My Backyard – SummSun #4

I’m not sure I adequately documented everything on yesterday’s post. Podcasts are, in one sense, social, but they’re not social like hanging out with people and having fun would be. Still, having Angela on the podcast seemed like a perfect way to summarize this week.

As Socrates died and Plato thrived, change was inevitable. When I strolled through my old college town this week, I noticed changes and some were uncomfortable. Of course, while noticing those changes, I also noticed how many things had stayed the same.

Students still argue and gather around The Fighting Stallions in front of Derrick Hall
Alkek Library is still as imposing as it ever was
Nature is still very much a part of the Texas State University experience

Even my old third place stayed the same with Travis being philosophical during a deep discussion about conditions in East Texas and rural counties throughout the state.

Travis doing what he does – talk and listen

But there are changes. For one, right above the flowers, there is a crane rising high in the air. According to The Texas Almanac: 2016-2017, San Marcos has been growing steadily for years now. Between 2010 and 2014, Hays County and San Marcos experienced a growth rate of more than seventeen percent. Can you imagine the chaos that could ensue with that growth rate? Where do all those people live? Where do they shop?

Growth and change are almost inevitable; what do you do with them?

In many ways, San Marcos and the surrounding area has suffered since 2014 when I left. I’m not saying my leaving has anything to do with it, but severe storms caused flooding in the area that devastated the heart of San Marcos and, unfortunately, storms would also cause the loss of life in nearby Wimberly. These events are personal to the people of the area and to me. I was an instructional assistant with an awesome man who died as a result of injuries sustained during a fire caused by the storms. He’s now memorialized in a mural, street art that takes on a whole new meaning.

When I scheduled a trip to San Marcos, I couldn’t shake the the memory of water and friends. This week, when I visited two former professors’ classes, I found myself feeling even more connected to the world.

One discussed a wind farm being placed off the shores of Nantucket, Massachusetts. American royalty fought against it, afraid the change, the necessary growth, would disrupt their memories of the place. The views just wouldn’t be the same. As I found myself lost in the new construction on campus, I could relate.

The other discussed how we build our understanding of the world through language, consciousness, and truth as an event. He told his students about the difference language makes in constructing meaning using Spanish and English forms of being as examples. We talked about the difference between being depressed and having depression. One’s a statement about the person, the other, perhaps, a temporary thing. When we left the classroom, I asked him, “So when you tell people you’re a professor, how do you say it? Do you use ‘estoy‘ or ‘soy‘ or what?” He told me he doesn’t refer to himself as a teacher, he just tells people he teaches. Action, right?

I couldn’t help but think about action when I was in his class. As a guest, I was sitting there listening to his lecture and wanting so badly to chime in. As a guest, I wasn’t about to interrupt his lecture. I didn’t know the rules. Sometimes you have to know the game you’re playing. The experience caused me to have a legit anxiety attack. As he was showing students parts and wholes, I was thinking I’m going to die in this class right now, taking notes and I’m not even a student.

Tragic or not, I can’t tell you.

This week has been about friends and about learning. It’s also been about how our environments communicate. I mentioned how you should care about water and posted a photo of my apartment in San Marcos flooded. That night, in one of the scariest moments I’d ever experienced, I woke up to a loud sound. Disoriented, it was around two in the morning, I couldn’t tell what was happening. I smelled something in the air, saw something in the air, and I believed gas was leaking and a fire had started somewhere. I ran out of my apartment building.

What haunted me about that night was how I was afraid to walk back to the building and tell my neighbors there was going to be an explosion. I found myself frozen, paralyzed by the thought that I’d die in an explosion in graduate school when I had survived one in Iraq. Frozen, also, by the thought that it could be nothing and they’d just be mad at me for waking them up. It was more important for me, I guess, to avoid being humiliated than save lives. It was important, to me, I guess, to live a little bit longer.

Iraq, 2003, hours before detonation of a roadside IED during a mission with EOD

It turned out the water heater had blown. It wasn’t gas or fumes I was smelling. Water had hit the electrical panel and caused a small fire that was quickly extinguished by the water continuing to spray from the busted pipe. What I thought was smoke was actually water, a contrast between elements and perspectives, for sure. Anyway, the fire department showed up and saved the day, kind of. They turned the water off, pumped some water out, and assured me I wouldn’t die by going back in — something I shouldn’t have needed to hear, but I did. I went to the store on the other side of town, bought a mop, and spent the next few hours getting the rest of the water out.

I told my friend this story as we smoked a cigarette or drank some coffee or, possibly, both. I told him how ashamed I was that I hadn’t gone back to the building to warn the others living there. I don’t know what he thought of that conversation, but I know it haunts me.

Sometimes we look for connections that we shouldn’t look for and we have stories we believe in that just aren’t true. Education’s about unlearning those false narratives and becoming better at seeing the truth and doing something with it. At least I think it is. Tradition’s good and it has its place, but relics of the past perhaps shouldn’t cost a people’s present. The Iconic Village, where I lived when the water heater busted, was in the news years later. Definitely tragic.

Today’s entry is the fourth summary I’ve done. I hope it won’t be my last. The links are used to help tell a story that isn’t always linear; it’s more of a web than a tree. When I write these summaries, I’m connecting the past, my present, and the future, trying to highlight how time and sense of place hook up. As I’m rounding third, I think about that often.

Next week, we’ll discuss the fear of failure, dialogue, a lone star, one of the most famous streets in Texas, and the philosopher.


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