That was the top-of-the-page headline in this week’s local paper. Really.
In a small Texas town, it’s sometimes a challenge for editors to fill a paper with enough “news” to be able to pretend that it’s the news, and not the advertising, that is the reason for the paper’s existence. This is not to say, of course, that the local paper doesn’t have its share of “normal” bad and unsettling news, but the weeks between “Major Drug Bust on West Side of Town” and “Local Man’s Death Going to Grand Jury” are way more numerous than they are in, say, Dallas or Fort Worth.
So why do I love reading the local paper each week? It’s precisely because headlines about driving conditions are the norm and not the exception. Local newspapers do not have as their primary purpose the scaring of their readers into a state of fear and submission to advertisers for more information about pharmaceuticals, better security systems, and this weekend’s local Gun Shows. Small town newspapers, quaint and funny as they sometimes are, reflect lifelong local attitudes that have been shaped by less noise, less hurry, and- around here anyway- this:
This is the moon. I can see it almost every night, along with stars, planets, and the occasional meteorite. If it’s not cloudy, I can watch the sun rise and set by looking east or west from my backyard. If it is cloudy, I can join the rest of the town in hoping that it rains, or snows. Snow here is not only rare and pretty, but, like the rain, life-giving. It’s not an inconvenience on the 40 minute morning commute through traffic fumes and toll booths. It’s moisture for the fields, ponds for both the cattle and coyote, and the promise of springtime wildflower extravaganzas.
The rhythms of rural areas and small towns are determined by the land upon which they sit and the skies under which they are nestled. Going to bed with the glow of the moon coming through the bedroom windows is- for me- a far superior way to go to sleep, than with the light from street lamps, Taco Bells, and passing police and fire trucks ever was. (24 years in Dallas; almost 5 years here)
And while I have no way of measuring it quantitatively, I wonder often how it is to experience such an earth and sky centered existence for a lifetime? I wonder about that because, having lived in both urban and rural settings, I observe a richer awareness by people here in the countryside of where their humanity is rooted. The explosion of wildflowers every spring may, for some people here, become passe. Nonetheless, they are seeing them; the colors are filling their minds whether they are aware of it happening, or not. The Big Sky they have looked up at everyday since they were bouncing in backyard strollers, is an ever-present reminder that humans are not at the top of any apex concocted in a corporate boardroom or automobile showroom.
I wonder about those things, because not only do I observe them, I feel them. I can hear ducks out at the lake, coyotes in the early evening, and the rustling of mesquite and mimosa trees almost anytime. I can see people I know driving by the house. I never hear obscenities like “Hump Day” and “TGIF” from people bound to share their misery at work that day with me. I feel the calm of the moon on the horizon and I feel a serenity in the calloused hands of ranchers as well as in the sounds of the Friday marching band on the football fields a few blocks away. I’m reminded of truths which really matter- like, ‘road hazards affect driving conditions.‘ And I’m not so prone to be addled by the subtle but relentlessly fearsome noise of emergency vehicles and morning drive time.
I have a clearer, more ready, less encumbered, and desirous view of this: