One Summer, fire ants invaded my Mesquite home. Fire ants act quite territorially. They decided my bedroom was part of their territory. I wore welts for a long while thereafter.
During my childhood, the "invasion" of the fire ants, like the later "invasion of the killer bees", had been the kind of media story in which Scientific American and Reader's Digest delighted.
As with most such "invasions", the reality proved a bit less stark than the fantasy. Fire ants proved not to be South American army ants, hauling off human carcasses. Their bite just stings a lot.
I reached an equilibrium that Summer with the fire ants. I'd awaken, being stung.
I'd kill the offender. I'd wake up the next day, with a new welt. I'd sleep the next night.
I cannot recall why I did not just hire a pesticide company, or use one of the many crude and environmentally incorrect ways to conduct guerrilla warfare against fire ants nests. But in fact, I just killed the ones that stung me, and endured.
I think that dysfunctional times and dysfunctional situations can sometimes result in similar equilibriums. One can kill the immediate problem, so there's no need to solve the underlying nest of fire ants nearby.
I spent some time today making reservations for a weekend away. We originally planned to go down to the Gulf Coast for our holiday. Ultimately, though, we were daunted by the idea of a six hour drive to Galveston, or the hassle of flying on a holiday weekend.
We decided instead to find a lake resort within four hours' drive. This proved more daunting than I first imagined. Because my wife dislikes Friday night travel after a workday on a holiday weekend, we prefer to reserve a room for Saturday and Sunday only.
Lake places, of course, prefer to rent only in holiday weekend three night blocks.
Our first choice, Arkansas' DeGray Lake, proved unavailable for this reason.
Many other lake resorts suffered from a similar shortcoming.
As I waited until the Wednesday before the weekend to begin phoning in earnest,
many places (Robber's Cave in Oklahoma, the scene of a happy memory from childhood; Lantana Resort in north Texas, a gorgeous place not far at all from us) proved sold out.
Finally, I googled around a bit and found a place I'd always meant for us to visit--Quartz Mountain Resort. Quartz Mountain sites in southwestern Oklahoma, in the Washita Mountains. Its very starkness always appealed to me. The resort proved to have reasonably priced lakeside lodge rooms, with a lake view, available on Saturday and Sunday. I grabbed at the chance. Now we can leave Saturday dawn,
get there late Saturday morning, and enjoy a unique experience.
It's a curious thing. Quartz Mountain, though for years of some interest to me, is probably not someplace we would list in our "top ten" places in this region that we wish to see. It's stark rather than green, and rocky rather than deeply wooded.
It's not much further away, than, say, Austin, but it "seems" a million miles from here, because we orient towards Texas and Arkansas, not northwesterly. Yet my inability to locate us at a number of "first choices" landed us with a weekend I now really look forward to spending.
Sometimes the "comfortable" rut features the ant sting. Sometimes the unexpected last choice holds the key to opening the lotus. Lotuses, on second thought, are a bit eastern-mystic-stereotyped for me. Let's say instead that sometimes a japonica blooms even in the rockiest soil.
I am delighted about driving to Quartz Mountain, if for no other reason than that we get to pass through Wichita Falls. Wichita Falls is one of those towns set off unto itself, that just delights because it just is delightful.
I read a magazine article in the doctor's office about how the grand prairie depopulates these days, causing people to look for new ways to live there and new ways to return to the pre-sod-busting ecology.
I've always despaired, a bit, of the folks who see prairie as something you fly over to get from Santa Monica to Manhattan. Some folks in California actually believes that anything east of Palm Desert is "The East".
But in fact, from Gainesville, Texas, through Altus Oklahoma, through Kansas, into Nebraska and continuing up into the Dakotas, the grass is alive. I'm eager to see a small part of the southern waving grass, stretching before me, thinly people by lives as rich as anyone flying overhead.
If I am lucky, I might see a Rocky Mountain elk this trip. But I'll be perfectly contented if I see a stretch of open land, and if, during any fire ant encounters, I am quick to react, and move on. They say that even in August the wildflowers are rampant, and the Arts Institute of Oklahoma stands amid the isolation.
But mostly, I want to see the grasses stretch before me, and then the rocks, and then the sun.