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So I woke up in Fredericksburg not feeling quite well. Last night’s pizza didn’t agree with me. But I guess it’s par for the course. A trip isn’t really an adventure if you don’t get lost, don’t get in trouble, and don’t eat at least one thing you don’t like. For me, it was the pizza in Fredericksburg. For Andreea, the protagonist of Lone Wolf, it’s bland veggie pasta in a restaurant that serves mostly steaks.

In the end, though I never got to feeling quite 100%, the day took a turn for the better. I finally got to visit Luckenbach, the remote little place featured in one of my favorite country songs, then it was on to Austin where we checked into the South Congress Hotel. The South Congress Hotel is seriously cool. I love it here! Our rooms are very very beautiful, and we are walking distance from Güero’s Taco Bar where we had amazing enchiladas. Hopefully after a good night’s sleep I’ll wake up perkier tomorrow.

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Goodbye, West Texas!

This morning I awoke at the Holland Hotel with trains whistling right in front of my window, the desert sunshine casting shadows, a vast expanse of sky, and the silhouettes of mountain-like formations not far off. I was sad to leave West Texas, though the long drive through the desert seemed promising still.

Tonight we’re in Fredericksburg, which is cute and full of Christmas lights, but can’t hold a candle to the beautiful landscapes we left behind. At least I stocked up on inspiration for many paintings, and reconnected with the desert feel I want to channel in the upcoming novel. Tomorrow it’s on to Austin, then back home on Wednesday. There is a frozen turkey waiting in my freezer, and a small dog in Galveston.

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The day started early with roosters crowing in the desert, strong coffee, and a glorious sunrise. There were traces of ice, delicate like lace, on the car, but inside the house we had slept well. Don’t get me wrong, we were ready to get out of there, yet happy to have experienced at least one unforgettable desert sunrise.

Our first stop was the Prada store in the middle of nowhere. Here we took the requisite pictures, but my dad was not impressed. He did, however, see the charm of the little post office in Valentine, as remote as our house had been, or maybe even more so, yet surprisingly open.

We proceeded to the Fort Davis scenic loop, which was the highlight of our experience. It was so very beautiful! We even saw some very friendly deer, and got to stop at the McDonald Observatory, a place we both found fascinating. Apparently the observatory uses mirrors to see the stars. Mirrors seemed to be a theme to our experience in the desert. This surreal space, a confluence of scientists, fans of sci-fi, and cutting edge art, seems to be all about mirrors and reflections. Donald Judd’s metal sculptures at the Chinati Foundation are mirrors of sorts. As to the mysterious Marfa lights, which we did go see after dark, after a lovely dinner at the Holland Hotel in Alpine where we found much more comfortable lodging, they’re probably reflections too, a product of the desert air creating mirror images of lights from faraway places. Or perhaps they are, indeed a miracle, a thing to see but not truly understand. On our way to the lights we saw a coyote. It crossed the road, its fur glimmering silver. It was a beautiful animal. I remember the symbolism of the coyote. The shape-shifter and trickster brings transformation, new beginnings. I remember trying to channel his energy at the beginning of the Escapist Mentorship Program, an experience I was hoping would transform me, and which did. But perhaps it took a trip to the desert and some reflection to truly embrace the newness of it all.

Here’s a passage from my upcoming novel, Lone Wolf, about the Marfa lights:

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Desert Introspection

You know what they say about how it’s not the destination, it’s the journey. Well, the journey was beautiful. 360 miles to Valentine on Highway 90 through the desert, at times so close to the border we were wondering if we’d be able to see it, it all was a thing of beauty and wonder. Once we got here, though, we crossed the railroad tracks, as instructed, and found our little house, glimmering Airstream adjacent, on a street that is too desolate to be called a street at all. Some of the other houses seem abandoned. The horses next door look like they could use a few solid meals, so does the small black dog that came running up to our porch but didn’t dare approach us. The house itself is well appointed enough, I suppose, but its “faux rural luxe,” as a friend called it to whom I texted a picture, depresses me. And so, sitting outside painting the Airstream – the inside of which doesn’t even qualify as “faux rural luxe” – I had an unexpected moment of introspection. Remote locations attract me, wilderness attracts me. But as soon as I get somewhere truly remote, all I want to do is come back to an urban location. In some ways perhaps I needed to come here to learn this about myself and to find closure of sorts, because this is not only true for places I’m attracted to, but sometimes also for people. I suppose it helps to understand some things are truly lovely, but not for me. Tomorrow night we’ll be staying at a hotel in Alpine.

