There is something that I've never done that I'm getting close to doing and it likely stems from some of the photographs that we found in a hutch in our living room when we were children. Every family has them, this collection of photographs from vacations that your mother and father took before you were born. Those trips that came before they were laden with all sorts of responsibility when they started to build a family. Everything became harder in a hurry. The kids couldn't just be dropped off somewhere and the time found to get away from it all and relax for one week out of the year.
The pictures that we found, along with some old candles and stray pieces of what appeared to be a pornographic puzzle that might have been a gag gift received on their wedding day, are ones in which mom and dad are smiling more than you've ever seen them smile, looking younger than you can ever remember them looking. They're visiting places on motorcycles for chrissakes, something that they wouldn't do in a million years now, nor have they done such a thing in the last 25-30 years. The motorcycles still exist, but they're rusty and fairly ugly and the seats wouldn't know what two asses riding at the same time would feel like. The one photograph that I remember most is a grainy one of my mother in the foreground, with a buffalo in the background, taken while traveling through Yellowstone. For some reason, mom went over a fence into an enclosure (an act that seems absurd for her) and -- the way they tell the story -- after the shutter clicked the buffalo came charging and mom had to hustle to get out of there before getting mauled by the irritable beast. They must have had a gut-busting laugh after that one, feeling the rush of fear and the great outdoors.
Instrumental band Balmorhea make us think about these sorts of all-American adventures, getting chased by buffalo, getting caught out on the open plains in tornado weather, navigating through unfamiliar terrain, all the while, we're smiling bigger than we've ever smiled before and feeling younger than we've tended to feel lately. We have few means to just livelihood anymore, saddled with all of the worries that everyone else has resting on their backs and shoulders. We realize that we could just get into a car at any time and see what there is to see, but there's no question that it's so much easier to say than to do. We can just explore. We can't just see about ourselves, see what we're missing, or find what could sustain us through the next round of doldrums and complacency.
The Austin band of six makes music that feels like daybreak and sundown, happening simultaneously and out in our wilds, on the skirts of places that we've never experienced before, places that we never knew we needed to see, but once we got there, boy, do we realize how lucky we are. They make us feel as if we're being chased a little bit, but more than that, they make us feel as if we're getting somewhere. The songs contained on this session are buoyant and affirming pieces of art that sound as if we're rounding the corner of some dark curtains and emerging upon some of the more awe-inspiring spectacles of natural beauty that one could ever whip up. These are scenes that make us feel as if we're actually on the right road, as if we should be no where else but here. This is all that we are, right now, and that's an odd and empowering feeling. We eat that light up. We feel it go down warm and joyfully.
*Essay originally published June, 2011