Sundays are the beginning of a new week, and should be a day of celebration (right?!), but most people see Sundays as the end of something: their weekend, and so, the day is terribly depressing. Sundays are shafted. They’re delegated to readiness for the work week: grocery shopping, making meals because you don’t have time to cook Monday-Thursday, doing laundry–I mean, you know the deal.
BUT. I’m feeling a tad bit (have to admit, unusually) optimistic on this fine Sunday, and wish to make a proposition for Strong Sundays. That is: readiness of the mind and the body, and not of the work week.
So today, I biked about 6.5 miles to one of my favorite coffee haunts, Black Hole Coffee House, and while I did work (the entire time I was there), I got out of the house and off of my couch to get there. I took a break and walked around the neighborhood, and stumbled across Mandell Park, an organic community garden and an oasis of green in Houston.
I biked a different route back to explore alleyways and streets of the city I hadn’t seen before, and when I returned home, I had a beer, and sat down, and took a minute. On Friday night, I had friends over for Family Dinner, and we made pizza, and it was a beautiful smorgishboard of tastes and toppings and swapping slices.
I think I’ll make Strong Sundays a tradition. I would love to hear about how you keep Sunday strong, so use the hashtag #keepsundaystrong to give this day of the week a little love!
Houston can be pretty overwhelming–heck, any city can be overwhelming– and my wander itch was getting stronger, so my friend Josie suggested that we take a mini road trip to find Gulf Coast beaches. It couldn’t have been a better idea, especially since we actually couldn’t find it for a better half of the afternoon, but, of course, like all wander chronicles, getting lost led us to other beautiful places!
This is the second installment of The WANDER CHRONICLES, so if you missed the first, hunting for Mt. Bierstadt’s trailhead in the snow, you can find it here!
Frozen Point, Gulf Coast, Texas
Our destination began as Frozen Point, a part of the Gulf coastline that, in 1895, was subjected to 20 inches of snow! Our October day was still in the 90s, so it was difficult to picture a blizzard in this subtropical climate, and maybe our reason for choosing this legendary coastal protrusion–a little heat relief, please?
Turns out, Frozen Point is mainly private land, one of the original cattle-ranching operations in Chambers County, owned by patriarch James Jackson whose 6,000 cattle head were covered in the bizarre snowstorm of 1895. So, while you can drive down the mainly gravel road to Frozen Point, through acres of beautiful prairie and marshes, you can’t actually access the Point itself.
Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge
So, Josie, Corey and I found ourselves at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, 34,000 acres of protected ancient marshland. After a picnic of sandwiches and beer, we took to exploring some of the trails.
These are short, meandering little excursions but bursting with incredible flora and fauna. If you’re a birder, this is the place to be–the refuge is known for its population of rails, a species of marsh bird that’s described as chicken-like. Marsh dinosaurs!
I’d like to return during the winter season because I might catch the snow-geese phenomenon where flocks of up to 80,000 swoop down from the migratory paths to feed in the marshes.
Okay, so after toodling around this refuge, we left in search of the ocean. Where’s the beach? Where’s the sand? Where’s the water? we kept asking, and found ourselves driving a tad northeast to High Island.
High Island | Gulf Coast Beaches
You won’t believe this but High Island gets its name because it’s literally the highest point, at just 32ft above sea level, on the entire Gulf Coast, all the way to the Yucatan! This is definitely a different kind of landmark than the Fourteeners I’ve experienced in Colorado.
The island is home to only 450 residents–that’s only 100 more people than my graduating high school class!–and is rumored to have been a partying spot for pirates in the early 1800s. Now, it’s a less-traveled, serene spot for sea kayakers, fishermen, and beach loungers.
People drove their vehicles right onto the beach, no parking lot necessary. We hunted for shells and got our feet wet, and hit refresh on our souls.
The arts festivals in Houston, Texas are like the city’s raspa stands and ice houses–there’s one on every corner, but each one offers specific flavors and atmosphere.
I wanted to be at all of the exciting events (The Texas Contemporary Arts Festival, the Bayou Park Grand opening, LibroFest, Banned Books at Brazo’s Bookstore, and The Greek Festival–just to name a few!). I spent most of Saturday afternoon biking around this urban landscape, exploring, and attending a couple of these festivities.
Houston LibroFest highlights Hispanic writers. Literary arts organizations, magazines, activists, and vendors spent the beautiful afternoon in the Houston Public Library square celebrating the vibrant Latino community and its literacy love.
I signed up to help Gulf Coast Journal man their booth. Speaking with other members of the literary arts community was so inspiring! I kept sneaking away to visit all the vendors–there were so many things to do!
Literary Arts of Houston, Texas
My favorite must have been the Workhorse Print Makers booth where I hand-pressed my own poster! I’ve been in love with letterpress for a few years now (Intended Hobby #656) and it’s clear the Workhorse guys are too:
“Nothing says love like heavy metal. We don’t mean purple satin, long hair and guitars heavy metal. We mean one ton of cast iron slowly squeezing paper in its tender embrace. We mean men lavishing attention on long forgotten machines that once were the epoch of human ingenuity. Hammers hitting steel, the squeak of belts, and the sizzle of oil on well lubed bushings. We love letterpress.”
This full-service letterpress print shop uses soy-based inks and citrus-solvents, and their stock is often made from American recycled or tree-free cotton! I mean really, I couldn’t admire these guys more!
Check out my poster! It’s a quote from Sandra Cisneros (You might know her best from her novel, The House on Mango Street). You can bet it will be hanging in the most visible spot of my house.
Little Red Leaves Journal & Press showcased their Textile Series of hand-sewn books of poetry. Each one had its own personality–pieces of art from the inside, out! I wanted to buy all of them, especially the blank notebooks.
