down to earth lass from Ohio. Mark's a gentle giant with a soft, lazy voice. Oh boy is he loaded with charm!!! And oh boy am I a total sucker for it!!! After his first conversation welcoming me to Texas and saying all sorts of sweet things in that caressing voice, I asked Linda (whom he had an arm around at the same time), "Is this that Southern charm I've heard so much about?" She laughed and said, "It's what the rest of America thinks is the reason Texans wear boots." I looked puzzled. She explained: "Because the shit's so high." Anne and Harry tell me – which I can see – that in Mark's case, he does it laughing at himself, and actually does mean the sentiments of goodwill. ... I lap it all up like a schoolgirl."

Actually they were a devoted couple with eyes only for each other. Mark loved to play guitar and they both sang. 'Awesome voice' I emailed Andrew about Linda. She was also a well-known scrimshaw artist with commissions from all over the country. Scrimshaw is a traditional craft of etching on ivory or bone, carving a drawing and then rubbing paint in. Here are some links to Linda's beautiful work.

Mark and Linda have a building and renovating business. One night they took us to dinner in an old former railway station (no rail line any more), which they had rescued and restored with great authenticity after others had nearly wrecked it by turning it into a very ugly hamburger joint. Then they sold it to the present owners who run it as a beautiful restaurant. I had some lovely visits to their home too, just a few doors down from Anne and Harry's.

Then there was Donna. We clicked when we sat beside each other at the Poetry on the Patio night, and again during the mask workshop. She and her husband took me out one day to visit some of the surrounding places, including Enchanted Rock, the second largest monolith in world, next to Australia's Uluru. This was a magickal place of pink granite, the shape of which put me in mind of the top of Uluru.

As we approached it, it seemed to me large in width rather than height. It's nowhere near as high as Uluru, a sandstone formation which, Wikipedia tells us, 'stands 348 metres (1,142 feet) high (863 m/2,831 ft above sea level) with most of its bulk below the ground, and measures 9.4 km (5.8 miles) in circumference.'

But it's high enough! An official description says: 'The (Enchanted) Rock is a huge, pink granite exfoliation dome, that rises 425 feet above ground, 1825 feet above sea level, and covers 640 acres. It is one of the largest batholiths (underground rock formation uncovered by erosion) in the United States.'

It had a very otherworldly feeling, and indeed there are legends of spooky goings-on there, nevertheless its atmosphere seemed to me peaceful and friendly. We didn't climb it, which would have been strenuous I think, and we didn't allow enough time in any case, but it was very special to stand at the base, in an area of desert-like wilderness (a State Natural Area), drinking in the timeless peace. I loved the colour, too! Uluru turns many wonderful colours in changing light, but when you get up close to it the rock is black. Enchanted Rock is actually pink.

Before I left Kerrville, Donna, who has a deep interest in Native American culture, gave me two wonderful books: Who Speaks for Wolf, a learning story, and The Walking People, an oral history – precious volumes I would not even have known of otherwise, with much to teach people of any culture today.

There was Paula aforementioned, of the herbs and animals, who came for a picnic lunch by the river with Anne and me one day, and brought me more herbs and some tiny roses. We talked as if we had always known each other.

There was 'the other Ann Schneider', Harry's first wife. That was long ago, and now they relate like old friends, comfortably. She invited us to dinner while I was there, and we sat on her balcony watching the sunset and the almost-full moon.

There was Sally, an Englishwoman by birth, Anne's best friend, whom I saw more of during the Austin poetry festival a little later on, and who came to Australia last year to visit her brother who lives not too far away from us! They came to lunch at our place and I felt I was able to return a little of the wonderful hospitality I experienced in Texas.

Among her many talents, Anne is a Tai Chi teacher, and I attended one of her weekly classes that happened while I was there. She's a good teacher, not intimidating like those I had in the far past. I was surprised how quickly I picked it up again, after doing only a few classes 30-odd years before. I got all enthusiastic and told Andrew we must look for somewhere near home to do it – but that hasn't happened, and in fact I don't know of any classes nearby.

The next day Anne took me for a drive to a part of the countryside I hadn't looked at before. We sat and talked by the river, on an area of big, flat stones. I was excited to catch a glimpse of some deer over the other side, drinking. Alas, they hid themselves before I could take this picture:

She also showed me the local 'Stonehenge' built by a friend of the astronaut Alan Shepherd on Shepherd's land, in fulfilment of a vision Shepherd had while vieiwng the earth from space. There are a couple of Easter Island statues too. By no means as big as the originals, and certainly not constructed in the same way or from the same materials, but fun, and impressive in its own way. It made us smile to see tiny birds flitting in and out the structures.

Early Thursday evening I emailed Andrew: 'I just came from Uni talk/reading to small, lovely group of students and their vibrant teacher. Had great time. Some of Anne's friends who wanted to hear me again came too. Now out to dinner with a witch who did the workshop and wants to talk more. Back to Austin early tomorrow.'

The 'vibrant teacher' was Kathleen Hudson of Schreiner University. Kathleen is a fascinating woman with a great interest in Texas history and music, and is involved in innovative educational programs. Her official bio says that 'she founded the Texas Heritage Music Foundation in 1987 out of a commitment that stories and songs make a difference in the world.' She is in the English Dept. at Schreiner. The students were all poets too. It was a pleasantly informal gathering. I read them some pieces, they asked me a lot of questions, and to my great delight they also shared their work with me.

The witch, relatively new to Texas, was amused that in the Lone Star State she kept seeing our sacred symbol, the pentacle (a five-pointed star in a circle)!

She lived on a
6-acre property on what used to be an old ranch. Her place was surrounded by woodlands with lots of deer, and after dinner we stood at her fence watching them in the dark, throwing grain from a bucket to try and coax them near. Some did come fairly close, but they were skittish and shy, made sudden darts and then dashed away.

'We had a great night,' I emailed Andrew next day, 'Eating, as usual, very good food and drinking Australian wines (which are very highly regarded here, and most people try to get them in preference to any other kind).

'As I was going to bed I found myself having a bit of a weep at leaving Kerrville, where I have found true friendships that will last for life.

'This morning I cried a bit more as I packed. I walked down the few doors to Linda and Mark's and found them sitting out in their back yard over breakfast, watching the squirrels. They had just been talking about me, and were going to walk up to Anne and Harry's to say goodbye. Instead, they sat me down and gave me coffee and orange juice even though I'd already breakfasted, and I gave them a couple of goodbye gifts (Aussie coins to Mark, as he is fascinated by our animals). We had fond hugs and tender kisses. Then back to the Schneiders' to load up and give Harry a big hug goodbye. He said he was glad I came.'

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