I’ve been staring at a blank screen for a while now, trying to find the right words. Texas. What to say? In a way, I’m tickled to be writing this blog post while in Sweden – my homeland. When I was 8 we packed up our things and boarded a jet plane headed for Dallas, Texas, where I would spend the rest of my childhood and teenage years.
When I got the commission from Lonely Planet Traveller (UK) to shoot the statewide travel story on Texas earlier this year I was beyond thrilled. Even still – after all these years of living there – Texas remains exotic for me. In other places, far from Texas, when folks inquire about my accent, I often mention my time in Texas jokingly in a ridiculous faux drawl: “I (sounds like eye) can walk among them undetected.”
Categorically speaking, this is not actually true. I’ve always felt slightly like a fish out of water in my official home-in-the-US-state – they know I am not a born and bred Texan. But, that has never been an issue. Not in the slightest. Texas is home to some of the warmest, big-hearted people you might ever meet. I have always felt welcome here.
This statewide jaunt with writer/TV personality Christa Larwood was pure delight – for me, it was a trip down memory lane and a journey of discovering new, unchartered territory, too. We kicked off in Austin with a seemingly uncharacteristic poetry slam in which the winning poet – a long-bearded-man — praised single mothers to an adoring crowd. In Lockhart we discovered classic Texas barbecue – and after hours photographing in the smoldering fire pits, I was effectively barbecue-scented for the duration of the assignment. Bandera was cowboy country – longhorn cattle, golden sunsets and the stoic men riding into them. From there the clichés gave way to something stranger – in Big Bend an entirely alien (but splendid) landscape of moon rocks and otherworldly plants seemed to promise that dual moons would soon rise on the horizon. I stepped into the Rio Grande River and was so tempted to wade across the gentle waters at the Santa Elena Canyon, just to touch Mexico. But it would be illegal, they told me. Our last stop, in Marfa, was perhaps the strangest: Imagine a place where high art converges – successfully – with cowboy culture. It is indescribable. Glad to have seen the Prada Marfa store at last, on that endless, tawny expanse of land.
Texas is a beautifully strange place.Y’all should go. Seriously. All y’all.