The implication of the choice between interstate travel and that of small, two-lane state highways is a question you might expect to see on a Myers & Briggs personality test. Depending on the journey and desired arrival time, one choice will be preferred over the other. Sometimes, however, you are simply given no choice as the other options is so completely out of the way. This was my option last week as I traveled a route between Magnolia and Madisonville, Texas.
I made this drive once before, about a year and a half ago, traveling along 1774 and then 90, north to Madisonville. It was in the depths of autumn, a late afternoon, just after a rainstorm. As the world sometimes seems after a rain, everything was achingly fresh, the sky remarkably clear, and the sun a brilliant gold above the west horizon coating the countryside. The moment was so beautiful I had to pull over my vehicle and witness it which inspired the following poem:
Texas doesn’t do autumn very well,
but as I travel this stretch
of winding two-lane state highway,
I’ve caught its best attempt
of nature in transition.
It has just rained,
and the countryside is in its Sunday best,
where above the sky is a startling blue,
and a golden afternoon sun flickers
through trees, casting opaque shadows
across the road as I drive
past idyllic farmhouses, lofty Loblollies
and tremendous Live Oaks
with their muscular,
We don’t get much color
on the trees in Texas,
maybe a little yellow
from the Pecan or Cottonwood.
Leaves mostly progress
from vibrant to sickly green,
then brown, then drop,
but here, in this moment,
following the road now curving right
with brilliant light covering this meadow,
these rolling hills, this pond to my left,
it is plain that Texas
has its own kind of autumn,
which is hard to see outside
of traveling state highways.
This is the magic that happens along state highways where the trees are nearer the road, the landscape more honest, and world a little more simpler.
The drive stayed with me the last year and a half, making a happy impression, and developing a desire to drive it again. Unfortunately, the route is a bit out of my way to make it a casual afternoon activity until last week when the opportunity presented itself.
This second journey along the same state highways made just as powerful an impression as the first, as if I were acquainting myself with an old friend after many years apart. This time though, instead of witnessing the countryside after a fresh autumn rain, I was treated to mile after mile of beautiful spring Texas wildflowers.
It’s probably a beautiful drive under any circumstances, but this day I was challenged to not pull over every couple of miles and take pictures of the colorful roadside flowers. The greatest challenge in these situations is to identify a place worth pulling over quick enough while traveling 70 miles per hour; the spot generally passes before a choice can be made. I chose two spots though and the pictures that resulted are what you see here.
Groups of wildflowers are hard to photograph. Unless outrageously dense, they never quite show up on film as well as they do in real life. There may be a lesson in that.