Oklahoma! (City)

This past Saturday, Aaron and I drove two hours north to Oklahoma City to purchase our international driver’s permits (yes, that means I will be driving on the Autobahn! world beware). Below is an account of our trip, which included foggy fields, cows in lines, and amazing sweet potato fries.

The temperature was 26 degrees when we got into Aaron’s black Volkswagen, and the dew had crystallized on the car windows in a stunning frosty floral. It was only 9am, and the sun was still barely above the eastern horizon. The clouds were low too, and hung about the road in a thick, gray fog. In an effort to wake ourselves up, Aaron put in the U2 “Greatest Hits” CD and the notes created a dull thrum above the buzz of the engine.

In twenty minutes we had passed the Oklahoma border, and were in a land of broad cattle pastures, barbed wire fences, low sluggish marshlands and trees stunted by the constant bitter wind. It was a bleak countryside, but somehow so beautiful in its bleakness. The cattle fields stretched into the fog, where their ends were swallowed from sight by a thick mist. The cows loomed up stark against the white, frosty fields, and an occasional brave few along the fences near the interstate stared at us with large eyes and bored faces, chewing slowly and swishing their tails.

It wasn’t until we had been driving past quite a few pastures that we noticed the cows doing something odd. The sun was now peeping through the fog in places, and the cows seemed to be moving about a bit more, responding to the increase of warmth. We passed one field and Aaron pointed at the cows inside. “Look! They’re all walking in a line!” Sure enough, the cows were walking slowly and steadily across the field in a perfectly straight line.

In the next field, we saw about twenty more cows doing the same thing. Even having grown up in Upstate SC where there are no shortage of cows, I had never seen something like this.

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We passed field after field, many of which held long lines of slowly moving cows, as the morning advanced and we sped toward Oklahoma City.

After purchasing our permits at the AAA near town, we decided to head into the city and explore for a few hours before we drove back to our little hotel room in Wichita Falls.

Oklahoma City is separated into four very distinct areas, as every guide map to the city explains: the Business District contains the stark sky-scrapers in the central city, where one or two Gothic-revival buildings soften the glare of modernist glass towers; the Park area, where the grim and beautiful memorial of the Oklahoma City bombing stands; the Art District, which has its own museum, theater, and arena; and Bricktown – a trendy area near the river where old factories have been gutted and now hold artisan breweries, shops and restaurants.

After driving through the city, Aaron and I decided to visit the bombing memorial first. As we parked and got out of the car, the clock on a nearby church struck noon, and suddenly a loud siren split the silence. Aaron and I started, and looked around, trying to figure out the source of the sound. The streets were quiet and mostly deserted, and we were a bit spooked: it seemed like the perfect beginning for a zombie flick or a post-Apocalyptic film. After waiting a few moments, and the siren still sounding from somewhere deep in the city, we decided it must have to do with the construction taking place in the business section and kept walking. Maybe it was this eerie start to our visit, but the bombing memorial certainly struck me soberly. The huge marble walls, the empty, straight-backed metal chairs, and the silent reflecting pool were a grim reminder of the tragedy that ripped the city apart over twenty years ago.

After a short and thoughtful drive to the Art District, we parked our car and walked into the three-storied Art Museum, thankful for the military discount that Aaron’s service enabled us to take at the front. The museum was small, probably a fifth the size of the museum we visited last month in Dallas, but it held a few beautiful pieces from 18th and 19th century Europe that we enjoyed.

Another short drive brought us to Bricktown, where we ate lunch at the Bricktown Brewery – an old candy factory converted into a vibrant restaurant with beautiful brick and wood interior, and fantastic food. By far the best part of our meal was the “Sea Salt Caramel Sweet Potato Fries” with bacon crumbled on top and caramel dipping sauce! Not the most healthful choice, but certainly an enjoyable one.

The fog had long melted away  by the time we drove home, and the clear blue Oklahoma skies seemed to stretch on for miles until they touched the horizon at the distant Wichita Mountains. The westering sun slanted down across the dark fields, turning the stubble golden in the fading light.

Somehow the countryside on the drive up and back was stark, bleak, and beautiful all at once. Not many places could pull that off, but the Oklahoma countryside certainly did.

What’s In a Name?

Juliet: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

 

Juliet’s famous question to Romeo about the importance of names has been bothering for weeks as I have struggled to come up with a name appropriate for this blog and its content. As I tossed around ideas (thanks Mom and Aaron for letting me discuss this with you at length!) I kept returning to one of my favorite poems for inspiration.

Ulysses by Alfred Lord Tennyson is one of (in my opinion) the best poems ever written. It perfectly captures the adventurous spirit of humanity, as well as wrestling with the themes of memory, heroism, and friendship. I have read it dozens of times, and still get chills as I finish the closing lines.

The last time I read the poem, one line in particular that I had never noticed before strongly resonated with me:

I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move.

This beautiful image struck me as the perfect summation of what I want this blog to be: a place where I can record my travels, look back at my experiences, and allow each experience in the past to color and inform the experiences to come.