Sand, Sand Everywhere

IMG_6732I used to take day trips all the time, but Midland, Texas, doesn’t have a lot of options for short excursions. It’s in the middle of everything… which is West Texas means it’s far from everything.

However, Monahans Sandhills State Park is a gem of picturesque dunes in the midst of flat, mesquite-dotted desert.

Although renting sleds to slide down the dunes is a lot of fun, on this particular trip, Flynn the Dragon and I just went and wandered and played. Dogs are welcome, as long as they stay on leash, and the park rangers will scold you for disobeying. However, I’ll confess I let Flynn romp around a little to get out some good energy.

The magic of the sandhills is that they are such a¬†surprise. You pull in by the sign, pause at the visitor’s center, wondering if it’s all it’s cracked up to be. From the road, it looks like the rest of this part of Texas. As you follow the drive winding back away from I-20, you start to see glimpses, but the skepticism persists.IMG_6725

Then, you pull into the picnic parking area, are you start to see the prize: crisp, smooth hills, one after another after another, off into the distance, an occasional brush or tree interrupting the pristine landscape, but mostly just something straight out of a movie.

When you look closer, you start to see small tracks by bugs, snakes and birds. You see deeper impressions from people who walked there even just minutes ago, but mostly, it’s just marked by the wind making tiny, intimate wrinkles.

Go visit. Enjoy. Take water. Take a camera that doesn’t matter if it gets a little sandy.

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Want more photos? Visit me on Instagram @mbrincks989

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Small Adventure In Big Spring

A great view of Big Spring.

A great view of Big Spring.

As I continue to adjust to living in a desert climate, I’ve found a great desire to get outside and do some hiking like I used to be able to do regularly. Where better to go than Big Spring, a town practically screaming of water and greenery? Okay, maybe not, but this weekend, with dog and Boyfriend in tow, I made my way to Big Spring State Park. The trail mostly consisted of walking along a paved road, but we also explored a nature trail, complete with a scenic view of the town of Big Spring.

Flynn enjoyed exploring and running. Although dogs are supposed to be kept on leash, there were few cars and people. I really enjoy how good he is about staying close, just a few yards ahead.

For a 40-minute drive, I didn’t really think the hike was worth the travel time, but if we had something else to do in Big Spring, it would make for a great (free!) addition to a day trip. However, it was great to get out of our normal routine and have an adventure, however small.

Packing Again

I started packing. Again.

Why does it feel like all I’ve been doing is packing and moving, packing and moving, for the past four years? Maybe because it’s true.

In honor of the last (cross-country) move for awhile (I hope), I decided to take a trip down memory lane of all the great and small moves of my life.

Sixth Grade: Moved from the farm to Tiny Town, Iowa. I was thrilled because the move meant I got my own room and could coat the walls in glow-in-the-dark stars and horse posters. I even had horse curtains, courtesy of my mom. (Thanks, Mom!) Determined to mark my territory and privacy, I always slept with the door shut, for which I was punished by freezing during the winter and roasting during the summer. Despite my love of my space, even years later I still have recurring dreams about the farm.

August 2008: Moved from Tiny Town, Iowa, to Lincoln, Nebraska, for college at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Ah, Neihardt Hall, how I miss thee! The oldest dorm on the UNL campus proved a wonderful home for those nine months. I shared a room with an absolutely fabulous girl and met some of my best friends that year. Plus, climbing up to the third floor three or four times a day built my leg strength and compensated for the massive amounts of dorm food I ate.

Summer 2009: Moved from Lincoln to my parents’ house for a couple weeks until moving to Woodstock, Illinois, for my first internship. (I can never decide it it was one to two moves.) I loved it. Every morning in Woodstock I got up and looked out my window to see two adorable horses about 20 feet from the house. Then the morning walk to work took me down the lane lined with white fence. My office overlooked the vibrant green pastures, and a tiny bonsai tree kept me company in the office whenever the office cats were MIA.

