Roger Marolt: Hitting a gusher without ever drilling
Where we go in life is less important than the people we go with
I lived here for two and a half years, nine days at a time. If we had owned only one car since we started coming here thirty years ago, we would have worn it out traveling back and forth. Between here and our home in Snowmass Village, we have logged about 170,000 miles. We have never rented or owned a place here.
The place I’m referring to is Midland, Texas. It is where my wife was born, my children came to understand a broader canopy of familial love and my eyes were opened to deeper understanding of what makes a place worth living in.
There wouldn’t be a lot about Midland to attract me otherwise. There are no trees for hundreds of miles beyond the city limits. There are fewer hills or other landmarks besides drilling rigs and pump jacks. It is a sea of mesquite brush and sand. The weather is tortuously hot in the summer, oscillates between not quite as warm as you’d like and colder than you’d think in the winter and is persistently windy and consistently dry, except for the occasional flood waters poured from towering thunderheads, the likes of which are seen nowhere else.
The economy is oil, best suited for those who can stomach periods of being wealthy beyond imagination and other times dry-hole broke. For recreation, you golf, dream about fishing and plan your next vacation to Colorado, which I have been told locals meditate on while doing shavasana in yoga classes.
But then there are the sunsets, brilliant beyond comparison. A place blessed by such awe-inducing productions by God through nature was sign enough at the end of each day in Midland to convince me I was not lost in the wrong place.
We have been mostly undistracted during our visits. The to-do list of things to see and places to go includes hanging out at the pool, playing real golf at the country club and then mini-golf at “Green Ares” (which has miraculously survived since what appears to be around 1950), going to the movies, mall shopping, gorging on Tex-Mex meals and visiting.
It is a lot, but there is no timetable for any of it, so the pace is more like that of sleepwalking through a pleasant dream you won’t remember than a mad scramble to throw down towels at the beach to claim a prime spot before the crowds arrive.
We say it like it happens easily and frequently, but time together spent focusing on the people we are with and they on us is rare and cannot occur by effort expended trying to achieve it. It comes spontaneously. It shies from expectation. It shuns expenditure of energy. It thrives only in circumstance. Midland was just such a circumstance.
I used to lay in bed here and fall asleep to the sound of trains rumbling through in the distance. The gray noise of change and growth now muffles the regularity of this sensory pleasure. Things have changed. Time has vanished. My father-in-law passed away a few years ago, and my mother in-law is moving to Colorado.
We are here now, helping her pack, realizing the incredible blessing of going through more than fifty years of accumulation in closets, cabinets, under beds and hiding in plain sight with her still with us to match it all with the proper story. Everything has at least one attached. Everything is worth saving. And yet it won’t all fit in the new house, so we scramble to strip the memories from items that will soon not be ours and pack them securely in our hearts, hoping not to break any of the fragile details, the things we can’t insure.
The wonderful road of discovery that wound through this random town took me around a bend I didn’t see coming. Where we go in life is less important than the people we go with. The best place on earth is where we stroll leisurely with family and friends. Some of time’s best values are found around a messy breakfast table. Scenery and activities are only things. Somewhere along a drive to Texas, I figured this out. People I love made their way onto my bucket list and pushed everything else onto scraps of scratch paper I may or may not look at again.
We are now finished with Midland. My eyes are moist. As I close the car door in the early morning darkness for the last drive home, my heart aches a little, not for what is lost but for everything gained. I think I hear a train in the distance.
Roger Marolt may see Midland again on another road trip to Big Bend National Park, but he will never see it the same. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.