The Newcomer: My Arrival, Denial, and Embrace of West Texas
I never intended to come here. The Panhandle of Texas of wasn’t even in my mind’s eye. Admittedly, I am a nomad of sorts. Born in northern California, my life from there divided into sections: Arizona, Colorado, Maine, dragging circles upon circles, lines upon lines, around the US like some human compass put to paper. I had always been a woman who moved through desirable cities and sweeping landscapes. Immune to change, from my prolonged exposure to it. But transporting my life to the High Plains? For this, I was exquisitely unprepared.
With love leading me, I left the coasts and valleys I knew so well and wandered out into the seemingly endless flatlands of West Texas. Mountains fell away. Trees vanished. Water became a memory. Green, a theory. Just me, the dirt, and one big mean sky. For those who have roots here, I can only explain my experience to you as truly alien, like I’d crash-landed on the moon. Or maybe fell asleep reading, somehow slipped between the pages of The Grapes of Wrath. How could anyone make a life somewhere so...barren? During my first few months here, I kaleidoscoped through emotions. Some nights I cried. Others, I considered leaving, my sleepless mind estimating airfares in the dark of our bedroom. There’s just nothing here, I told myself again and again. And I believed it.
For months I spun in place until dizzy, until I had to stop. Had to choose. Contrary to my personal despair, my fiance and I both subscribe to the concept of positive thinking. How you see the world is how you will experience it. What you put in is exactly what you’ll get back. It’s a philosophy we advocate when one of us is failing to protect that light. And my light had dimmed considerably. So, for the first time in little Canyon, Texas, I began to try.
And Amarillo opened for me like a flower. The towns scattered around her became smaller blooms. My headfirst dive of newfound willingness engulfed me in what I thought was lacking. Want music? A spectrum of talented musicians is on ever-rotating display. Next-level food? Pioneering young restaurateurs are now striving to bring us the best, with more on the rise. Friends? Some of the kindest and most creative people dot this bewildered landscape. Great coffee? A mecca. Education? Choose a campus. Art? It’s everywhere, if you look for it. Opportunity? Simply tell the community what you want to achieve and they’ll uphold you. This is in fact, a land of bounty, self-generating that which it desires. West Texas is in no way a perfect place. Its flaws are quite apparent. But it holds gems that have been mined out of existence elsewhere. And for this I am grateful.
I won’t spend all my days in the panhandle. But from where I stand now, I find myself wondering if I won’t somehow miss it once I’m gone.
Teague Owings is a repressed musician living in Canyon, Texas.