Fall 2009: Back to Lincoln to live with one of my best friends in the world. We lived in a big, old house with hardwood floors and a red wall down the middle of the main floor. Oedipus met Andromeda and it was cautious hate at first sight. By the end they tolerated each other. Every morning I took the city bus to campus, and evenings and weekends were spent on the Equestrian Team. It was the busiest year I had in college, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Summer 2010: On to Texas! I lived in an extended stay hotel with a fellow intern at APHA in Fort Worth. It was an adorable space, but tiny. Water bugs haunted us until the hotel sprayed our apartment for bugs a second time, but it didn’t really matter because we spent all day at an awesome place to work and all afternoon hanging out at the pool. The work was amazing, the dry heat was fabulous, and I got the best tan of my life. When I drove away in the dark morning on a Saturday in August, I wished I could turn around and stay.

Fall 2010: Moved back to Lincoln and in with someone who, at the time, was merely an acquaintance. Now I can’t imagine the past year and a halt without her! We lived in an adorable duplex where Oedipus regularly ran sprints from the bathroom to the kitchen and back again. So much learning and growing and figuring out life happened in that space, and I miss my creamy brown bedroom walls that always made me go “ahhhhhh” at the end of the day. I was 10 blocks from the best coffee in Lincoln, and only a short drive to campus, the mall and some really good friends.

December 2011: Texas Round Two: I currently live with a wonderful woman and her amazing 9-year-old son. They accepted me into their family, and I couldn’t imagine a better living situation for this short time. To top it off, I get to enjoy the beautiful Amarillo winter weather and avoid coats, snow boots, hats and gloves. I moved here with only what could fit in the trunk of my car–less, actually, because I was accompanied by my three sisters, and they each brought a carry-on sized bag. The experience of paring down to the bare essentials (and not using things I brought with me) has been an eye-opening experience. But more on minimalism and moving another day.

February 2012: The next move will take me north for a short pit stop in Iowa to repack all of the things I left in Tiny Town before heading east through the Midwest winter to an East Coast spring in Virginia.

Seven moves in less than four years. Each transition had it’s own challenges, but each experience taught me things about myself. I am so lucky to have lived in so many places, even if just for short periods of time. Each place holds a bit of my heart, and I’m so grateful and amazed by all of the wonderful people I’ve met in each place. I wouldn’t be who I am today without them.

And Then the Sunrise

Sunrise near Amarillo, Texas

This week has had its ups and downs. On one hand, I’m getting a good feeling for my internship and had a couple of really productive days, and I’m really enjoying Amarillo. I had a good week’s worth of workouts, and I’m speeding through my pile of books to read.

On the other hand, I miss my family and friends like crazy. This was UNL’s first week back to class, and seeing Facebook posts about it made me wish I could hang out with my friends, drive to Omaha to see my sister and complain about the recent cold front that sped through the Midwest and left some snow behind. The truth? No matter how busy I stay, no matter how much I text my friends or talk on the phone with my family or stay in touch through social media, there is no replacement for driving five minutes to see my best friends. There is no substitute for deciding to leave town on a whim and spend the weekend with a sibling or cousin or parents.

Thankfully, I have a fury friend named Oedipus who gleefully purrs beside me while I fall asleep, wakes me up at 5:30 with demands for attention and is currently curled up on my unmade bed, just happy to be close by while I write. As silly as it sounds, having a cat is like having a constant reminder that life must go on.

Which brings me to this morning.

All week I’ve glanced through photography magazines while I’ve done my dutiful 30 minutes a day on the elliptical machine, and it occurred to me that it’s been a long time since I’ve taken any photographs just for the sake of practicing taking pictures.

This morning, I woke up while it was still dark, drove to the outskirts of Amarillo, and found a nice deserted patch of road where no one would notice if I parked my car for a few minutes. I got out, thankful for my jacket, gloves and warm boots, and started snapping some photos of the skyline, a tree, a bush, some barbed wire fence.

Suddenly, to the southeast, the sun twinkled on the horizon. Every second more and more of it appeared in the distance, and it almost looked like a raging fire with no smoke. It shimmered through the atmosphere, and I took a whole bunch of pictures in the brilliant light.

When I turned around to get back in the car, I saw how the sun had lit up the entire landscape in a golden glow.

I’ve seen countless sunrises over the past 22 years, but seeing Amarillo bathed in that brilliant light, seeing how the glow spread over everything, felt like magic this morning. More than anything, it reminded me that photographing that sunrise was just the beginning of the day. I have no idea what the rest of this day or month or year will bring.

This is just the beginning.