I was born in raised in Houston, something my poetry professor used to tell me was a novelty. I never really understood it, seeing as how I knew lots of people who were born and raised Houstonians.
The older I get the more I do understand it. It’s because of the vast amount of people who move here. I think we’ll soon surpass Chicago as the third most populous city.
The thing most people don’t realize about Houston is that it’s constantly evolving. The city I live in now does not resemble the one I grew up in. Freeways rebuilt, land upon land built on, nature torn out only to be replaced by a formulated park, and almost nothing is restored, rather it’s often torn down.
I will never be able to show my kids the house I grew up in, the restaurants we ate at…heck, the Jack and the Box we walked to as kids is gone. My elementary school was rebuilt and the private high school I attended is closing this year.
There are pockets of Houston that keep the integrity of history, I’m not here to trash on my home city completely. I’ve got just as much Houston pride as I have Texas pride, which is a lot more than I probably should.
The city has a blossoming art scene and great writers live here. Personally, I have a love-hate relationship with the city as a writer, and it’s because of the ever-evolving nature of Houston.
On Wednesdays, I intentionally spend time at one coffee shop to get some writing done because it hosts a group of people who get together to play chess, meaning the place will be full of people. While I can’t get much writing done at home with one person in the room, at a crowded coffee shop there’s a sense of community and comfort. Plus, no one’s really going to bother me like they would at home.
But I wholly believe any kind of artist needs moments in nature. Houston has plenty of parks, but what has given me those moments in nature in a bustling city is the man-made reservoirs just a block away from my home. It was only last summer when we were stuck at home that I realized how blessed I am to live next to these spots.
We have one big reservoir that’s cut in half with ponds on each side. A bayou is nearby as well, and just a little way down it are two more reservoirs, one on each side of the bayou.
When the pandemic hit my family and I were out in the reservoirs everyday. We walked, biked, fished, four-wheeled, and even golf carted around in it.
These reservoirs are a gem because they offer a sense of being in nature in the middle of a booming neighborhood. But my favorite reservoir was one of the farther ones from my house. It was right off the bayou, but while in it, whether on the top edge or inside of it, for the most part, you couldn’t see any streets due to the trees lining the space.
I can count at least a dozen times I’ve been out there during sunset and have watched the sky turn orange and pink as a swan glided across the colors reflected on the pond and could have sworn I wasn’t in Houston anymore.
That’s what is needed in a city like Houston, but remember how I said Houston likes to evolve?
These reservoirs are made and maintained by the government, so I’m not under any illusion that they can’t do what they want, but I can think it’s outright stupid. Right now, Houston has this idea that a cement bike path should go along every bayou.
Fine, the part of the bayou by my house now has a cement path. But not fine that someone in Houston took a look at the one reservoir that was closeted by trees and said, lets extend the cement from the bayou all the way around the reservoir, too.
Putting cement in that little piece of nature is just plain stupid.
Dirt is fine for people to walk on. Dirt is fine for people to bike on. There’s no reason there needs to be a cemented trail in that reservoir, and it makes me angry.
Living in Houston is a bittersweet experience for a writer. Art and culture abound, but nature is stifled by cement paths.