When Chris and I arrived in Austin last August it felt like we were entering the plot line of some feel-good romantic comedy. As though we had just been taken in by some ex-hippy aunt to work on her organic farm while finding our feet — it was only a matter of time before we would fall in love with the handsome single dad at the weekend produce stand and watch eternal happiness ensue.
I mean this in a figurative sense, of course. But seriously we are kind of enamored. There’s a laid-back quality to the city, like a happy dive bar or a t-shirt that is super soft from years of washing. The people, who are increasingly, overwhelmingly transplants (sorry natives) are incredibly friendly and we’ve felt enveloped in the warmth of the place all through the winter. (A remarkably harsh one in Austin terms, but after Berlin and years growing up in the midwest, we barely noticed).
In December I gave birth here and felt myself casting out roots for my little growing family, reaching down into the soil and the history of this place and hoping to watch our lives flourish. Now the place is dotted with vibrant wildflowers all along the sides of the interstates — glowing, as Conor Oberst says ‘like a wall of new tvs.” It’s difficult to be unhappy here.
Still, no place is perfect. That interstate is full of traffic most times of the day, despite the city’s commitment to green living. And my inquiries into Texas’s history have revealed a legacy violent enough to make your heart sink with shame. Just read Philipp Meyer’s recent well-researched novel The Son, or Fehrenbach’s history of texas Lone Star and you’ll know what I mean.
On the other hand, the civil rights summit hosted in Austin last week reminds me that the human story is capable of changing directions.
Being in this ‘wild’ west has made me more aware of the world that we are helping to create now. And acknowledging that my little baby will inherit that world has made me more open to adapting our lifestyle to make it more sustainable. I’m grateful to be in Austin, where it seems that the opportunities for doing so are particularly great.
It’s not just about the city’s support for local businesses, or its ban on plastic grocery bags, or the commitment to sustainable gardening practices encouraged at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center down the road from our house. There is a creative energy here that makes me feel like the world is still becoming. . . what?
So, yes, I’ve gotten a little crunchier since being here. I wash out every recyclable and am making my own eco-friendly cleaning products. I’ve cut way back on eating meat again — not a very Texas thing to do! They are small changes, but I hope they mean something.
Has your community inspired you to change your lifestyle? How do you maintain the commitment to ‘creative’ living in your own city?