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A Day in the Hill Country

Very good day overall: we woke up and drove down Capital of Texas Highway in Austin, one of my favorite scenic drives, then continued on to Driftwood for barbecue at the Salt Lick. And then we drove down winding country roads through the Hill Country, past San Antonio – or rather around it. Our home for the night is Castroville, where we are staying at a lovely little boutique hotel. Tomorrow it’s on to West Texas, down the scenic Highway 90 South.

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First Stop: Austin

We set out this morning. My painting is wearing a seatbelt, and I particularly love how this one little horned toad looks in it. The weather is still cold and I’m tired. After a perfunctory tour of Austin – by car – my dad wanted to stay in his room and watch TV. He’s particularly keen on watching the blizzard in New York. I guess it doesn’t matter how many trips he takes to Texas, NYC will always be his point of reference. Me, I went to dinner at Fonda San Miguel with a good friend. Then I retreated to my own room. I’m reading a book I really love: Newfangled by Debra Monroe. It’s about a woman who keeps reinventing herself in different places, which obviously speaks to me, but it’s more than that. It’s so very well written. It’s cool. I hope I can keep myself from finishing it too fast.

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Island Drop-Off

Still cold today but it ended up being a really nice day. Lots of things worked out, including, I sold the last two commissions for my West Texas watercolor series! So excited to have ten producers for my upcoming novel, Lone Wolf!

Also, we took the dog to Galveston. We dropped her off at boarding. I’m very grateful for how nice and loving that place is, also how clean, beautiful, and comfortable.

After the dog was settled in for her hotel stay, we went in search of a Christmas tree. I must admit, I’ve never gotten one this early, but I’m having some of my VIP collectors over right after Thanksgiving, and I thought I’d be proactive. We went to Tom’s Thumb Nursery, one of my favorite places on the Island, and there we were told the trees were there, but had not yet been cut. I guess too early is too early. And so we went and had an early dinner at BLVD Seafood, and then drove back to Houston. Tomorrow the big adventure starts! First stop: Austin. I’ll keep you posted.

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The Countdown

The countdown has begun: after today I only have three more trips to Beaumont left! Much as I love audiobooks, these drives are wearing me out, and I’ll be very happy to be done with that commute, happy, in fact, to put that whole part of my life behind me. Also, it’s very cold today. It’s cold, and it got dark early, and I’m completely worn out. But tomorrow we’re taking the dog to the Island in anticipation of the big trip to West Texas, and that’s pretty exciting.

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Wolves and Such

I’ve been practicing my wolves in anticipation of my West Texas trip and the release of my new novel, Lone Wolf. Also, my dad arrived safely. We had chili for dinner. It’s really really cold outside and I’m sad that it’s supposed to last into our road trip.

I’m down to only two commissions left for the trip. I’m so excited!

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I’m not gonna lie: I had the blues today. My friends left this morning, the weather was cold, and I had a million things to do. But I went to the studio and painted, and come evening I was feeling a lot better. John invited me to hang out with him and the dogs at one of his favorite bars in the Heights. It was fun. I was glad he’s back from Orlando, and glad to see the dogs. Later, I did some more unpacking in my house, hung some more art. My dad is arriving from Europe tomorrow. He disapproves of dogs in the house. I put a unicorn in his room, which hopefully will make him feel very much on vacation, and like normal rules don’t apply here. Here’s hoping he has a fun time!