When the Road Offers Memories & Change

March’s road trip to Austin offered a two-fer.

Celebrate author-friend, Dorothy Van Soest, at her latest book reading.

Swing by the University of Texas campus and cruise around on grounds where I once stomped.

I stop mid-plan.

When, precisely, did I attend UT-Austin? When did I leave?

My mind races back to graduation, spring of 1979.

I dig out my college diploma. Discovery yields an oh-my-god. 

I graduated from college 40 years ago.

Today.

What are the odds? 

And…40 years? How did that happen?

The new-graduate photo at right offers a trio of chuckles: an Instamatic photo enlarged to pixilating — beyond the limits of this ancient technology; Farrah Fawcett wannabe-hair; and pair of ghastly raccoon eyes.

More questions: what was I thinking? Why, UT-Austin, was my tassel red and not orange?

DH marveled at my pre-DW look, worn so proudly a decade before we married. He marveled, too, at the UT campus, amused at how little I recognized.

My sense of loss-and-big-change began at the communications building, my life center for three years.

Dull brown now covered the building known as the Rusty Bucket. Framed in weathered steel, the building’s exterior had morphed during our college years into a distinctive orange-brown hue. So, we renamed the building. It stuck. What do they call it now?

New also is the building across the street: a stand-alone home for UT radio with twice as many stations as in my day.

I began my radio career here, at KUT. But our studios sat deep in the bowels of the Rusty Bucket, an afterthought.

My chest puffs up. In today’s era of social media dominance, it’s a new point of pride that my alma mater supports radio like this. Even the pedestrian street-bridge reeks of extra resources, even special privilege. 

If faster access results in better news and information, bring it on, kids!

Down the street, I spot The Co-Op, where we bought our textbooks. Nowadays, turntables appear to headline the sales.

I laugh. Old becomes new? I ask DH“how quickly will the youngsters figure out we dumped records and record players—for a very practical reason?”

At the Co-Op’s door, the welcome sign brings a laugh. I reach for my phone. In that instant, I remember how picture-taking has also changed.

Snap a photo and wait a week to hold it in your hand. Take fewer pictures because each print costs a dime, or more.

How much has changed, and how little.

All in only 40 (short) years.

Two for Two

Today I update my recent walking report with a riding one.

Do you remember the tree tale?

Oaks split by lightning — or old age — chopped then ground down to create something new. What, precisely is subject to a writer’s walking eyes.

Intrigued by my starfish observations, DH suggested a look-see. Up close. From a wheeled perspective. I pulled up to the spot.

Where I’d spied sea creatures, my husband shouted a one-word rebuttal: “Longhorn!”

I rebutted right back: “Bevo?”

My instinctive answer reflects a distant past at UT-Austin. Four years of Saturdays at Longhorn football games ended with a national championship. An exercise in giddy jubilation. Even the big-ass longhorn steer we called Bevo mooed for Earl Campbell and his big-as-log thighs as they hightailed into the touchdown zone.

Nowadays, you won’t ever see me at a football game. Multi-level brain sensitivities—a blog post for another day?—preclude me from returning to that past. But ancient wiring lasts a lifetime, resurfacing at the oddest moments.

I digress. (This happens. Call it post-menopausal privilege.)

Staring at the flattened remnants of the tree, my eyes studied the woody bits. No cow from this street view. I turned into the parking lot and there he rested, awaiting eyes that could see.

You win, DH. Although I will offer this in my defense: there’s a slight rise in the earth which hides Bevo’s devil horns. You know, like maybe it’s really an Aggie Bevo you’re seeing.

After our couple’s drama, I remained intrigued so drove to the other leveled trees. Could there be longhorns lurking there, too?

Here’s the tree mess I’ve yet to decipher. After working all afternoon to find a creative shape, I gave up on this old oak blob. So I invite your eyes to look.

What see you?

This simple couple-experience taught me much.

To everything, there’s a learning. This one offered a quick class in New Ways of Seeing.

It’s worth looking again.

Inviting other looks.

Looking longer.

Capturing perceptions and sharing perspectives — both of eyes and I’s — enrich life and expand minds.

Isn’t this what life and the matrix — as illuminated two weeks ago — is all about?

Could this be the writer’s true mission?