Monica Villareal and Jorge Galvan Flores (above) are two of the city’s talented graphic artists. Monica is wearing a Voices Breaking Boundaries t-shirt, a Houston grassroots arts organization inciting social justice through art. They work to create open conversations and new experiences of the city’s cultural history and present. These guys do it all: performance art, dance, graphic design, photography–you name it. Go like the organization’s Facebook page–they deserve support!
This is the lovely Adrienne Perry, editor of Gulf Coast Journal. Adrienne has only been living in Houston for two years, but has nestled herself into the city’s literary arts community with her warm, generous spirit.
Inprint, Houston’s premier literary arts organization, deployed its team of Poetry Buskers to the Bayou Park Grand Opening. Armed with typewriters and reservoirs of words, these poets wrote poems for park visitors on the spot–how freaking cool is that? “Give us a theme, and we’ll write you a poem.” A custom-made poem is a special gift, but so is watching these talented writers create them!
Biking around Houston, the arts are everywhere. I came across this incredible mural on my way to get coffee (Needed to refuel from the overwhelming arts stimulation!). It’s gorilla art: get it?!
I ended my day of Houston exploration at Catalina Coffee. By far, the BEST coffee I’ve had in Houston so far. Why? Because they roast it themselves, of course! I was thrilled to find a local roaster. While chatting with the barista, I discovered that the editor of Sugar & Rice Magazine, who I spoke with at LibroFest that afternoon, had also been in for java that day.
I learned so much about my literary arts community and am so excited to explore more ways to get involved. Below is a list of the organizations featured in this blog post. Please visit their websites, like their Facebook pages, and if you’re feeling inclined, share their work!
Check out more urban art from my travels to Chicago, here!
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to travel back to my home state of Connecticut (for my best friend’s wedding! #stillreeling), so of course, I had to make time to satiate my wander fix. Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine might hog all the attention when it comes to the New England countryside, but there are places to get (responsibly) lost in the little ‘ole Constitution state too.
The foliage is definitely a sight to see, but one of the best parts about the New England backcountry are the little things, which, like most, I took for granted as a resident of these green hills, but after spending the last few years in the larger-than-life Colorado mountains, I re-discovered them on my short visit: like the clonk of acorns dropping from the oak trees.
I get my adventurous spirit from my mama so the two of us ventured into Peoples State Park: forest land donated by the Daughters of the American Revolution, where 200 year-old pine groves grow, and the remains of the historic village, Barkhamsted Lighthouse, can be found.
Like many people, when we heard “lighthouse,” we immediately thought “ocean,” but you won’t find the traditional sea-beacon here. Instead, the village’s lights served as a nighttime directional for stagecoach traffic traveling to Hartford in the 19th century–hence the lighthouse analogy!
The village began as a settlement in the 1770s when Molly Barber, a young white woman, fell in love with James Chaugham, a Native American of the Narraganset tribe. They ran away to the woods of Northwestern Connecticut to escape her disapproving father.
I know, I know, a real-life Disney Pocahontas romance! #heavybreathing
They started the settlement, and the village became one of the country’s first multi-cultural towns, a tucked-away haven for freed slaves, survivors of colonial conflicts, and Anglo-European pilgrims. Some of the remains of this village, which dissolved toward the late 1800s, still remain like the homes’ cellar holes, the village’s charcoal pit, and even the cemetery where the couple and their family have been buried.
In terms of difficulty, these trails are comfortable and short. Perfect 2-mile segments, and the shaded woods keep you out of the Indian summer sun, so common during New England’s September. At the crest of a hill, we were greeted by Grand Vista overlook, a beautiful scene of the Farmington River sparkling through the forest.
Needless to say, my soul was happy wandering in my woods again.
Here is me, the maker of adventure herself, and family pooch number two, Taylor. 🙂
P.S. This little history lesson brought to you by Connecticut Curiosities: Quirky Characters, Roadside Oddities, and other Offbeat Stuff by Susan Campbell and Bill Heald. Go buy the book, e-book, or check it out at the local library for more cool #thingstodoinCT
I’ve been MIA because I made a huge life decision: to move from Fort Collins, Colorado to Houston, Texas. You’re probably wondering, “Why? Why would you ever?” and that’s what everyone I knew said when I made this announcement. For months, I was heckled with “I hope you’re prepared for unbearable heat” and various versions of “You’re crazy.” When I arrived, even Houstonians wanted to know why anyone would come to Houston from anywhere else.
I moved away from the backcountry of my Colorado soul, the purity of the air, the diversity of the landscape, the easy-going, slow, savory lifestyle, to pursue a PhD at the University of Houston.
I’ve been here about a month now, and I finally feel like I can sanely reflect on my insane decision. This is the second cross-country move I’ve made in three years, the second time I’ve left behind homes, family, and friends for a place I’d never been, for the sole reason to have the time and space to write. Last night, Jonathan Franzen read from his new novel Purity at the Wortham Theatre in downtown. During the Q&A, in response to the question, how are you able to sustain the energy to write a novel, he said, “You have to be obsessed with it.” And I suppose, this too might be the only answer I have for people:
You have to love something enough that you’re obsessed with it more than anything else in your life, and you’re willing to follow it anywhere.
I’ve met incredible people who have already become the friends that I rely on and laugh with like family. Adventure is just that: showing up in the unknown with every doubt and finding your spirit there anyway.
It might be harder to find the backcountry, now that I live in one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world, but it’ll be an even bigger adventure now that I have to go searching for it. So, if you’re willing to stick with me, this blog may venture into new territory just as I have, but it’ll likely be just as exciting.
Who knows what will happen from here, but for now…